Melbourne Symphony Orchestra: Beethoven’s Ninth

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s “Beethoven’s Ninth” live performance started with a efficiency of Zhao Jiping’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Mr. Jiping, who has composed quite a few scores for tv dramas and movies, similar to The Yellow Earth, Pink Sorghum and Farewell My Concubine, is taken into account one of the crucial energetic and foremost composers in China in the present day. He makes use of components of Chinese language music in his works however not in a strictly correct fashion – quite, referring to Chinese language components in his compositions. When requested what the core concept or emotion that he wished to convey is within the Concerto, he mentioned that it was to convey a “common love”. That is presumably how the Violin Concerto was programmed with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the place Beethoven wished to put in writing a symphony that united all mankind in peace and love.

The violin soloist for Jiping’s Violin Concerto No.1 was Ning Feng, an internationally recognised artist “of nice lyricism, innate musicality and beautiful virtuosity”. He most definitely demonstrated this in his efficiency of the concerto. He was completely concerned emotionally in the complete work and knew his half inside out. Mr. Feng labored on the violin rating for the composer, arranging the fingering and bowing strategies, and going “far past the composer’s expectations in performing the work”. Jiping additionally commented: “he (Ning Feng) has supplied this concerto with the wings it must fly excessive around the globe”. The tone-quality when Mr. Feng performed the decrease notes of his violin was notably full and plush.

Not like many concerti, Jiping’s Concerto, which lasts about 20 minutes, is in a single motion, with a number of sections conveying completely different moods. The work started with notes from the horns, and the concord that developed jogged my memory a little bit of An American in Paris – very “Hollywood Musical”. Violins launched the primary tune, which was easy and eminently singable – as with Beethoven’s “Freude” or “Ode to Pleasure”. The soloist entered and echoes the violins, taking part in the easy first theme once more. He performed within the decrease register of the violin, which gave the tune a really melancholy temper that advised a deep longing and jogged my memory of John William’s Schindler’s Checklist most important theme. Finally the soloist leaped an octave and the orchestra crescendoed to a full rendition in unison of the primary theme with the soloist.

After this part we reached a calmer theme, which appeared to me to recommend a river flowing alongside gently and, within the extra frenetic elements, a subway full of individuals catching trains and dashing about their lives. This part included variations on the primary theme by the soloist with added ornamentation and prospers, and we returned to the bustling subway temper. On the peak of this loud bustling part a stunning, calm, delicate change appeared with a fragile triangle and solo flute and bassoon melodies, adopted by a pleasant harp part with operating scales, suggesting the calm operating stream once more. The soloist re-entered with the unique tune, now ornamented and extra poignant than firstly. A brand new part was signalled by the double basses with a fugue-like theme, echoed by different sections of the orchestra. Muted brass results added to the ambiance, which led to me considering, “What is going to occur subsequent?”

A stunning new part with Chinese language results like temple bells and gong emerged with the usage of percussion and delicate woodwind taking part in. We had been returned to the “bustling” theme and a diminuendo led again to the soloist reiterating the primary, melancholy theme. His cadenza recalled the earlier themes in a not notably emotional means and the orchestra re-entered when he stopped – by no means like a standard concerto the place taking part in the dominant leads the orchestra again in. Harp and soloist reprised the primary theme in its easy, singable fashion and when the strings re-entered the soloist’s taking part in of the theme sounded much more like weeping because it grew to become ever extra poignant. The complete strings performed the primary theme whereas the brass part performed their alternate theme. The soloist returned with the primary theme after which held a protracted harmonic excessive observe and the concerto completed with descending “Hollywood” chords, reiteration of the primary theme, a protracted tremolo from strings and soloists and a full crescendo to the tip. I like to recommend listening to the Concerto on YouTube – “Violinist Ning Feng/Zhao Jiping Violin Concerto NO.1/2017 US Premiere”. A totally pleasant work.

Nevertheless, how will you evaluate a reasonably mild Violin Concerto with aspirations to attraction to all mankind in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony? What an unimaginable concept of Beethoven’s so as to add 4 vocal soloists and a choir to the tip of his Symphony. In his e book Beethoven, Jan Swafford writes: “In an unprecedented means for a composer …. Beethoven stepped into historical past with a communal ritual that doesn’t merely preach a sermon about freedom and brotherhood however aspires to assist carry them to move.” “The Freude theme would find yourself because the anthem of a Europe united after centuries of warfare.” Beethoven wished his Freude theme to be “a little bit tune that everybody may bear in mind and almost everybody may sing. He wished a theme to beat the world and he did it.”

The MSO carried out the work with nice consideration to element as anticipated by their great Principal Visitor Conductor, Xian Zhang. She is small of stature however large in conducting abilities. It was a delight to look at her all through the complete live performance, being completely absorbed in main the orchestra and bringing out delicate nuances not usually heard in common performances. It was inspiring to “learn” what Ms. Zhang wished by watching her left hand and her physique actions. Throughout delicate or sluggish passages she used an absolute economic system of motion, solely indicating most important beats, however in louder and quicker passages she threw her complete physique into her conducting, which gave such clear course to each orchestra and viewers. There was no theatricality – simply clear management and great musicianship.

The 4 soloists had been soprano Madeleine Pierard, mezzo-soprano Ashlyn Tymms, tenor Rosario La Spina, and bass Nathan Berg. A Canadian, Mr. Berg led the vocal entries very securely and with an apparent enjoyment of the work. His singing was glorious however absolutely the MSO may have used a Melbourne Bass soloist? The 4 soloists sang their small however very demanding elements properly. They had been nearly drowned by the orchestra and Refrain in full flight, however they efficiently held their very own and their tone was properly matched to that of the MSO Refrain. The soprano soloist had a really clear voice that matched the readability of the Refrain sopranos, quite than the often-heard giant operatic soprano sound.

The MSO Refrain was glorious on this large work. I attended their rehearsal the night time earlier than the place members of the general public had been capable of hear Xian Zhang rehearsing the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Individuals had been solely sitting within the Circle in order that the steadiness appeared all improper and really uninspiring. I wonder if anyone purchased a ticket for the true live performance after listening to such a disappointing sound?

With the viewers applauding after the primary motion and once more after the second motion, plus the entry of the Refrain and soloists after the second motion, the Ninth Symphony appeared damaged into three items quite than being an homogenous complete. Definitely it’s a lengthy work however, absolutely the MSO Refrain may have sat on stage for the total work. If the soloists didn’t wish to sit onstage for the entire work, absolutely there was a loud part firstly of the fourth motion throughout which they might take their seats quietly and unobtrusively? It was good to see some color on stage in Ashlyn Tymms’ beautiful pink robe. The soprano wore black and the 2 males weren’t in dinner fits with bow ties. Is that this the way in which to encourage “bizarre” individuals versus “music aficionados” to attend MSO concert events? My private opinion is that such an awesome work because the Ninth deserves extra “dressing up”, particularly by the tenor and bass soloists.

When it’s all boiled down although, what issues most is the music and the way it’s carried out. The MSO performed splendidly as at all times, with just a few very minor blips. The violin soloist, vocal soloists and MSO Refrain all did their elements splendidly to provide us a beautiful live performance. The conductor, Xian Zhang was merely inspiring and all on stage deserved the viewers’s standing ovation.

Photograph credit score: Mark Gambino


Jennifer Turner reviewed “Beethoven’s Ninth”, carried out by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Corridor on June 30, 2022.