Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Thomas Zehetmair, the soloist with the London Philharmonic at a concert in Avery Fisher Hall last night, managed to turn in an old standby of the repertoire - Beethoven's Violin Concerto - as something that sounded fresh, by what came in the middle and what followed several rounds of applause. He laced his performance with the (apparently rarely played) Schneiderhan cadenzas: full of chords, thanks to their origin in a piano arrangement of the work, and punctuated by the timpanist, who memorably opens the piece as a whole. Hearing these cadenzas for the first time, I couldn't help but draw the line between such moments in classical music and the world of jazz, which one might argue is really all about the cadenzas (and one of the reasons why I never really progressed beyond a middling jazz-band performer on the saxophone in high school). After Zehetmair took his bows, he announced an encore: a piece by the Swiss oboist and composer Heinz Holliger, written just last fall, in November 2009. (The Times review says it was “Souvenir der Newcastle,” and this blog has more to say on its origin.) It was probably one of the most incongruous encores that I've ever heard, after bathing in Beethoven's classicism. That's not to say I didn't find it interesting, but it felt daring to sandwich a slice of avant garde between two pieces usually guaranteed to bring a crowd (the second half was Brahms' Second Symphony), as if to say, "You loved what you just heard? Well, this is what I play on my days off."

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