Classical review: Beethoven Marathon

Novelty attraction of marathons has worn off. A five-hour concert with two refreshmentless intermissions is a fatiguing event.

June 12, 2013 21:09
1 minute read.
Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra

Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. (photo credit: Sasson Tiram)


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Marathon concerts were a sensational innovation in the 1970s. They were introduced here by composer-conductor Lucas Foss, then music director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.

The novelty attraction of marathons has since worn off. A five-hour concert with two refreshmentless intermissions is a fatiguing event. This was proven yet again by the audience, most of which arrived mid-performance or left, exhausted, before the end.

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Such a lengthy concert could still be digestible if all the artists were extraordinary. However, this was not the case. The indefatigable host-editor-moderator- pianist Gil Shohat did his best to keep the audience alert throughout this Beethoven marathon.

Among the noteworthy artists was Stella Chen, the soloist of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. The maturity of this 20-year-old violinist is phenomenal. Her performance sounded fresh and spontaneous, yet emotionally profound and intellectually well-structured.

Her sound was immaculate and clear. In the technical, highly demanding fast runs all the notes were perfectly in place, with none swallowed. Significant notes were thoughtfully and nearly imperceptibly slowed down to lend them weight.

In the slow movement she squeezed out the last drop of lyricism without ever becoming sentimental.

The concluding Rondo was rendered with natural elegance and sprightliness. There was never a dull moment in this oft-heard work.

If this obviously talented young artist is lucky enough to get on the proper public relations track, she may yet emerge as an international celebrity.

The orchestral part was performed by the excellently rehearsed Harvard University Orchestra, conducted by Federico Kortaz.

Remarkable also was violinist Andres Mustonen in his performance of Beethoven’s “Spring” sonata with pianist Gil Shohat. His rendition was refreshing, lively, inspired and contagiously temperamental. His fascinatingly soft, low-keyed passages were unfortunately doomed to failure, though, due to Shohat’s merciless hammering on the piano.

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