Last night, I had the chance to catch one of the last concerts of the CSO’s 125th season. The program, conducted by Maestro Muti, featured two classical/romantic works: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (played by German violinist Julia Fischer) and Brahms’ Serenade No. 1. I had only listened to the Perlman/Giulini (with the Philharmonia) version of Beethoven’s work before, so I was definitely looking forward to hearing Fischer and Muti’s interpretation. Fischer’s playing was magnificent, and her control of tone was really remarkable – there were moments where you could barely hear her playing, reflecting her sense of expressivity of Beethoven’s dynamic markings. The orchestra, under Muti’s baton, was the perfect accompaniment, also displaying great concern for Beethoven’s score (a specialty of Maestro Muti). What I also love about Fischer is that she isn’t one of those super showy performers, who seem to attract a lot of popularity unfortunately, but rather, she takes her performances seriously, with the highest concentration on the music itself – and that works really well with a conductor like Maestro Muti. After multiple curtain calls, Fischer offered an encore (couldn’t hear what she exactly said – it was some final movement of some violin sonata, I think), that was more of a demonstration of her virtuosity than anything else – it was a fitting end to the first half of the night and for her last performance in Chicago this week.
Brahms’ Serenade No. 1 was one of Brahms’ early attempts to write symphonic music, and I have to say that although it did seem to slightly lack a defined structure (some parts did seem a bit repetitive and it probably could have ended at certain points before the actual ending in my opinion), the absolute warmth, lightness, and air that Muti drew from the orchestra was sublime – you literally forget how much time has passed when you’re listening to these moments of pure music. Muti has this knack for making orchestras “sing,” from his experience conducting opera, and that couldn’t have been more evident than in this concert. Next season, Muti will be conducting the entire cycle of Brahms symphonies, so this was definitely a nice precursor.
After the concert, I went backstage to say a quick hello to Maestro Muti – I thanked him for the great concert and told him that I’ll be headed to the Salzburg Festival in August to see his concert with the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic). He was really enthusiastic about it, and I think he was somewhat surprised that a student would be going all the way to Salzburg to see one of his concerts haha :D. Anyways, I’ve been saving up for this trip (aka putting in extra hours at work) and have made good progress in planning activities for both Vienna and Salzburg. Once August rolls around, I’ll have plenty more to blog about, but for now, I’ll be in Chicago and enjoying the summer. Hopefully I can make it to the Grant Park Music Festival one of these days – I really want to hear Stephen Hough play Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (he played it at BBC Proms!!). Plus my old piano teacher apparently knows Hough, so maybe I can snag an autograph from Hough for him – that would definitely be a good gift!
Update: Fischer’s encore performance was the finale of Hindemith’s Sonata in G minor.