By EVERETT EVANS, ARTS WRITER
Rapport is pivotal to any successful symphony concert – particularly the rapport between the conductor and orchestra, as well as to the works being interpreted.
In his Houston Symphony début Thursday night at Jones Hall, up-and-coming Dresden-born conductor Christoph Koenig certainly demonstrated that quality in his command of the orchestral forces and his interpretive response to the three compositions – especially the program’s marquee title, Brahms’ Symphony No. 2.
The performance conveyed the vigour and assurance of the work, a felicitous creation that seems to reflect a world in balance. It’s Brahms at his most spirit-nurturing, and under Koenig’s careful leadership, the orchestra gave full play to both its inspired subtleties and its unfettered zest.
Youthful and often grinning, Koenig appeared to enjoy the enterprise, his movements on the podium reflecting his connection to the music, whether swaying gracefully in lyrical moments, or excitedly bouncing along with rhythmic surges.
The Brahms style and sound prevailed throughout in the warmly sonorous playing of the strings, the sparkling and buoyant woodwinds, the rich, round, mellow tone of the brass. Koenig brought energy and intelligence to the interplay, as in the first movement’s development, melodic ideas moving from section to section, instrumental “voices” responding, one to another.
The adagio shone with shadowy beauty, Koenig bringing broad sweep to the proud recapitulation of its main theme late in the movement. The third movement’s gentle minuet charmed, bubbling to life with percolating woodwinds against pizzicato strings. After its deceptively quiet start, the final movement hurtled forward with impressive drive and volume, stating its key themes emphatically and racing to its exciting yet exactingly realized finish.
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 .