Beethoven, Symphonies, Staatskapelle Dresden, H. Blomstedt (box set, Brilliant Classics)
As he did with the second concerto, Ax's approach was mostly ruminative, with a tempo choice on the slow side for the Allegro con brio marking and an emphasis on the soft and mysterious, especially in the development section, kept mostly sotto voce in both orchestra and keyboard. This put the spotlight on the slow movement, taken not too Largo but with enough rhythmic freedom that it had the feel of something quasi-improvised, a somewhat understated, at times almost off-the-cuff sound. The rondo finale was brisk enough to be perky fun, with a nice filigree touch from Ax in the chromatic runs. The comparison with the last time this work featured on an NSO concert, with Christoph Eschenbach and Lang Lang in 2012, was a reminder that faster is not always better. Perhaps taking advantage of the overture-less program, a little shorter than normal, Ax offered a most welcome encore, Brahms's A major intermezzo (op. 118, no. 2), where again simplicity reigned supreme, to most musical effect.
Anne Midgette, Herbert Blomstedt illuminates Beethoven, joyously, with the NSO (Washington Post, February 27)
This concert repeats today and Saturday.