Review: Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, CBSO, at Symphony Hall
Dec 17 2010 By Christopher Morley
The assertion might be dangerous, but it can be argued that the greater the work, the greater the number of possible interpretations, and in Louis Lortie’s reading of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto we certainly found fresh insights.
This was no grimly Olympian performance, but one of smiles and delicacy, almost like a piano quintet writ large. There was so much empathy here between Lortie, CBSO, and the expressive and attentive conductor Thomas Dausgaard, eye-contact between the pianist and orchestral soloists rewardingly collaborative, and Lortie listening so enthusiastically to his colleagues during tutti passages.
And how strongly projected were those orchestral moments, Dausgaard’s unusual placements (first and second violins facing each other, cellos fanning out at the heart of the orchestra, basses phalanxed behind the first violins) creating an immediately full-toned, taut interaction between strings and woodwind.
Horns were warmly noble, and Cliff Pick’s timpani solo vanishing into the distance was beautifully dovetailed to the piano’s concluding ruminations before an exhilaratingly fizzy ending.
After this, Dausgaard’s account of Rachmaninov’s wonderful Second Symphony, shaped with searing inevitability, seemed like a huge bonus. Robert Plane drew all the sweet regretful tenderness from the adagio’s famous clarinet solo, and there were sweet solos, too, from Zoe Beyers at the leader’s desk.
Rating * * * * *