Beethoven at the TSO

A comparatively rare excursion into purely instrumental music for me last night but the prospect of Sir Andrew Davis conducting Beethoven’s seventh symphony was irresistible.

The “garage piece” was the overture to King Stephen.  Probably the most notable thing about this is that it was composed for a play by von Kotzebue who had just turned down Beethoven’s idea of writing the libretto for an opera on the life of Attila the Hun.  It’s not a fabulous piece but it was efficiently despatched.

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Next came the Piano Concerto no. 4 in G Major, Op.58.  This is Beethoven at his most majestic and it was played with great virtuosity and feeling by young Korean pianist Seong-Jin Cho.  The first movement cadenza was pretty stunning but then so really was the whole piece with soloist, conductor and orchestra all appearing to be on the same page.  We even got an encore from Cho.  Some Bach I think.  I’ve never seen that happen at a symphony concert before.

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And so to, for me, the main event.  I have a very long relationship with the Symphony no.7 in A Major, Op. 92.  I think I first saw it live at the Proms in the 1970s and it’s accompanied me through many life stages.  No other symphony, except maybe Shostakovich no. 5 gets under my skin quite the same way and so it proved last night.  It was all terrific.  Davis gets inside a work in a way we don’t see often enough in Toronto.  The first movement was a masterpiece of building thematic structure.  The slow movement was hauntingly beautiful and relentless.  The presto third movement almost seemed like light relief before the blistering final movement.  This was certainly allegro and it absolutely did not lack brio.  Davis set a fierce pace and the orchestra responded with great attack and precision.  The brass was especially incisive.  It was thrilling.  A great performance and deserving oof the noisy reception from an almost full Roy Thomson Hall.

There’s another chance to hear this programme on Saturday at 8pm.

Photos by Jag Gundu.

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