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Philippe Entremont Presents Beethoven from Munich

On a gloomy and rainy Saturday evening, Philippe Entremont presented the Munich Symphony Orchestra at the GMU Center for the Arts, conducting and playing an all-Beethoven program. A full-bodied and very well-played Prometheus Overture with a disciplined and tight string section belied the fact that the MSO is a solid fifth (of five) among Munich’s professional symphony orchestras. (The MuPhil and the Bavarian Radio SO, the Bavarian State Orchestra – the opera orchestra, and the Munich Radio SO are the other four.) Following the overture was perhaps the most perfect piano concerto ever written, Beethoven’s 4th, in G major, op. 58. Maestro Entremont still had the band under control from the piano bench, but in his nimble-fingered performance he and Beethoven would not have suffered from a wee bit more attention to detail – especially in the Allegro moderato. The strings’ wooden and heavy introduction to the Andante con moto jarred with Entremont’s soft touches. The entries, too, could have been cleaner. At times, first violinist Mirian Kraew led the pack by as much as 16th notes. Mr. Entremont’s playing became less clear in the Rondo, but wherever heft was asked for, the Munich forces performed better and, with an old-fashioned touch, very enjoyably so.

Other Reviews:

Daniel Ginsberg, Munich Symphony Makes Its Case for More Respect (Washington Post, October 24)

In the 7th Symphony, Munich’s “Film Music Orchestra” (the MSO provides most soundtracks to films in Germany) found their way back to much of the quality they displayed in the overture. Basses, violas, and cellos were well coordinated and sonorous in the funereal Allegretto with its slow pulse. Then again, I was pretty much sitting in that section, which affected the balance of the experience. The concluding Allegro con brio suited the band: fast, loud, and in multitudes. If winds and brass were not the subtlest bunch, that did not keep the MSO from making a favorable impression. Those in the audience who were not looking for flaws but enjoyment instead had a very good time, judging from the enthusiastic applause and standing ovations after the rousing finale. The Munich players are not likely ever to have been so cheered in their hometown. They could not even play their encore on the first attempt. When they were able to do so, it continued the Beethoven theme with the Principal Guest Conductor and his players digging deep for a somber Egmont Overture, a very substantial treat with which the performers only further played themselves into their audience’s heart.

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