Sunday, February 3, 2013

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra - All-Beethoven - 02/02/13

Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
Beethoven: Symphony No 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (Pastorale)
Beethoven: Symphony No 7 in A Major, Op. 92

After one day off in the course of Carnegie Hall's Beethoven symphony marathon, it was back to business yesterday evening with the countryside-inspired Sixth and the energy-filled Seventh. At this point though, it was with full confidence that I walked down Broadway before making a left turn on E. 57th Street. If the previous two concerts had been any indication, those two compositions did not sound like anything the young, bold and extremely talented West-Eastern Divan Orchestra could not handle.
So I went back to my "Beethoven seat" in another packed Stern Auditorium filled with another batch of new faces, except for the by now familiar sight of that one dedicated fan, who was dutifully back with her scores in the same spot. Our little corner is really starting to feel like home.

I've always thought that the Pastorale stands out in a special way among Beethoven's symphonies. Its instantaneously recognizable moods suggesting bucolic scenes and its gentle Romantic overtones make it both innovative and accessible, a winning combination which in turn has rightfully made it one of his most popular works. Taking their cue from the composer's resolutely organic approach and their conductor's deep knowledge of the score, the orchestra was at its best when creating subtle colors and refined textures that were beautifully evoking the simple yet profound pleasures to be found in nature. The strings glowed and the woodwinds sang, deftly conjuring up the unconditional enjoyment of unspoiled green spaces and innocent peasant revelry. The assertive timpani and brass eventually joined their powerful forces for the resounding thunderstorm that would unceremoniously if temporarily disrupt the perfect day in the country. But all ended well as calm and happiness were completely restored to let the whole experience conclude on a quietly satisfied note.
The Seventh may legitimately be known as the most dynamic of Beethoven's symphonies, but the fact of the matter is its most beloved movement has always been the otherworldly gorgeous Allegretto. And no wonder. With a regal yet compelling momentum, it rarely fails to inconspicuously hypnotize the audience into a stunned silent right before the high-spirited Presto suddenly gives everybody a jolt and reminds them that music can be a lot of riotous fun too. The vast variety of harmonies and rhythms throughout the whole symphony keeps it constantly fresh and exciting, all the more so when it is performed with the boundless energy and deep commitment that was on full display last night.
Seven down. Two more to go.

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