Concerto in C for piano, violin and cello, Op.56
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.73
Eroica Trio [Erika Nickrenz (piano), Susie Park (violin) & Sara Sant’Ambrogio (cello)]
Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Elizabeth Barnette
Reviewed: 14 November, 2011
Venue: Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City
From the very beginning for the Brahms it was obvious that Luisi cherishes the deep, burnished sound of the VSO’s string section. Barely taking note of woodwind and brass, he reveled in it, and it bloomed even in the problematic acoustics of Avery Fisher Hall. In addition, the orchestra is also capable of playing pianissimos which lose no substance, but are floating on a cushion of air. And while one might wish for a more prominent horn sound at times, most notably in the first movement solo, it was interesting to hear the distinctive timbre of the Vienna instruments which blend perfectly with the woodwind. This was a full-bodied reading of the piece, including the first-movement exposition repeat, with moderate tempos throughout, and observing many of the performance traditions which have accumulated over the years. Therein, however, lay some problems. When in the first movement the woodwind restatement of the lyrical theme was preceded by a slowing down every time, it became a mannered effect. Similarly, the second theme in the finale both times was slowed to such an extent that it seemed out of context and broke the flow. And while the ultimate coda of the symphony is often treated as a stretto, pushing the tempo forward, the sudden shift into high gear for the last few bars was a real shock.
As Luisi had proved the previous night with a thoroughly convincing performance of Beethoven’s Seventh, he is a sensitive musician with a very intuitive response. The Brahms, in comparison, sounded a trifle pre-meditated and would have benefitted from more trust in his instincts. These were in ample evidence in a fleet but exquisitely nuanced Overture to Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro as an encore (also as the night before), the large ensemble sounding like an intimate chamber orchestra.