The CSP opened its 2018-19 season this evening (Sept 15) under the direction of its music director Josep Caballé-Domenech. The Pikes Peak Center was full of an enthusiastic audience that had two out of three pieces to be enthusiastic about. The first was Rossini’s overture to L’Italiana in Algeri. The Philharmonic’s Catalan maestro lead a taut and well played performance of Rossini’s always popular curtain raiser.
The overture was followed by Brahms’ Double Concerto. The soloists were violinist Benjamin Beilman, who looks like a schoolboy but who plays like a virtuoso, and cellist Maximilian Hornung who despite looking like an adult also played like a master. The concerto is Brahms’ last work for orchestra. Some observers have found the work to be dry and not up to Brahms’ usual standard. This negative and undeserved assessment is likely due to the work’s requirement for two matched virtuosos. This requirement was easily satisfied by the work of Beilman and Hornung along with Maestro Caballé-Domenech’s sensitive conducting and his orchestra’s equally sensitive playing. When given as it was this evening the concerto was revealed as the masterpiece it always has been; forget about the negative criticism.
Both soloists are in the process of making fine international careers. If either shows up in your neighborhood I’d advise catching his show. As an encore they played a short waltz by by a contemporary Bavarian composer whose name I missed. It’s a modern take on a local folk tune. Interesting and very well played.
The second half of the program was devoted to Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. When this work is done as it should be it is so powerful that half the audience will seek urgent medical care for acute PTSD. Unfortunately, things fell apart. Caballé-Domenech’s conception of the symphony is fast followed by more fast ending with so fast that his fine orchestra couldn’t keep up with him. The lack of pacing ruined the work’s wonderful architectonic structure. While I can’t be sure, I think the madcap rush through the symphony was faster than even Beethoven’s notorious metronome markings which many question as somehow being inappropriate. To make things worse the horns fumbled twice in the first movement and once in the last.
Beethoven’s 7th needs to be fast, but at the right places. This performance gave no more than a hint of what Beethoven put into this towering symphony.