See my review of the first subscription concert from the National Symphony Orchestra:
National Symphony Orchestra Season Opener (The Washingtonian, September 30):
After a gala celebration with music director Christoph Eschenbach on Sunday night, the National Symphony Orchestra went back to work this week. The first subscription concert reunited the orchestra with an old friend, frequent guest conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, returning to the podium of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall for the first time since 2010. The Spanish conductor has had a journeyman sort of career, distinguishing himself with guest appearances and chief conductor stints with many orchestras around the world: Musical America recognized his accomplishments this year by naming him conductor of the year. The NSO musicians always seem at ease under his baton (Frühbeck de Burgos was principal guest conductor of the NSO in the 1980s and has been a regular ever since), and he led interpretations of two orchestral staples -- Beethoven’s slender, vivacious eighth symphony and Carl Orff’s salacious, bubbly Carmina Burana -- that were polished and full of surprises.
Orff, Carmina Burana (inter alia), L. Popp, New Philharmonia Orchestra, R. Frühbeck de Burgos [MP3]
Of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, the modest eighth is low on the totem pole in terms of popularity, and this was the NSO’s first performance of the work since 2002. Frühbeck de Burgos led an assured performance that highlighted much of the work’s appeal, especially in the first movement, with well-paced rallentandi helping to elucidate the formal structure, and the timpani and brass adding brash highlights in loud passages. The second movement, Allegro scherzando, had a pleasing, relaxed tempo, but always with a solid internal pulse and elegant dynamic shaping. Only in the third movement did the impetus droop slightly, with some strident sounds from the high woodwinds; and some unsettled tempo disagreements across the orchestra addled the slightly manic fourth movement. [Continue reading]
Philip L. Kennicott, NSO review: Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana,’ Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 (Washington Post, September 30)