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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Concert Review: Beethoven 5, Sibelius 4

The Minnesota Orchestra at Carnegie Hall 
Conductor Osmo Vänskä.
Thanks to the 11th-hour generosity of my uncle, we found ourselves in possession of tickets to Carnegie Hall (again!) on Wednesday night. We ventured out in the snow to see the Minnesota Orchestra play symphonic works by Sibelius and Beethoven, the former's Fourth Symphony and the latter's mighty Fifth. Osmo Vänskä conducted.

The program opened with In Memoriam, a Sibelius symphonic poem commemorating the death of Finnish freedom fighter Eugene Schauman. Schauman assassinated General Nikolay Bobrikov, a harsh administrator appointed to rule Finland by Tsar Nicholas II. Shortly after assassinatin Bobrikov, Schauman took his own life. In his memory, Sibelius composed a dark, funereal piece, in which the influence of Gustav Mahler (particularly the Fifth Symphony) can be clearly heard.

This was followed by the equally serious Fourth Symphony, a work written during a period when Sibelius thought that he was battling with throat cancer. It is one of Sibelius' darkest compositions, asking many musical questions but not necessarily resolving itself. Mr. Vänskä produced exceptional clarity of sound from his Minnesota forces, who may have brought the bad weather with them but were nonetheless welcome on the Carnegie stage.

The second half of the concert featured a vigorous reading of Beethoven's famous Fifth. Mr. Vänskä made intelligent performance decisions, maintaining Beethoven's rhythmic figures while providing welcome surprises to the ear. The third movement was taken at a brisk, energetic pace.

The ascending figures at the end of the movement created a sense of anticipation, setting up the explosive theme that opens the finale. The last movement--one of Beethoven's most exhilarating, was both bright and triumphant. Mr. Vänskä is currently recording the nine Beethoven symphonies for BIS--this may be a cycle worth looking forward to when it is complete.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.