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Orchestra, Audience Rejoice in Beethoven

02/01/11 • by Sherli Leonard • The Riverside Press-Enterprise

This should be short. Last weekend, the Redlands Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of conductor Jon Robertson, brought thousands to Beethoven as the orchestra filled Memorial Chapel with elegant, inspired and brilliantly fresh 200-year-old music, performed with technical mastery and joyful artistry. End of story.

Except for the details, which deserve acknowledgement.

"People love Beethoven," Robertson told the audience before the start of the all-Beethoven concert. "That it is still fresh, still powerful two centuries later speaks to its greatness, its timelessness."

He was right, at least for this audience, with these two works: the Violin Concerto and Symphony No. 7.

Robertson explained the small size of the orchestra as essential to keeping the music clear, as muddiness could happen in the hall where reverberation time is about three seconds.

"You can hear extraordinary things," he said.

Robertson proceeded to demonstrate the music's clarity as he opened the Violin Concerto with the lengthy full orchestra introduction. Lines of notes cleanly and elegantly soared into the hall before solo violinist Pavel Farkas began.

Aggressive and expressive, Farkas delivered a serious and intelligent rendition of the lyrical and difficult concerto.

Playing with pure high notes, sweet swift trills, elegant hesitations and articulate runs, Farkas gave an amazing performance to the piece with its two enormously satisfying themes.

"When I conduct Beethoven, I feel him in my hands," Robertson said before the concert.

From his hands came breathless lifts and suspensions, bursts of musical joy beyond happiness, heart-ripping sounds and huge drama in the second movement -- such exquisite playing for such exquisite writing.

In this long work, passionate and committed performances by the ensemble and masterful performances by soloists so moved the music and the audience that even the usual numerous repeats could not bring on a yawn.

The high trumpet note over the top of the orchestra at the end of the third movement seemed to send the music to heaven before it exploded into the no-sleeping-allowed fourth movement with the horns absolutely going for broke. Bravo to the timpanist for driving the whole orchestra to keep up with Robertson's blistering pace.

Beethoven -- at least, his music -- is alive and thriving and well-loved in Redlands.

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