Reviews Brockton Symphony Orchestra pays tribute to Beethoven By David Cleary
SPECIAL TO THE ENTERPRISE - November 16, 2003
BROCKTON - Boston's Symphony Hall has one, and only one, name inscribed at the top of its stage proscenium, that of Ludwig van Beethoven. It's a testament to the singular regard with which musicians and audiences alike hold this extraordinary tone meister.
Sunday afternoon's Brockton Symphony Orchestra concert was the second all-Beethoven event presented by the group during its last few seasons. This time around, some of this composer's grandest, most monumental pieces for large ensemble were showcased.
The "Emperor" Piano Concerto, Beethoven's fifth and final essay in this genre, is a technical and interpretive challenge to the best of soloists.
Seventeen-year-old Ko-Eun Lee did excellently by it, bringing forth a wide variety of effective tone qualities ranging from rapturous warmth to ethereal sparkle to sturdy strength. And her delineation of line was wonderfully clean, as good as the finest in the business.
Lee's tempos were unsettled at times - she had a tendency to rush, especially in fast, intense passages - but she is clearly an intelligent musician who will learn to rein in her excitement with more experience.
Conductor Jonathan Cohler did his utmost to provide a flexible, responsive platform for his young guest; the orchestra followed with varying degrees of sureness.
Owing to its immense duration (being twice as long as any symphony written up to that time) as well as its richly expressive harmonic and emotional palette, Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony proved a puzzling opus to concert goers and critics of the early 19th century. Modern-day listeners, equipped with 200 years of perspective to draw upon, recognize it as the first important symphony of the Romantic era and one of the major keystones of the standard orchestral literature.
Cohler's top-flight interpretation of this work was both properly respectful of the printed page (metronome marks and section repeats were scrupulously adhered to) and excitingly vigorous, loaded with vibrant hues and forthright energy. The orchestra was at its best here.
True, technical execution was not always perfectly accurate (some first movement string section passage work was less than tidy), but overall, the music was put forth with a compelling sense of urgency and desire to communicate. Particularly praiseworthy efforts came from principal oboist Julie Martin and the trio of horn players, Yu-Mien Tsao, Vanessa Gardner and Rosalyn Black.
The program opened with a respectable, if somewhat diffident rendition of the Overture to "Creatures of Prometheus."
While the stage at Brockton High School's auditorium does not have "Beethoven" chiseled at its apex, the concert presented there proved an often pleasing tribute to this compositional titan.
The Brockton Symphony Orchestra is recognized as Brockton's leading performing arts institution, one of the leading community symphony orchestras in Massachusetts, and one of the best regional orchestras in the country.