Stefan Sanderling’s final appearance as principal conductor of the Toledo Symphony began last evening with the concluding concert on this year’s Classics Series. The performance was not a bombastic hurrah of brassish symphonic standing ovations, but rather a journey into the extreme sublime of perfectly crafted orchestral beauty.
The concert was textbook programming: an overture, a concerto, and a symphony: “The stuff of which true symphony orchestras are made,” according to Sanderling himself. The repertoire was drawn from what he calls his “tradition,” masterworks of the Austro-Germanic literature.
The evening opened with Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, written as a stand-alone work with associations to Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. The performance was a sturm und drang adventure, depicting the hero’s rise and fall. Sanderling led a stalwart charge through the foray before succumbing to a quietly complex, stoic resolution as the piece drew to an end.
Pianist Martina Filjack came centerstage in the evening’s second work, Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 13 in C major, K. 415. Winner of the 2009 Beethoven prize at the Cleveland International Piano Competition, she brought subtlety, nuance, and clarity to the work’s interpretation.
Not for her the bombastic overworking of lines and virtuosity — she rather focused on the intimacy of the work, crafting an enticing landscape of color and balance, imbuing the work with finesse and a subtle singing quality that drew the listener ever inward to a nirvana of reflective grace.
Finally, as the capstone to his 15-year tenure, Sanderling chose the piece which for many is the quintessential apex of romanticism, Brahms’ Symphony no. 3 in F major, op. 90. Carrying upon its score the composer’s own epitaph, “Frei aber froh (Free but joyful),” the work is a passionate celebration of life.
Though one of Brahms’ shortest and most compact works, it carries a craftsmanship that is near compositional perfection, and to this Sanderling brought his gifts of acumen and genius. Musically he shaped a journey that metaphorically traced his own history with the symphony: joy, reflection, celebration, and finally a simple, exquisite, quiet farewell.
Sanderling’s tenure with the symphony has been a journey of growth, challenge, and stretching for all who have been a part. As he moves forward in his career, he leaves an indelible mark of musical excellence upon our city’s artscape, one from which we as a community will benefit for years to come.
Farewell, Maestro, this final musical gift was indeed a musically authentic, perfect cadence.
The concert will be repeated 8 p.m. today in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle, 2445 Monroe St., Toledo. Tickets and more information 419- 246-8000 or toledosymphony.com.
Contact Wayne F. Anthony at email@example.com.
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