Mariss Jansons was on the Carnegie Hall stage with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra for this exciting program, the first of two. The evening started with the Overture to Rossini’s final opera, William Tell. Jansons conducted the well-known (Lone Ranger) final gallop to crashing effect and with a gentle dose of humor. But it was the opening transporting solo cellos progressing into lyrical strings accompanied by soft timpani rolls that was most captivating. The playing was admirable throughout, including some especially thrilling work from the brass in the storm section, and the crystalline duet for flute and English horn in the pastoral third part released all its expressiveness.
Frank Peter Zimmermann infused Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto with lyrical nuances and technical virtuosity. The work places enormous demands on soloist and conductor, notably in the opening Andantino, but they navigated the non-stop dialogue with ease, accentuating the underlying tension of the music. In the dashing Scherzo, generously peppered with pizzicatos and double-stops, Zimmermann displayed a remarkable range of color, emphasizing the amply punctuated vigor. In the Finale he and the BRSO produced a perfectly primed sound, allowing the music to unfold convincingly through to the peaceful coda. Zimmermann offered an encore: a brilliant rendition of the Allegro from Bach’s A-minor Sonata, BWV1003.
Jansons and his musicians made Beethoven’s poignant and noble ‘Eroica’ Symphony leap to life in an account that offered majestic strength and lyrical tenderness in convincing balance, and with alertness to the numerous swings from ferocious intensity to free-flowing grace, each movement unified by a distinctive sense of grandeur. The first was exceptionally refined, with the repeat of the exposition more vigorous, and the mighty ‘Marche funèbre’, if somewhat quickly paced, was powerful. The vivacious Scherzo was playful enough but had a noticeable undercurrent of apprehension, while the jubilant Finale was filled with gripping intensity to complete a reading of vibrant energy, crisp rhythmic articulation and splendid drama. Normally Jansons will add a couple of extra pieces. but not on this occasion.