Philippe Entremont presents Beethoven from Munich 

On a gloomy and rainy Saturday evening, Philippe Entremont presented to the Munich Symphony Orchestra at the GMU Center for the Arts conducting and playing an all-Beethoven program. A full-bodied and very well played Prometheus Overture with a disciplined and tight string section belied the fact that the MSO is a solid fifth (of five) among Munich’s professional symphony orchestras. (The MuPhil and the Bavarian Radio SO, the Bavarian State Orchestra – the opera orchestra, and the Munich Radio SO are the other four.) Following the overture was the perhaps most perfect piano concerto ever written, Beethoven’s 4th in G-Major op.58. Maestro Entremont still had the band under control from the piano bench, but in his nimble-fingered performance he and Beethoven would not have suffered from a wee bit more attention to detail – especially in the Allegro moderato. The string’s wooden and heavy introduction to the Andante con moto jarred with Entremont’s soft touches. The entries, too, could have been cleaner. At times, first violinist Mirian Kraew led the pack by as much as 16th notes. Mr. Entremont’s playing became less clear in the Rondo but wherever heft was asked for, the Munich forces performed better and, with an old-fashioned touch, very enjoyably so.

In the 7th Symphony Munich’s “Film-Music Orchestra” (the MSO provides most soundtracks to films in Germany) found back to much of the quality they displayed in the overture. Basses, violas and cellos were well coordinated sonorous in the funereal Allegretto with its slow pulse. Then again, I was pretty much sitting in that section which affected the balance of the experience. The concluding Allegro con brio suited the band: Fast, loud and in multitudes. If winds and brass were not the subtlest bunch, that did not keep the MSO from making a favorable impression. Those in the audience who were not looking for flaws but enjoyment instead had a very good time, judging from the enthusiastic applause and standing ovations after the rousing finale. The Munich players are not likely ever to have been so cheered in their hometown. They could not even play their encore on the first attempt. When they were able to do so, it continued the Beethoven theme with Entremont and his players digging deep for a somber Egmont Overture, a very substantial treat with which the performers only further played themselves into their audience’s heart.

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