Beethoven Festival: San Antonio
In an old friend, unexpected charms
January 28, 2012
If hollers were dollars,
the San Antonio Symphony would be wealthy beyond measure
after the wildly enthusiastic reception for Beethoven’s
congenial Sixth (“Pastoral”) and Seventh symphonies, Jan. 27
in the Majestic Theatre. The concert, played for a near
capacity crowd, was the third installment in the orchestra’s
traversal of all nine Beethoven symphonies under music
director Sebastian Lang-Lessing.
As in the two previous outings, the performances were fluid
and richly detailed, with fully expressed dynamics and
pointed rhythms. The ensemble sound was again luxurious but
transparent, with radiant strings and integrated textures.
Mr. Lang-Lessing likes to get a big sound from the
double-basses and bring them forward from the aural shadows
more boldly than his predecessors did. In all the Beethoven
symphonies thus far, and especially in the rustic third
movement of the “Pastoral,” the newly fanged double-basses
contributed much to the piquancy and gusto of the
Although the entire program
was exceptionally well crafted, the calm second movement of
the “Pastoral,” titled “Scene by the Brook,” is worth
special mention for Mr. Lang-Lessing’s extraordinary care
with dynamics and tempo. The gentle flow and the rippling
waves were almost palpable, and the subtle rise and fall of
individual voices within the overall texture revealed
unexpected loveliness in music that we’ve heard many times.
Purists might find fault with the Romanticism of this
approach -- it reminded me a little of conductor Christoph
Eschenbach’s painterly shading of Wagner’s “Parsifal” years
ago at Houston Grand Opera -- but, in my book, seduction
Principal oboe Mark Ackerman, who all this season has been
playing more beautifully than ever, shone in both
symphonies. Splendid work also came from Jeff Garza (horn),
Ilya Shterenberg (clarinet), Sharon Kuster (bassoon) and
Peter Flamm (timpani).
The Beethoven cycle concludes Feb. 10 and 11 with the Eighth
and Ninth symphonies.