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12.10.07

NSO Gives Impressive Reading of Schubert

Leonard Slatkin, who will take the rostrum of the Detroit Symphony when he leaves Washington at the end of this season, led a memorable reading of Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C Major last night. With proportion and a calm virtuosity, the National Symphony Orchestra stylishly transported the audience through an abundance of compelling music. Slatkin’s light touch when conducting music of the Classical period -- see last week’s review of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 -- is very welcome. The second movement (Andante con moto) was a charming tease that included elegant wind solos and abrupt halt followed by a sweet cello tune accompanied by pizzicato. Joy was experienced in the Scherzo due to clarity attained through lack of speed. The final Allegro vivace movement opened with an impressive full, wide sound culminating in an enjoyable pedal point before the strong ending. An absence of ritardando at the end of each movement was highly appreciated.

Other Reviews:

Robert Battey, Schubert's 'The Great' Shows NSO At Its Best (Washington Post, October 12)
Midori’s performance of Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2 was inconsistent. The soloist seemed to block rapport between musicians and audience alike by pointing her face directly toward the stage floor when performing -- besides distraction, mannerisms are almost always musically detracting. Midori excelled in brisk passage work while having accuracy and intonation issues in less complex sections, the outcome of which was musical uncertainty no matter how well she was supported by the NSO.

The neoclassical Toccata concertante, by American composer Irving Fine, came off nicely as a contained academic exercise. A student of Piston and N. Boulanger, Fine was on the faculty of Harvard, Brandeis, and Tanglewood. Fine’s very short work was reminiscent of Poulenc -- especially the intricate writing for winds -- though without the charisma.

This concert repeats on Friday and Saturday (October 12 and 13, 8 pm). Next week's concerts from the National Symphony Orchestra feature W. Schuman's Prayer in Time of War and the Vaughan Williams sixth symphony, as well as Emanuel Ax playing the Brahms second piano concerto (October 18 to 20).

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