You don’t see it at first glance in the program sequence, but this concert by the Munich Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Nodoka Okisawa with violinist Arabella Steinbacher in the Prinzregententheater is a consistently conceived Beethoven evening. The composition played at the beginning “subito con forza” by the composer Unsuk Chin deals with Beethoven; and how much Brahms once toiled away at the sheer depressing model is handed down both to the symphonies and to the violin concerto op. 77 played here. Then, after the interval, comes Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony himself.
Okisawa is the symphonic artist-in-residence as conductor this season. And what an excellent conductor she is can be seen from the concrete way in which she leads the orchestra through the constant sequence of expressive contrasts in Chin’s work. Harsh orchestral blows and shimmering, rhythmically quite sophisticated passages alternate – whether it is really always the powerful (forza) that suddenly (subito) breaks in, or rather the quieter in between, is probably a matter of opinion.
The Brahms concerto that follows is fabulously successful. Okisawa tackles the extended beginning of the orchestra with determination – and in this attitude she and Arabella Steinbacher, who interacts closely with her, fit together wonderfully. That applies to the rougher passages of the solo instrument anyway. But even when the music becomes more melodic, Steinbacher models clear contours – right up to the grandiose solo cadenza (by Fritz Kreisler, who also wrote Steinbacher’s encore, Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice). This gives this huge first movement of the Brahms concerto clear edges and at the same time a lot of warmth and momentum. A real treat. As after the break, apart from small, temporary cardiac arrhythmias in the Allegretto, also the Beethoven symphony.