Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gewandhaus Orchestra Plays Beethoven

Gewandhaus Orchestra Plays Beethoven
Mon, Feb 22, 2010 8:00pm
Davies Hall

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.


John Marcher said...

I had a nagging feeling I would regret not attending this concert. Now it is confirmed. Damn.

Axel Feldheim said...

I suppose it would not be right to do a Nelson Muntz "Ha-ha!" at this point. The Gewandhaus is touring the US this week, so perhaps there is still time.

Gavin Plumley said...

As you know from my own eulogising, the Gewandhaus is one of the world's most thrilling bands. Three of their concerts feature among the greatest I've ever heard, both on home turf and twice in London. So glad you had a wonderful time.

y2k said...

I need to stop reading all the rave reviews the Gewandhaus Orch is getting on their US tour. They're playing in Boston (same program) tonight but I decided not to attend. I'm traveling back to Boston this afternoon (after 3 operas at the Met this week); and I've previously decided that it's a bit too much to try to rush to the concert this evening. On the up side, at least I don't have to worry about heading out in the midst of 40mph wind gusts and torrential rain to the concert tonight.

Axel Feldheim said...

Mr. Plumley: I can totally understand why you would be so passionate about the Gewandhaus. This performance turned out to be a surprise treat, as it was not one I had originally planned to attend. I will be seeking out this band in future.

y2k: I am sorry that we were not able to goad you into hearing the Gewandhaus in Boston, though I understand that East Coast weather can be a real obstacle. How was the Met? I hear that boos were handed out to the production team for Atilla, making Muti's debut a mixed experience.

y2k said...

It was truly miserable last night between the howling winds and downpour; so I was happy to stay home.

I didn't think Pierre Audi and his team deserved the boos. It wasn't bad, just not exciting. Muti was amazing, his conducting was truly riveting. It will be broadcasted next Sat on the Met Sat radio matinee (March 6), and I plan on listening to it again.

I also saw La Fille du Regiment w/JDF & Diana Damrau(last performance this season); and Boheme with Netrebko/Beczala/Finley/Cabell. All 3 performances were fantastic in its own way.

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks for sharing your reactions to the Met. I'm glad you got to see Atilla. Thanks for reminding me about the Met's radio broadcasts, though I am not sure if they are being carried in the Bay Area anymore, which is a pretty outrageous situation.

John Marcher said...

The Met broadcasts are every Saturday on KUSF. The reception sucks, depending on what part of the City you are in, but they are still regularly programmed.

I'm hoping to catch a season-ending trio of Dutchman, Lulu and Armide in May, in person and standing room.

y2k said...

@Alex - Regarding the Met radio broadcast, if your local radio station isn't ideal, my recommendation is actually listening it via UK's BBC3 Radio. It streams live online and free; the sound quality is great (if I listen to it using ear buds); AND the BBC iPlayer keeps the broadcast available for 7 full days.

@John - I'm seeing The Flying Dutchman as well, but I'm going in late April

Axel Feldheim said...

y2k: I think you have the right idea about listening via BBC Radio 3 via the Web. I caught up with some of the Proms concerts last summer this way. They have a great Web site & awesome programming.

John Marcher: I will be watching for your reports from the Met in May. I like Rossini's comedies, but I have no idea what to make of "Renee Flemming & the 6 tenors".

y2k said...

I apologize for misspelling your name, Axel.

Thanks for pointing out to me the MTT files; I didn't know about them. I'm not savvy when it comes to computer stuff; I can listen to the file on my computer when I click on the audiolink, but is there anyway I can download the program into my iTunes library so I can sync it to my iPod?

Axel Feldheim said...

y2k: It looks like the MTT Files are only offered as streaming audio, most likely due to pesky content licensing issues. There are ways to download such streams to mp3 files, but they are all technically very unsatisfactory & a bit awkward. You'll need to acquire software that can record audio streams being played on your computer. You can get a sense of the confusion by googling "record streaming audio". If you're on Windows, there's Audacity, which is free but not aimed at non-technical people. For Mac, I've played with StreamRipperX with some success. Audio Hijack Pro for Mac seems to be a good paid option, though. If you're really motivated, you can e-mail me through this blog & I can try to help.