At Friday night’s Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert, Christian Teztlaff didn’t so much play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto as shoot it into the stratosphere.
Or did he? What was especially awe-inspiring about this performance, which opened the final program of the symphony’s season-long BeethovenFest at Heinz Hall, was the violinist’s artistic range — attention-grabbing like a rocket, or like a whisper. The effectiveness of his solo was as much in those contrasts of color and volume as it was in the absolute artistry of each moment.
On one end of the spectrum was the whisper: a soft, pillowy tone that he maintained for much of the work, particularly during his aria-worthy middle movement. It seemed to defy the laws of physics: How could his violin be that quiet, and yet speak so clearly? His big sound had the benefit of giving the orchestra and music director Manfred Honeck a chance to dig into the depths of their own. The orchestra delivered the repeated rhythmic motif of the first movement with weight; Mr. Teztlaff’s sound could shoulder it. It was often more difficult to distinguish the notes of his fast runs than of those soft passages.
Where: Heinz Hall, Downtown.
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight; 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: $25.75-$105.75; www.pittsburghsymphony.org or 412-392-4900.
His creative liberties were symbolized by the first movement cadenza — an arrangement of Beethoven’s piano cadenza from a revision of this work. As an encore, Mr. Teztlaff played the Andante from Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 2.
Any celebration of Beethoven must include Beethoven’s celebration of joy, his Ninth Symphony. Mr. Honeck delved into the unrelenting darkness of the opening, and throughout extracted taut, burnished playing from the ensemble. There were many magnificent moments and solos, too many to list, but the cello and bass sections deserve praise for their work at the beginning of the finale.
Despite Mr. Honeck’s interpretive inventiveness (including a partly off-stage march in the fourth movement), his consistently fast tempos gave the performance the feeling of a ride. Hints of reprieve in the first movement deserved more breathing room; the low notes of the main scherzo motif were sometimes swallowed; and the otherwise strong soloists (soprano Simona Saturova, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, tenor Nicholas Phan and bass Liang Li) had to battle to keep up.
The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh under its outgoing music director, Betsy Burleigh, met the challenge of the “Choral” Symphony.
Frank Huang, who was recently appointed concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, substituted for Noah Bendix-Balgley.
Elizabeth Bloom: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1750. Twitter: @BloomPG.