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WCO: Hindemith, Beethoven, Finzi, Mozart

Hindemith: Five Pieces for Strings, Op. 44, No. 4
Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 in C Major
Finzi: Eclogue for Piano and Strings
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra
Tian Ying, piano
Andrew Sewell, conductor


The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra's Wednesday evening concert at the Union Theater, Andrew Sewell conducting, was splendidly in tune, as well as musically vigorous and absorbing. Hindemith's carefully crafted Five Pieces for Strings, Op. 44, No. 4 opened the program. Suzanne Beia gave an excellent account of the fleet violin solo in the last movement, and throughout Sewell brought out the work's deep lyricism. Brief moments of unsteady ensemble in the quick movements did no real damage.

Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 in C Major, which Sewell conducted from memory, was notably clean and precise, with good tempi and a solid sound. Beethoven's wind writing often affords a slightly raucous edge over the strings, used in this piece to good effect. The work is deceptively difficult, but it got a first-rate exposure here.

After intermission the very gifted pianist Tian Ying gave a clearly heartfelt reading of Gerald Finzi's Eclogue for Piano and Strings, the slow movement of an unfinished piano concerto. The music, typically for Finzi, is introspective, and Ying made the most of its basically simple song form.

The major excitement was Ying's performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466. It was fitting to hear Beethoven's first-movement cadenza, for this concerto is a clear embodiment of the inner drama of Classicism straining toward Romanticism. Attentively accompanied by Sewell, Ying's playing was remarkable for its clarity and sparkle, which showed to particular advantage in the technically demanding passages of the outer movements. Ying tossed these off effortlessly, yet -- verging on unorthodoxy -- he also ratcheted up the emotional intensity of these sections, resulting in a marvelous musical tension, balanced with the work's more relaxed cantabile parts. Ordinarily, the slow movement is the glory of such a performance, but I thought the rondo, allegro assai, with its very demanding bravura, took the prize this time.

Coupled with his performance of the Ravel G Major Concerto with the WCO last year, this return engagement makes it plain that Ying has the interpretive range needed to establish himself as a major rising star. The audience's resounding tumult supports that notion.

Isthmus, March, 2001
Copyright 2001 Jess Anderson

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