Friday, May 15, 2009

NSO - Schumann & Mozart - 05/14/09

Conductor: Jun Märkl
Schumann: Konzertstück in F Major for Four Horns and Orchestra, Op. 86
Mozart: Piano Concerto No 25 in C Major, K. 503 - Garrick Ohlsson
Schumann: Symphony No 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 38, "Spring"

After all the unusual sounds of the National Symphony Orchestra’s concert dedicated to contemporary works a week ago, we were comfortably back on familiar ground yesterday with good old Schumann and Mozart, and celebrated pianist Garrick Ohlsson. The only totally new element of the evening was the NSO first appearance of German-Japanese guest conductor Jun Märkl, with whom I have my own special connection as he currently is the music director of the Orchestre National de Lyon, my hometown. I am ashamed to say I’ve never been to any of their concerts even when I lived there, but the time will hopefully come.

Can’t say that the first piece carried me away, but then again, it is pretty difficult to be carried away by… horns. Regardless of how well they’re played, I’ve always found their bombastic sounds hard to digest, and yesterday was no exception. While Schumann’s Konzertstück was on the whole pleasant, there was not much to take home.
After this lukewarm beginning, things instantly looked up with Mozart’s delightful piano concerto No 25. The orchestra truly seemed to revel in both the lightness and majesty of the score, and Garrick Ohlsson’s spot-in interpretation of it, including the cadenzas written by his colleague Alfred Brendel, was a true gift. His enchanting notes came up crisp and clear, and maestro Märkl gracefully led the NSO into a beautiful, heart-felt performance.
Back to Schumann, his Spring symphony was much more engaging than his Konzertstück, never mind the overemphatic Romantic élans and in-your-face lyricism. The piece was only 30 minutes long, easy on the ears, and a more than enjoyable way to end yet another wet spring evening.

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