Gewandhaus Orchestra Plays Beethoven
Mon, Feb 22, 2010 8:00pm
Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig
Riccardo Chailly, conductor
Louis Lortie, piano
Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor
Beethoven, Symphony No. 7
It was a great treat to hear the Leipzig Gewandhaus on Monday night at Davies Hall in this all-Beethoven program. The hall was full, & there was a sense of occasion. I enjoyed the band's warm, cushy sound. I felt like all the players really listen to each other. The ensemble playing is excellent, & I could always hear the inner voices. Even the brass blended smoothly with the rest of the orchestra. It was fun to see all the woodwinds swooping their heads in unison during their tutti passages. They must do a lot of sectional rehearsals.
Louis Lortie is a technical marvel. He began the concerto with a great trill & played with a mechanistic precision. His right & left hands have exemplary independence. At times it looks like his left hand even wants to conduct. He displayed great dynamic range & was well-supported by the orchestra. Even when he scaled down to the edge of audibility, the orchestra managed to play even more softly. The audience responded so enthusiastically that Mr. Lortie returned for an encore, though there was an awkward moment when Chailly signaled for the orchestra to stand at the same moment that the audience stopped applauding when Mr. Lortie sat down to play again. Mr. Lortie offered us a short, rapid movement from a Beethoven sonata, possibly the Allegro Molto from Sonata #31.
Riccardo Chailly is an energetic & dynamic leader. The 7th Symphony was constantly moving. The 2nd movement was brisk, a true Allegretto. Things just sped up from there, though it was fast without feeling breathless. The orchestra phrases everything nicely & with much dynamic contrast. There was a wonderful passage in the last movement which they unexpectly played at a sustained piano. I was also delighted by a section where the 1st & 2nd violins, sitting across from one another, rapidly passed a theme back & forth. The audience again responded loudly, & we got an encore of The Creatures of Prometheus, in which the 1st violins showed off their ability to maintain perfect synchronization even playing very short notes.
The Gewandhaus has a tour blog, & it is nice to see that their former director, Herbert Blomstedt, who also happens to be in town, attended their rehearsal, their 1st concert & met them backstage. Their blogger is also impressed by the steepness of the steps in Davies Hall.