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Published: Saturday, 2/7/2004

Beethoven symphonies heard afresh


Beethoven s hard edges, eccentricities, and exuberance were at the forefront last night when conductor Stefan Sanderling led the Toledo Symphony in the composer s 7th and 10th symphonies.

Tenth Symphony? Well, a single movement at least, as constructed by musicologist Barry Cooper from disjointed sketches dating from 1822 through 1825. Cooper had many holes to fill.

Whether he got the job done correctly, or was even close, will be a task for future musicologists. For us in the audience, the piece offered a chance to hear “Beethoven” afresh. The experience was occasionally shocking. Was the composer really as eccentric as last night s performance suggested? If so, it s no wonder that his contemporaries hardly knew what to make of him.

Interesting as this performance was, it would have been more so if we could have heard another person s construction placed along side. On its own, the experience was slightly uncomfortable, like watching Forrest Gump standing next to Lyndon Johnson. It didn t happen.

Perhaps more interesting than the “10th” was its juxtaposition against Symphony No. 7, an old war horse that, to this listener s ears at least, had seemed anything but audacious until last night. No longer.

Certainly that impression was helped by Sanderling s rousing leadership. In previous outings the conductor has demonstrated a mastery of orchestral technique. Performances have been clear, concise, and thoughtful. Last night s performance, however, added a sinewy confidence that flowed from the podium throughout the orchestra and out to the audience. The music exploded with vitality.

In other music, pianist Andre Watts presented an invariably engaging reading of Mozart s often brooding Concerto No. 24 in C Minor. Throughout the performance Watts emphasized the music s dissonance, sometimes humorously, sometimes with dark intent.

The program opened with the premiere of Christopher Dietz s Prelude for Orchestra, a brief neo-tonal work that seemed to draw inspiration from the American school.

The program will be repeated at 8 tonight in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle. Remaining tickets range from $15 to $40 and will be available at the door.

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