November 12, 2012

CSO Even Better at Beethoven's Seventh

If last May's performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony fell short of the Chicago Symphony's standard, last Thursday's performance of the same work was a revelation: Charles Dutoit, who enjoys a rapport with the orchestra matched only by Muti and Haitink, conducted the work without pauses between the movements, and the amount of drive the work gained as a result was stunning. Conductors normally pause between movements of pieces to permit (often elderly) audience members to cough, a slightly artificial practice, as applause is permitted only at the end of the final movement. Dutoit demonstrated the aesthetic impact writ large of playing a work without such releases of tension, and I hope the trend will catch on. I was wary of repeating a work a mere six months after a previous performance, as there are far more works worthy of the CSO’s talents than they have the opportunity to play, and Beethoven is so utterly common. Dutoit, however, showed that there are benefits to such repetitions, and I hope that this coming February’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto will benefit in kind from the orchestra’s familiarity with the piece (though it was, by all accounts, a fantastic performance last spring).