Schnittke, Viola Concerto, D. A. Carpenter, Philharmonia Orchestra, C. Eschenbach (Ondine, 2009)
Shostakovich, Symphony No. 5, Philadelphia Orchestra, C. Eschenbach (Ondine, 2008)
Eschenbach opened with Slava, Slava, a sort of overture composed by Rodion Shchedrin for Rostropovich's 70th birthday in 1997. The piece was premiered in Paris, but this performance by the NSO, its first, was also the U.S. premiere. (We are all thankful that Eschenbach stayed away from the terrible Slava! overture by Leonard Bernstein, a piece I never want to hear again.) Shchedrin's memorable and often strange piece, subtitled "A Festive Ringing of Bells," opens with many strikes of a cluster of three bells struck simultaneously (the score calls for Russian bells, here played on great chimes). A regular rhythmic pulse, propelled by raucous double bass pizzicati and other means, gives the feel of a solemn march, fueled further by an enormous battery of percussion. It ends in a crazy cacophony of metallic wallops, on bell plates, tubular bells, crotales, and more. It was an impressive clatter of sound.
Rostropovich himself was the last to conduct Alfred Schnittke's viola concerto with the NSO, back in 1992. Eschenbach recorded the work a few years ago with David
Anne Midgette, NSO’s strengths, weaknesses, identity issues on display at Spring for Music (Washington Post, May 13)
---, Christoph Eschenbach, National Symphony Orchestra mix up the program (Washington Post, May 3)
Robert Battey, David Aaron Carpenter, NSO take on Schnittke Viola Concerto (Washington Post, May 6)
This program will be repeated next weekend, when the NSO performs it at Carnegie Hall in New York (May 11, 7:30 pm).