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Fischer Returns to NSO

Iván Fischer, conductor
Iván Fischer, conductor
Friday evening, vibrant former Principal Conductor Iván Fischer returned to lead the National Symphony Orchestra in a program of music by Rossini, Paganini, and Schumann. Fischer will assume the roles of Music Director of Berlin’s Konzerthaus and Principal Conductor of the Konzerthausorchester in August 2012, in addition to his duties with the Budapest Festival Orchestra. The program opened with snare drum rolls from Rossini’s Overture to La gazza ladra, which also later helped facilitate transitions between the numerous operatic tunes efficiently squeezed into a compact frame. The orchestra played with tight ensemble for their former leader, while sections of sonic fireworks foreshadowed the fireworks scheduled for this evening for the hundreds of tourists in the audience in town for the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

The highlight of the program was Schumann’s five-movement “Rhenish” Symphony (no. 3, E-flat major). Schumann’s adolescent, early Romanticism retains the taut form and balance of the Classical period, yet with the added line, harmonic adventurousness, and inventive orchestration of the Romantic period. With reduced string forces and without overplaying, the NSO allowed the work to soar optimistically with magnetic beauty, even though the third movement (Nicht schnell) did not quite get soft enough. The solemn Stile antico fourth movement (Feierlich) offered the most profound moments, evoking the stoic image of Cologne Cathedral; the brass showed impressive nuance and intonation in the final movement. It was wonderful to experience the NSO in such health with many fresh new faces.

Other Reviews:

Robert Battey, National Symphony with Fischer and Lendvay: Missing strings, but still diverting (Washington Post, April 1)
Hungarian violinist József Lendvay, Jr. -- the son of the concertmaster of the Budapest Gypsy Symphony -- was the only weak link on the program. His approach to Paganini's finely etched first violin concerto was to paint with a big brush in broad -- even intoxicated -- arpeggiated gestures. The gist of the piece was there, just with grossly distasteful intonation and other extra notes. The almost tipsy sound went along with a somewhat unkempt appearance, including a wild mane of curly black hair. Where Hilary Hahn created sparkle through detail in her performance three years ago, Lendvay would toss through passages at breakneck speed hoping for the best. Although Lendvay expressed a hauntingly dark tone in the second-movement Adagio, the movement's potential tragedy was not fully expressed due to impatient phrasing. It will be interesting to see how Lendvay will be received at the Concertgebouw later this month when repeating this concerto with the Budapest Festival Orchestra.

This concert will be repeated tonight (April 2, 8 pm), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.


Robert Valente said...

Thanks for the great review - we were in attendance Friday night too, as well as at Miss Hahn's performance a couple of years back, and the contrast between the two performances was striking. The lack of technical precision last Friday night made me feel more like I was sitting outside a gypsy caravan wagon in the Carpathian mountains with a fire crackling than in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall - very entertaining but not what I was expecting.

Can you tell me the name of the encore piece that Mr. Lendvay played on Friday?

And with regard to Mr. Fischer, it is always nice to see him back here, and if the facial expressions of the NSO musicians are any indication, they enjoy seeing him as well.

Michael Lodico said...

Dear Robert,

Thanks for your comments. I guess it would be difficult for just about anyone to follow in Hilary Hahn's footsteps! Anyhow, unfortunately I did not recognize Friday's encore. Perhaps someone else out there can chime in...