Saturday, April 9, 2022
Orchestra Hall, Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan
Overture. Concerto. Symphony. This timeless combination of musical genres has rather fallen from grace recently (a shortage of the first named, if plenty of choices) but was alive and well, on paper, at this DSO concert, opening with Schubert’s Die Zauberharfe, better known as Rosamunde, given an unsmiling if efficient outing under guest Kazushi Ono. Once passed the dramatic opening, which suited Ono well, having shifted into the allegro gear, more bounce was needed, greater enjoyment from the players required. This was easy to hear even though the broadcast sound was very odd – compartmentalised left and right, with nothing in the centre, the DSO distant and seemingly filtered through some electronic timbre-warping gadget.
Paul Lewis gently introduced Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, his instrument though came across as if it were plugged into the mains, as well as echoey and splintering. Sparky’s Magic Piano! Despite the techie problems (which the DSO was aware of before I emailed the press office, which responded immediately) it was possible to discern a performance that played the music in a respectful and cultured way – no need to intervene on its behalf – with a neat accompaniment, Lewis coming into his own with the ‘usual’ cadenza of the composer’s two. The slow movement – the piano quelling obstreperous strings – was simply done, and effective, and the Finale moved apace; given the sonic deficiencies the piano was playing ping-pong with itself, left and right.
For an encore Lewis offered a sensitive reading of Schubert’s C-minor Allegretto (D915), ruminative and exploratory, the composer on the cusp of what would be his final piano music. (Recommended recordings by Paul Lewis: http://www.colinscolumn.com/paul-lewis-records-brahmss-late-piano-works-opuses-116-119-for-harmonia-mundi/; http://www.colinscolumn.com/paul-lewis-records-haydn-piano-sonatas-for-harmonia-mundi/; http://www.colinscolumn.com/paul-lewis-plays-beethovens-bagatelles-harmonia-mundi/.)
Finally, Dvořák’s stellar Seventh Symphony, and which found the Al Glancy Control Room back in sound business. A mixed performance though: a heavyweight first movement short of lilt and with partials of phrases picked out for attention, following which the Poco adagio was attractively pastoral as well as organically embracing of emotional outbursts. The Scherzo was on the dour side, however, hardly Slavonic if emphatic, yet the Finale had a fire and a shape that wasn’t always apparent elsewhere, the DSO much perkier, with the coda notably stoical in its victory.