Submitted by Lawrence B. Johnson on August 2, 2015.
Christoph König captured the grandeur as well as the lyricism of the Bruckner Sixth.
Composer Anton Bruckner (1824-96) wrote his Sixth Symphony in 1879-81. While Pritzker boasts an excellent acoustical shell and sound system, concerts al fresco are what they are, fraught with helicopters, sirens, horns and all the other accompaniments of the central city. Pleasurable as Grant Park Orchestra events typically are, they simply can’t deliver the nuances – or pose the artistic test – of classical music played in a proper concert hall environment.
The finesse of the Grant Park Orchestra was on full, glorious display in its performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6 under guest conductor Christoph König on July 31 at the Harris. To be sure, the nearly hour-long Bruckner Sixth has what one might call its “outdoor” moments, those characteristic Brucknerian eruptions for full orchestra that seem to resonate on a cosmic scale. But it was to the credit of König that he didn’t lose the larger, more profound sense of this symphony in pursuit of those heaven-stormy episodes, and to the credit of his ensemble that it probed deeply and confidently into the expressive nuance that defines that true heart of the work. König … shaped a beautiful, fluid and grand Bruckner Sixth by means of notably restrained gestures. No podium histrionics for him, no leaping or swooping; in an unfussy manner, he managed to elicit an easy rhythmic flow, precise balances and clear architecture. Indeed, to the vastness of the Sixth, König and company brought accessibility. … The Grant Park Orchestra made lovely work of the Sixth’s bountiful lyricism, the eloquent and soaring juxtaposition of woodwinds against strings and, especially, the warm cascading of brasses. The soul of the Sixth – and, on could argue, its greatest challenge — lies in its expansive slow movement, where everything depends on refined ensemble quality; and in that magnificent music, the orchestra in König’s care displayed a collective virtuosity that’s hard to convey in the urban night air. … The concert opened with the Overture to Weber’s quintessential romantic opera “Der Freischütz” (literally “The Free-Shooter,” or better “The Marksman”). König led a suitably dark, yet songful performance that cast the orchestra’s French horns in radiant light.
Christoph König conducts the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in a programme of Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2, Mussorgsky Scherzo in B-flat Major (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Premiere, and Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2, featuring the fabulously gifted 2010 Chopin Competition winner Yulianna Avdeeva. More info .