David Zinman, conductor (photo by Priska Ketterer /
Tonhalle Orchester Zürich)
Originally for string quartet and written when Webern was at the fresh age of twenty-two, Langsamer Satz embodies the lush ideal of late Romanticism. The NSO string players did not quite attain that ideal since the lower string sound was often narrow, and from all sections a luxuriant legato never materialized – a challenge in such an unhurried work. Most disappointing was the frequent descending triplet figure that was the same each time and heard ploddingly as unshaped notes. Fortunately, the Schoenberg tone poem accomplished an ideal balance of legato, fluency, and flow.
Verklärte Nacht is based on a poem by Richard Dehmel that explores the complex emotion of anxiety due to an imbalance of truth between two people, which is then reconciled so that life is renewed and hope is found. Intense pain expressed by the entire ensemble is followed by sincere dialogue between equals as depicted by the concertmaster Nurit Bar-Josef and the first violist. She gives him the bad news, they are frightfully upset, and then gradually healing occurs and musical motifs rise as perhaps morning breaks. The dark night of the soul is eventually over.
Anne Midgette, The NSO Does Mod in a Romantic Mode (Washington Post, April 24)
This concert repeats tonight and tomorrow night (April 24 and 25, 8 pm), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.