Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin – Beethoven Coriolan Overture and Symphonies 2 & 7 [live webcast]

Coriolan Overture, Op.62
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.36
Symphony No.7 in A, Op.92

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 16 February, 2013
Venue: Orchestra Hall, Detroit, Michigan

Leonard Slatkin. ©Steve J. ShermanSo, 1 o’clock Sunday morning, London time, five hours in front of the perfectly reasonable 8-in-the-evening in Detroit. Another live webcast and remaining your reviewer in terpsichorean territory – I had just heard The Rite of Spring, in a concert hall, and now through the Internet here was what Richard Wagner termed “the apotheosis of the dance”, Beethoven 7. It’s a small world, for Bernard Haitink and the LSO had served up a fine performance of it just a few days earlier, and now here were Leonard Slatkin and his Detroitians doing the same.

This was an account notable for its gravitas and liveliness – but not too fast so as to compromise articulation – and having all the repeats observed proved to be an indivisible accumulation rather than literal repetitions, until the material needed to be developed. The first movement was gloriously lissom … and then straight into the second – totally convincingly and beautifully timed and although I know not where this unbroken transition comes from, Slatkin was not setting a precedent (I have heard James Conlon, Vladimir Jurowski and David Robertson do similarly), it worked a treat; Slatkin’s was a grand conception, a noble cortege. The scherzo frolicked and the trio (kept moving) was Olympian; we had to wait a little while for the finale – going directly on would have balanced-out the attaccas – an exhilarating affair. No doubt someone has choreographed this particular Symphony of Ludwig van’s; here the music danced before our ears, the final bars a leap of faith.

The concert opened with an intense and urgent Coriolan Overture (a bit of a surprise given I was expecting Leonore No.1) and then came the splendid Second Symphony, something of a ‘Cinderella’ within this canon. Slatkin led a reading of terrific vitality, lithe rhythms and lyrical charge, perfectly poised in the playing. That said it wasn’t what I expected, or what I was hoping for, which was something in the manner of André Cluytens (his Berlin recording was my introduction to the work) or Rafael Kubelík (his Concertgebouw version is one of the very finest). Come the end of the first movement, one of Beethoven’s long and thrilling crescendos, the thought of a Bruno Walter-like slow movement (the stopwatch has him as the broadest in pacing, even slower than Celibidache!) had been given up on, but Slatkin was persuasive, like Frank he was doing it ‘his way’, and probably LvB’s too.

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