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Honeck Leads Fliter and NSO

Thursday evening, Austrian conductor (and future director of the Pittsburgh Symphony) Manfred Honeck led pianist Ingrid Fliter (pictured) and the National Symphony Orchestra. Local concert-goers were keen to hear Fliter again after her strong National Gallery of Art performance last season. The European-trained Argentinian pianist approached Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with a combination of intellectual probing and unforced virtuosity.

In the first movement, marked Allegro con brio, Fliter allowed the pace neither to rush nor to seem even mildly fast, even as she fluttered around the keyboard effortlessly; phrases were carefully shaped with both time and volume. Honeck’s active conducting created a glorious rapport between all musicians -- the warm strings in particular. Minor qualms include coordination issues during a dialogue between Fliter and the dragging winds in the fun third-movement Rondo -- the flute and oboe principals were missed in the first half of the program. The timpanist suffered from a single grossly flat timpani, while exacerbating the problem by using very soft mallets that created a wide, unfocused sound.

Other Reviews:

Anne Midgette, An Impressive Display of Quiet Strength (Washington Post, March 7)
Strauss’s majestic tone poem Ein Heldenleben (“A Hero’s Life”) was on the second half of the program, offering an opportunity for Honeck to shine. With the principals back in their chairs, the wind sections navigated the angular, adversarial material with ease, while the offstage brass fanfares announcing the battle scene were very strong. Honeck seemingly engaged all sections of the orchestra to facilitate their playing as one unit instead of as respective sections. The Hero’s Withdrawal from the World section was emotionally piercing, with Concertmaster Nurit Bar-Josef’s solos poignant.

The program opened with Webern’s Im Sommerwind, a young tonal work never published in the composer's lifetime. Though a suitable complement to the high-Romantic Strauss on the program, Im Sommerwind tended to lose focus by changing directions every few minutes, seemingly without a destination. Look for new recordings of Fliter after her new exclusive recording contract with EMI Classics.

This concert repeats tonight and Saturday (March 7 and 8, 8 pm), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

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