New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) finishes its season with an all-Beethoven program that thrills to the fives, so dress to the nines when you go. On June 4, the performance at Bergen Performing Arts Center kicked off the final stand of the regular season, which concludes on June 7 in Newark.
Jacques Lacombe conducted the “Coriolan” Overture, Number 62, sans score, and this dramatic and tragic piece set the tone for a great concert. Ludwig van Beethoven was the supreme architect of music–sturm und drama and so well crafted that it seems like the music just grew for Beethoven to pluck it whole and beautiful. The overture mirrors the hero’s angst and Corioanus has a laser focus, despite his early lack of direction, and Beethoven illustrates that brilliantly. At the end, however, no one is saved. It becomes time to take “fives.”
Marc-André Hamelin was a superb soloist and an excellent choice for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto Number Five, “The Emperor.” Hamelin’s dynamic range was perfection in the intimate acoustics of BergenPAC with sparkling upper registers that shimmered like an articulated waterfall, think tintinnabulation in Cubist milieu, and at times his left hand and right hand almost seemed to argue, as Beethoven has written, so shall it be, then they’d find an accord again. Hamelin looks effortless and we know only virtuosity and a great deal of practice makes for that kind of ease.
The final act of the evening was the brooding Symphony Number Five. Lacombe, conducting again sans score, started the iconic first movement at a slightly greater tempo than is familiar, giving greater energy and vigor to such a well-known work. Then the second movement begins with measured grace, making the segue back to greater energy that much more dramatic. The third movement builds with supported energy that thrums, even as the melody spreads like wildfire among the voices of the orchestra, and afterward there is a conspiratorial feel that again builds to seduce us to greater adventures.
John Williams is known to borrow heavily from classical motif and I heard nascent melody from the Throne Room scene at the end of “Star Wars,” now Episode VI. Listening to a familiar piece in the hands of a world-class orchestra’s interpretation will do that for you.
What’s that? You haven’t yet subscribed for NJSO’s next season? Do it soon. In the meantime, join Associate Conductor Gemma New for NJSO’s summer series of free concerts and whet your classical appetite, alfresco! I’ll see you there! Get your tickets now at www.njsymphony.org.