“König was all you could want in a conductor: communicative, efficient, … “

  • By Christoph König
  • 23 Feb, 2015

The Oregon Symphony revisits a symphonic keystone, con brio

James McQuillen | For The Oregonian/OregonLive By James McQuillen | For The Oregonian/OregonLive
on February 23, 2015 at 10:07 AM

Beethoven’s Fifth is both the most iconic symphony of all time and a touchstone for orchestral playing. In 2004, Carlos Kalmar led the Oregon Symphony in an electrifying performance of it that signalled a new era for the orchestra; a subsequent OSO performance five years later under guest conductor Claus Peter Flor was bracing but less of a thrill.

The orchestra embraced it again Saturday night under the direction of another guest, Christoph König, who made a memorable OSO debut two years ago. The electricity was back in a reading that attested to the uncanny power of the piece to engage conductor, players and audience alike, and the rest of the evening was engaging as well.

Highlights: The program was a bit of a haphazard assortment, but each of its parts was arresting in its own way. König gave hushed excitement in Rachmaninoff’s grim and mystical “Isle of the Dead”; violinist Stefan Jackiw was stunningly incisive in Witold Lutoslawski’s edgily modernist Partita and Antonín Dvorák’s F Minor Romance; and the Beethoven was full of terrifically crisp detail throughout the orchestra.

Low notes: The program was a bit of a haphazard assortment–it’s more satisfying when several fine parts make an even better whole, but given the performances, that’s a minor quibble. If there was anything to complain about, it was the usual: how on earth does a person get to be 50 or 60 or 70 years old without learning to suppress a cough or a sneeze?

Most valuable performer: König was all you could want in a conductor: communicative, efficient, energetic, easygoing and musical. Jackiw, making his third OSO appearance, had the thorny Lutoslawski thoroughly in his fingers and danced through the Dvorák with silvery tone and sterling intonation. The under-sung pianist Carol Rich accompanied Jackiw brilliantly in the Lutoslawski, particularly in the second and fourth movements, the realization of which the composer left to chance operations.

Moment of the night: It was perhaps predictable that applause would erupt after the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth, but when it happened after the second movement, König turned around, smiled genially and raised two fingers to indicate that they weren’t finished.

Nice touch: Breaking from the standard overture-concerto-symphony format to have Jackiw play two vastly different pieces illuminated both the player and the music. Symphonies–and not just the OSO–should try that programming model more often.

Back to Overview
By Christoph König 07 Nov, 2017
Christoph König makes his début at the Musikverein in Vienna with the Wiener Concert-Verein in a programme featuring Gerhard Oppitz in Beethoven`s Piano Concerto no. 2, Rossini Il signor Bruschino, and Schubert Fifth Symphony. Find more information about the concert here .
By Christoph König 07 Nov, 2017
This week Christoph König returns to Warsaw conducting the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra - Filharmonia narodowa in a very diverse programme containing Respighi`s Belfagor Overture, Kancheli`s Styx for Viola Solo, Choir and Orchestra featuring Lawrence Power (viola), and Strauss` Also sprach Zarathustra. Find out more about the prgramme here .
By Christoph König 12 Oct, 2017

Another very special week, Christoph König conducts Richard Strauss´ less performed "Aus Italien" in two performances with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra . Kristóf Baráti plays Bruch Violin Concerto. Please read more about the programme  here .

By Christoph König 06 Oct, 2017

Much venerated WQED-FM's artistic director Jim Cunningham talks to Christoph König about his concerts with the  Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra  this week at Heinz Hall. Please see the full video here .

By Christoph König 03 Oct, 2017

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 .

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