Concertgoers Welcome Eschenbach’s Return with Unmistakable Warmth

09/02/2018

Weber, Schumann, Beethoven: Alisa Weilerstein (cello), Philadelphia Orchestra / Christoph Eschenbach (conductor), Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, 3.2.2018. (BJ)

Weber – Overture to Der Freischütz
Schumann – Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129
Beethoven – Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67

After the raw deal that Christoph Eschenbach was handed by segments of both public and press — not to mention a number of orchestra players — during his tenure from 2003 and 2008 as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, it was heartwarming to observe the warmth and enthusiasm that lit up the hall for this return visit.

The Weber overture got things started with stylish and graceful playing, and when Alisa Weilerstein joined the orchestra for Schumann’s Cello Concerto, their rapport seemed to convey an instinctive rightness on all sides. Far from being Schumann’s finest piece, the concerto nevertheless has its rewarding moments, but their realization demands dedicated advocacy. This it certainly received from Weilerstein, whose playing exemplifies an attractive lightness of tone and clarity of articulation rather than the deep-throated richness of sonority that some cellists aim for.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, after intermission, benefitted from the trademark spontaneity that has always been always characterized Eschenbach, who seems understandably more relaxed now than he was in his Philadelphia days. For three-quarters of its length, in addition to being beautifully and often eloquently played, the work was paced with keen understanding. I was disappointed only in the finale.

At three points—the transition from scherzo to finale (twice over, when the finale’s exposition is observed, as it correctly was on this occasion), and then again when the ghost of the scherzo leads to the corresponding transition—there is a need for the music to broaden out for at least a few measures like a stream debouching into the plain. Beethoven’s metronome markings make the distinction clear, and the first few measures demand it, to allow a piccolo, a contrabassoon, and three trombones, here making their first appearance in the symphonic literature, time to ‘speak’.

In this performance, however, the tempo remained essentially unmodified from the reprise of the scherzo through to the end of the symphony, and I found it curious that the necessary nuances of tempo should be pretty thoroughly ignored by a conductor who had been so meticulous in ensuring that the second of each of the pairs of fermatas (pauses) in the first movement’s main theme should always be longer than the first. Riccardo Muti, notably, used to get all these details right. And Eschenbach, despite the overall conviction and indeed majesty of his interpretation, was not alone in missing one of them, for many celebrated conductors, perhaps most egregiously Bruno Walter, were guilty of similar omissions.

Bernard Jacobson

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Nicolò Isouard’s Cinderella __________________________________
  • NEW! Pop-Up Opera’s 2018 Mozart Double Bill __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) 2018 Celebrates its Eighth Year __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Chess at the London Coliseum from 26 April for 5 Weeks __________________________________
  • NEW! The Three Choirs Festival 2018: A Preview __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Season at the Royal Opera House __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018 Cheltenham Music Festival – 30 June to 15 July __________________________________
  • NEW! Staatsoper Unter de Linden in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! St Petersburg Ballet Theatre Bring Swan Lake to London in August __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces its 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Cleveland Orchestra’s 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Booking Open for Longborough Festival Opera 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Additional Tickets Now Available for Nevill Holt Opera’s Le nozze di Figaro __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Four-Day Celebration of Art Song in April 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere by Novaya Opera of Pushkin – The Opera in the Theatre in the Woods __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Massenet’s Thaïs at the Cadogan Hall on 23 June __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli Sings for Chelsea Pensioners, at Cadogan Hall, and Signs for Sony/ATV __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • NEW! A First Charity Classical Music Concert at Finchcocks on 27 May __________________________________
  • NEW! MICHAEL SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Trinity Laban Moves to Abolish All-Male Composer Concerts __________________________________
  • NEW! ARABELLA STEINBACHER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella in Cinemas on 15 May with Live Q&A __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! Newly Discovered Song by Alma Mahler to be Performed in Oxford and Newbury __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ANDREA CARÈ AS HE RETURNS TO COVENT GARDEN AS DON JOSÉ __________________________________
  • NEW! Rafael de Acha Introduces Some of Cincinnati’s New Musical Entrepreneurs __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month