PSO, violinist push the pace in Beethoven
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It is foolish consistencies that Ralph Waldo Emerson warned us about in his oft-misquoted adage. Consistency by itself is something everyone should seek, even hobgoblins.
When it comes to music, there are countless ways to interpret a composition. But whichever way performers go, they need to stick with it, and that was the problem with violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann's soloing in Beethoven's Violin Concerto yesterday afternoon at Heinz Hall.
- Where: Heinz Hall, Downtown.
- When: 8 p.m. today and tomorrow.
- Tickets: $20-$79; 412-392-4900.
Most of his playing exhibited a graceful line and sweet timbre, traipsing through the work in more-or-less typical fashion. This is not a knock -- few in the world can fit all the puzzle pieces of timbre, dynamics and phrasing together like the German violinist did in spurts. But then he would suddenly launch into bouts of wild sawing with the bow. Rather than dramatic, these seemed put-on and out of character, like musical red herrings.
This mix is Zimmermann's style. The previous times he has appeared here (the last was way back in 2002), he did the same thing in Brahms' Double Concerto and Elgar's Violin Concerto. But in the Beethoven, it simply compromised his line and at times caused him trouble in intonation and articulation.
For instance, in the first cadenza, the main theme that Beethoven deftly places in a lower voicing was obscured by Zimmermann's aggressive approach. He is a solid violinist, but so often it seems as if he doesn't think that is enough, when it can be.
Honeck is anything but waffling in his interpretation. Even if I take issue with one of his readings, I appreciate its consistency and sincerity. For example, his tempos in Beethoven's "Egmont" Overture that opened the concert were too fast. They accentuated the drama of the piece that honors a real-life hero, the 16th-century Flemish Count of Egmont, who fought for freedom against the Spanish and was beheaded for it. (Beethoven actually symbolized it with an abrupt stroke by the violins.)
But some nobility was lost in the heightened moments that were almost noisy in Honeck's hands. The horns, however, were wonderfully rustic in the coda, and the strings gained a rich timbre.
Honeck's painting of Mozart's Symphony No. 38, "Prague," meanwhile, had just the right brush strokes and hues. Here the tempo felt active and brisk, not too fast, and his treatment of the emotional swells had just the right balance between Mozart's surface elegance and his underlying darkness -- especially appropriate in a work that prefigured his unsettling opera, "Don Giovanni."
First Published June 5, 2009 12:00 am