Vienna Tonkunstler review

VIENNA TONKUNSTLER AT SYMPHONY HALL ****

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE HEARS A REFRESHING BEETHOVEN FIFTH SYMPHONY

Beethoven's fifth symphony is a guaranteed audience-pleaser and pretty much conductor-proof. Not entirely of course. Four years ago Andrés Orozco-Estrada, perhaps daunted by the symphony's stature, opted to whiz the Vienna Tonkünstler through it, in a thoroughly dispiriting and soulless way. Under their music director Yutaka Sado the Vienna Tonkünstler delivered a performance refreshingly and upliftingly different. The opening four-note motif was given due weight, neither romantically prolonged nor rattled off like an actor embarrassed by the fame of "To be or not to be". The orchestra's bright and alert wind players illuminated details throughout: vital parts for oboe and the pair of horns tellingly executed. If the sinister scherzo was a little light on devilry, the finale was as thrilling as it ought to be so that the repeated affirmative Cs never sounded superfluous.
Sado was once a Bernstein conducting assistant, so was comfortable with the jazz idiom of Lenny's Three Dance Episodes from On the Town which opened the concert with a zing, from the first dance's jack-the-lad swagger to the raucous foot-tapping finale. In their encore, Strauss's Tritsch Tratsch Polka, the Viennese players were, unsurprisingly, right at home. In between, Angela Hewitt was the soloist in Beethoven Piano Concerto No 5. As if determined to erase the concerto's spurious "Emperor" nickname Hewitt eschewed tonal weight and heft, searching for something more subtle. Occasionally it worked, with perceptive rubato and rallentando, but often she just sounded reticent. Her encore of the Pathetique sonata's slow movement was very satisfying.
Norman Stinchcombe 

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