Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Adès Sandwich

"Beethoven Re-Imagined"
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra @ The Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore, MD
Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thomas Adès: conductor

Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Opus 21 - Ludwig van Beethoven
Violin Concerto, "Concentric Paths" Opus 24 - Thomas Adès
Anthony Marwood: violin
Symphony No. 4 in B Flat Major, Opus 60 - Ludwig van Beethoven

If you're going to have one of your works sandwiched between two slabs of Beethoven symphonies, one could hardly do better than being programmed between the first and fourth. The shortest, and most politely classical of the Beethoven symphonies still leave plenty of room for an ambitious foray into contemporary sounds and contrasting textures in between. And if you're the composer of that middle work who happens to be charged with conducting the whole affair one could hardly do better than Thomas Adès.

Already an accomplished composer, conductor and pianist at age 37, Thomas Adès' Violin Concerto is a fantastic piece tailored for Anthony Marwood's musicianship and virtuosic skills on the violin. The textural variation of this work is particularly striking in Adès' willingness to explore the extremes of thin and thick orchestration along with extreme instrument registers while sustaining a clear sense of multiple, cyclical moving parts. As a conductor with rare insight into this piece Adès coaxed a dynamically balanced reading that brought out beautiful details from within the sound. The violin part was an important and consistent layer running throughout this work that was often absorbed into the larger sonic picture as the orchestration worked in tandem with the soloist rather than as accompaniment.

As a conductor, Adès lead faithful renditions of the two Beethoven war horses. The first symphony began with a faltering attack on the opening chord, but quickly coalesced into a solid performance. The fourth symphony was excellent as the long introduction of the first movement was perfectly drawn out before launching into its familiar churn. A fine program and a fine "re-imagining" of Beethoven. Though I can re-imagine how the Adès would have fared if it had been wedged between the "Eroica" and the "Ode to Joy" over the course of a much longer evening. The Violin Concerto would probably stand up within any part of this canon and still leave me with an appetite to hear more.

No comments: