BSO program creates absorbing drama from symphonies by Beethoven/Sibelius

  • By Christoph König
  • 06 Jun, 2015

By Tim Smith The Baltimore Sun.

The latest Baltimore Symphony Orchestra program, the penultimate one for the season, provides a stirring lesson in the art of musical structure. Guest conductor Christoph König uses two weighty symphonies, Beethoven’s Fifth and Sibelius’ Seventh, as bookends, with Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in between. Each piece evolves from small elements — the essence of the Beethoven and Shostakovich scores is contained in just four notes — and builds layer upon layer of intellectual and emotional depth. The pairing of the two symphonies is particularly telling. As König told the audience Friday night at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, both works end on the same chord. But in the case of Sibelius, it’s “the least assertive and perhaps most depressive C major,” the conductor said, while Beethoven’s C major is “the most affirmative.” Heard on the same program, the two symphonies seemed to speak to each other, echoing or pre-echoing similar struggles. At the start of the evening, you could sense Sibelius constantly trying to capture and retain the light as threats swirled around, finally achieving some sort of victory — C major is the epitome of consonance, after all — but at a cost. That final chord barely registers before it’s gone. Beethoven had the last word, bringing the concert to a close in his famous fist-waving mode, determined to prove that any force of darkness can be defeated with enough grit. Even if you don’t buy the idea that these symphonies have big messages flashing behind the notes, it would have been hard on Friday not to be swept into the drama that Knig successfully stirred up onstage. The German conductor had the BSO delving into Sibelius Seventh with considerable communicative weight, the strings and brass producing a wonderfully dark, rich tone. The music’s unbroken arc (the symphony dispenses with traditional demarcated movements) was tautly sustained. …. Read more here: Review Baltimore Sun

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