Review in Brief: KSCO and Beethoven

In January of last year, the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra performed  the Beethoven Symphony No. 4 in the marvelous acoustics of the Bijou  Theatre. I was thrilled by that performance—so much so that I listed it as one of my Most Memorable Orchestral Performances of 2010. (See the article in Metro Pulse)

Last Sunday, Maestro Lucas Richman and the orchestra celebrated this January with another Beethoven symphony at the Bijou, No. 8 in F Major, with a performance that was as brilliantly conceived and played as one could hope. With the smaller complement of strings of the KSCO, the sectional balances seemed perfect, allowing Beethoven’s woodwind textures and themes to take their rightful, and often humorous, place.  Richman allowed the low strings to take full advantage of the hall’s resonance for richness, while giving the high strings the contrasts of delicate pitter-pat and thunderous outbursts. The sonic net result was a musicality that was both solid and bright simultaneously.

The third movement, minuet-esque but not really a minuet, once again featured some gorgeous wind playing, this time from the horns.

In the finale movement, Richman understood well that the beauty of Beethoven comes in those minute tempo changes, alternating moments of density and subtlety, and thrilling moments of dynamic push and pull. And who can resist a grin at that irresistible ending?

Also on the afternoon’s program were two excellent performances of Beethoven sonatas: the Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op 24 “Spring,” and the Cello Sonata No. 4 in C Major, Op. 102, No. 1.  The sonata performers were Miroslav Hristov, violin; Andy Bryenton, cello; and Carol Zinavage, piano.

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