ASO: Matthias Pintscher with Nicola Benedetti

Yesterday was one of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s pre-concert chamber recitals. They had originally programmed Beethoven’s Septet in Eb major but, sadly, Associate Concertmaster Justin Bruns was unable to play because of an injury. Instead, we were treated to David Cucheron and William Ransom playing the Kreutzer Sonata. It was a good performance of the piece and, honestly, I think I may have enjoyed it more than I might have enjoyed the septet. They were scheduled to play it again today at the Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta’s Cooke Noontime Concert series at the Carlos Museum and if it was half as good as last night then the audience had quite a treat.

The main concert began with Matthias Pintscher conducting his own piece, Ex Nihilo. I enjoyed it but it really didn’t fit the program at all. It began slow and quiet and mildly disjointed with novel sounds employing extended techniques of playing a variety of the instruments to create a sense of anxious disorientation. It continued as such for quite some time without really seeming to go anywhere until, towards the end, it built to a loud cacophony broken up by a muted trumpet and ending with a moment of confused loud. In my mind, it felt like the soundtrack to a Kafkaesque job interview: the applicant sitting alone, anxiously waiting in a strange, uncomfortable room until finally being interviewed by a panel of loud, frightening, sharp people. The muted trumpet is the anxious babbling response of the interviewee to the interviewers and the loud end an abrupt, “Thank you, we will let you know.” As I said, it didn’t really fit the program: it sounded nothing like Beethoven and it didn’t really compliment anything else played that evening. It was still pretty good, though.

Next up was Nicola Benedetti soloing in the Beethoven Violin Concerto. I wasn’t fond of Pintscher’s conducting, which sounded like he was trying to turn it into a film score. Nicoloa Benedetti’s playing was clear and solid, if not completely perfect . There was nothing particularly exciting about it. I might say that her playing was a tad dry, but it fit so well with Pintscher’s conducting that I’m not entirely sure that she wasn’t just responding to the orchestra under his baton. I’d be interested in hearing her play the piece under a conductor who’s more to my taste. Her sound was very interesting to me, though: there was a brightness like you get from over-rosining – and you could definitely see the excess build up on her instrument throughout the piece – but instead of a harsh sound, it was very crisp. Some of that may be from good bowing technique, but I suspect that she’s done a good job of picking her instrument and strings to match her playing style. I noticed that she had ornate tuning pegs and it was hard not to notice the nicer chin and shoulder rests with the attached neck cloth. She clearly has put a lot of attention into making the instrument work for her and it seems to have paid off.

The program ended with Brahms’ Symphony no. 2. I didn’t stick around for it. I’m not fond of the piece and probably would have left even if I’d enjoyed the Beethoven performance more. Overall, this was not the best concert of the season for me.

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