Beethoven, Schubert

Back-to-back concerts in the Musikverein. For the first concert, the Tonkünstler with Thomas Zehetmair on the bump, Zehetmair played the violin solo for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto while conducting. He has a sweet tone, perhaps not with enough precision if he intends to have that sound. But he did give a spirited performance. Rather than using the full forces of the Tonkünstler, he assembled a reduced-sized chamber ensemble on stage, which in the acoustics of the Golden Hall gave the performance some intimacy. He took the tempi somewhat fast, but this worked with the smaller orchestral size to keep the overall mood spirited.

Beethoven never wrote down the cadenze for this concerto, since that had not yet become the practice, but the Fritz Kreisler cadenze have become standard: however, Zehetmair opted for a new approach, perhaps more in the spirit of Bethovenian free-improvisation. The cadenza in the first movement worked best due to an ingenious touch: tympani. The typani have the concerto’s first notes and sets the whole work in motion, so allowing the typani to engage in a dialogue with the solo violin in the midst of the cadenza developed the concept further with intelligence.

Schubert’s Sixth Symphony made up the concert’s second half. This is a hit-or-miss work. There is nothing inherently wrong with this symphony, but its blend of styles could either give it special meaning or just leave without any particular meaning. Even if well-played, as it was here (by the same chamber forces of the reduced orchestra), it is hard to make it rousing. It can happen, but not today.

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