It seemed that Maestro Spano was so excited about Mahler’s Symphony no. 1 in the second half of the program at this evening’s performance of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra that he forgot that the piano concerto in G major played in the first half was actually written by Beethoven and not Mahler. He conducted it as though it were from the late Romantic period, which sounded horribly off with the smaller orchestra and the whole thing came across as though it were being interpreted by a brooding, teenage goth. Beethoven’s piano concerto no. 4 is one that rarely fails to delight me, but I found this slow, over-dramatic performance to be a total bore. I can’t even comment on Pohjonen’s playing in it because my mind was wandering so much from the tedium of the performance that I barely noticed him. He did, however, impress me with his playing of Grieg’s “Butterfly” during his encore.
The Mahler in the second half was really good. I’d normally say that it made up for the weak performance in the first half but Spano has been doing this too much this season. I know that he is capable of giving good, if not excellent, interpretations of more than one piece in a concert but, for some reason, he just isn’t doing it this season. I don’t know if he’s taken on too much this season or if he’s just tired of this gig but, either way, I really think that he owes it to the orchestra, the audience, the soloists, and, most of all, to himself to do a better job than this. He’s an artist of exceptionally high caliber but if this season were the first that I ever heard his work then I’d probably not realize it.
Don’t forget to check out the Atlanta Classical Music Calendar!