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Fischer, Znaider, Beethoven, and the NSO

Other Reviews:

Tim Page, NSO Makes Beethoven Sound Like a New Man (Washington Post, November 2)

Charles T. Downey, DCist Goes to the Symphony (DCist, November 5)
Principal Guest Conductor Iván Fischer is in town this weekend to lead the National Symphony Orchestra in the works of Beethoven. With a dramatic stick technique and exuding a trustworthy confidence, Fischer put the NSO to work. The evening seemed like a first date between orchestra and conductor due to many misinterpretations of each other, including the first chord of the Egmont Overture, which found the horns playing too soon, before everyone else. Like a first date, both parties were keen to please the other: thus some moments were good, such as in the noble Coriolan Overture, which opens with a dramatic long, low note that is countered with a powerful accented chord in the upper range. It is a pity the program did not open with this work.

Nikolaj Znaider provided a good rendition of Beethoven's Violin Concerto -- which he recorded a couple years ago and which Ionarts heard on the same stage from Julia Fischer just last week -- by phrasing soft sections beautifully and having exceptional bow control. Znaider had to work too hard on faster passages and long trills while seemingly having less intensity than Julia Fisher, whereas the darker tone of Fritz Kreisler’s former Guarneri, now used by Znaider, was appealing. Znaider’s arpeggios in the first movement cadenza were nicely blurred as a larger gesture, in contrast to Julia Fischer’s neat and notey approach, while Znaider’s double- and triple-stops were often rawly out-of-tune and strained. What misfortune for Znaider to have had Fisher on the same stage a week prior playing the same piece.

Regarding Symphony No. 5: if the NSO is too sluggish to cleanly play the first four notes (this reviewer heard more than four), why bother with the rest? Apparently the New York Philharmonic also could not pull off this work under a guest conductor, Christoph von Dohnányi (see the review by Martin Bernheimer for the Financial Times). Iván Fischer is the person, once a relationship is cultivated, to raise the bar.

This concert will repeat tonight (November 2, 8 pm) and Saturday night (November 3, 8 pm). The soloist for next week's NSO concerts will be flutist Emmanuel Pahud.

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