I realized I had not heard the Vienna Philharmonic live in over six months, so resolved the problem by snagging a returned ticket for this evening’s concert in the Musikverein with Andris Nelsons performing Beethoven‘s symphonies #4 and #5.
This is actually the second time I have heard Beethoven’s Fourth this month. The Philharmonic is a different orchestra from the Mozarteum Orchestra, of course, so right there I was always going to get a different sound – bigger, fuller, more nuance. And by pairing this symphony with his Fifth, the mood was also going to be quite different. Normally, if paired, the Fifth goes with the Sixth (they were written at the same time and had their premiere at the same concert), but the putting the slightly earlier Fourth in juxtaposition with the Fifth emphasized the progression.
Nelsons took both with a big, rich, and mysterious sound. He did not emphasize the lighter moments of the Fourth (they were there in full color, though, just worked into the orchestral whole), producing a somewhat edgier mood. This continued through the first three movements of the Fifth, until the Fifth’s final movement erupted in joy.
As I have mentioned previously, the Fourth often gets lost in between the Third and the Fifth, or gets overlooked with a slender interpretation. The Mozarteum Orchestra two weeks ago under Joshua Weilerstein, and the Philharmonic this evening under Nelsons, flushed it out. But having it introduce the Fifth, as Nelsons did, not only highlighted its value in and of itself, but also elevated it to the same level as its more-performed successor.