Thursday, March 3, 2011

Minnesota Orchestra - Beethoven & Sibelius - 02/28/11

Conductor: Osmo Vänskä
Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61 – Lisa Batiashvili
Sibelius: Symphony No 6, Op. 104
Sibelius: Symphony No 7, Op. 105

Although I will be the first one to worship at Beethoven’s altar for his incredible œuvre, his violin concerto has never caught my attention the way some other have. I like it, respect it, admire it, but I cannot say that I fell for it the first time I heard it. This, of course, does not mean that I do not welcome opportunities to get acquainted with it again and again through reputable soloists. After experiencing Lisa Batiashvili’s masterful interpretation of Sibelius’ magnificent but treacherous concerto (Now here’s one that grabbed me right away) last year with the New York Philharmonic, I had quickly figured that she could handle pretty much anything. So when I saw her name associated with Beethoven’s violin concerto on Carnegie Hall’s calendar, in addition to not one but two symphonies by Sibelius, courtesy of the Minnesota Orchestra, I decided that it would be the perfect pick me up to wrap up a depressing, rainy Monday.

As I am learning to love Beethoven’s violin concerto in all its glorious complexity, I have to say that I have been extremely lucky with the performers who have been handling it, and Lisa Batiashvili is certainly no exception. The more I listen to it, the more I find its combination of symphonic scope and refined elegance surprising for a work coming from the famously tempestuous Viennese composer. Our soloist du jour proved that she was equally at ease at expressing poetic musings and dwelling into deep lyricism as at setting off technical fireworks and having a good old time. She was solidly seconded by the Minnesota Orchestra, which was conducted by their highly energetic music director Osmo Vänskä.
Later on, the orchestra got to show off its remarkable chops to the fullest during the next two symphonies by Sibelius. At barely half an hour, his Symphony No 6 is a sweeping cosmic journey which cannot help but remind the audience of Beethoven’s uncharacteristically happy Pastoral Symphony. The purity of the sounds and the subdued nature of the composition make it a deeply atmospheric work, and the hard-at-work musicians made sure to vividly highlight all the subtle layers of the music. The Sixth never ceases to surprise the listener, and the Minnesota Orchestra and his maestro sure kept us on our delighted toes.
Sibelius’ seventh and last symphony is a single 20-minute movement, but there is a lot going in it. What sounds like a random collection of brief moments and fleeting ideas somehow manages to mysteriously gel into a symphonic entity and leaves the audience wanting for more. That is exactly what happened on Monday night, when we all set off to wander into the musical forest and lose the sense of time until the majestic final chord.

But that was not all yet and we got to exchange our final good-bye to some sweepingly Romantic Tchaikovskian sounds that proved to be a sumptuous treat to the very last bite.

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