ASO: Jun Märkl with Johannes Moser

There was a lot to like about this evening’s Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert conducted by Jun Märkl. The program was fairly light-hearted, with two neo-classical works with a smaller orchestra in the first half and Schumann’s “Spring Symphony” to conclude the show. Under Märkl’s baton, the music was a warm delight on a cold winter’s evening.

The concert opened with Richard Strauss’ suite from “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.” Märkl restrained himself from trying to bring out any drama from the music that wasn’t really there nor did he try to overdo the baroqueness of the movements based on Lully’s work. What he did do, however, was allow the lyricism of the piece come to the forefront and he didn’t shy away from letting the dances do their dancey thing. I also really enjoyed Coucheron’s playing of the concertmaster’s parts: it was a very good fit for his playing style.

After the Strauss, Cellist Johannes Moser joined Märkl and the orchestra for Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme. I’ve always found this piece to be delightful and I love how the solo cello seems to be in a casual and playful conversation with the orchestra. Moser’s technique was excellent, bringing a beautiful and clear sound out of his instrument, even when playing the higher notes slowly and gently. It seems that he was so talented and comfortable with the piece that he was able to practice Lamaze breathing techniques while he was playing. As impressive as that was, it was an unpleasant distraction from the otherwise wonderful performance. Fortunately, Moser dropped his Glenn Gould impersonation during his encore, which was a solid performance of the sarabande from Bach’s cello suite no. 4.

As I mentioned, the evening concluded with Schumann’s Symphony no. 1. At first I was almost overwhelmed by the full orchestra after the smaller ensembles for the first two pieces. Once I settled in, though, it was a gorgeous performance and Märkl managed it wonderfully. If I were to describe his conducting for the evening, I might say that there was something very honest and sincere about it. He really seemed to be letting the music tell him what needed to happen rather than trying to impose his own character upon it. He’s definitely one whom I’d love to hear again and I’m finding that I regret not coming to see him when he guest conducted a couple of years ago.

The music made the evening, but I was also very excited to read the season preview for next year. They are having a celebration of Bernstein’s 100th birthday and will be a performing of all three Bernstein symphonies, which means I’ll finally get to hear Symphony no. 3 “Kaddish” live! I hope that they get a good narrator for it. There will also be a collaboration with the Alliance Theatre on a full staging of Bernstein’s opera “Candide.” I’m wondering if that’ll be in Symphony Hall given that the Alliance’s stage will closed for renovations next season. There’s a lot more to look forward to, but I am super excited about all of the Bernstein!

Don’t forget to check out the Atlanta Classical Music Calendar!

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