ASO: Vasily Petrenko with Stewart Goodyear

Although I did not think that it was particularly great overall, there was a lot to like about this evening’s concert by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko. It began with a good-enough performance of Richard Strauss’ symphonic poem, “Don Juan.” There’s something about Strauss’ tone poems that makes my mind wander. It’s nothing bad – I’m not bored by them – it’s just good music for fantasizing and day dreaming. That is to say, I paid enough attention to know that it was an ok performance but not enough to say how it could have been better.

Stewart Goodyear, filling in for Ingrid Fliter, joined Petrenko and the orchestra for Mendelssohn’s piano concerto no 1(ish) in G minor. I felt that Petrenko pulled the orchestra back too far during Goodyear’s solos, particularly in the first movement. Goodyear made up for it, though, with a competent and easy going performance of the melodious finger-aerobics that Mendelssohn wrote for the first movement. However, it was the way that he brought out a certain child-like joy from the third movement that really caught my attention: it was exceptionally charming and really made the piece for me.

I also thought well of Goodyear’s encore: one of Bach’s Goldberg variations (I think). He played it tenderly and thoughtfully. I think that it was a really good way to cool things down after the blaze of the Mendelssohn.

The program was capped off by Dvořák’s symphony no. 8. Petrenko went for big on this, which worked reasonably well on the first movement. I found the second movement adagio a bit lugubrious, though tolerable. The third movement waltzes came out wonderfully, though, and made me wish that I was in a ballroom dancing with someone in a big, flowy gown. The big, though, failed in the fourth movement. The shift in dynamics came out a bit forced and artificial and the orchestra wasn’t really together enough for the really loud, fast bits to have a good effect. Like the 7th and 9th symphonies, though, the 8th merely needs a modestly competent reading to be enjoyable and this performance was good enough to be enjoyable, much like the rest of the concert.

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