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Subject: Eschenbach departs the NSO as director with a delicious Ode to Joy (6-16-17)
From: Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 17 Jun 2017 14:16:46 -0400

text/plain (30 lines)

The National Symphony Orchestra is closing its 2016-17 season this week with three concerts (all sold out and the last is tonight) of Beethoven's 9th with Music Director Christoph Eschenbach at the helm. The concert started with a salute to his tenure here in DC and with mention that he will return as Conductor Laureate, which is nice. I for one, love his conducting, but am hoping that Gianandrea Noseda brings more vocal feats to town as our new director.

The way too long program began with the 27 minute Zodiac tales by Bright Sheng (commissioned by Eschenbach when he was in Philly) and revised last year, so this was somewhat of a premiere. It was okay, but cacophonous and booming at times, so much so that I wish I had a pair of earplugs; some moments were blissful.

After a 20 minute intermission we returned for the main course and dessert, Beethoven's 9th featuring the Choral Arts Society with soloists Leah Crocetto, J'nai Bridges, Joseph Kaiser and Soloman Howard. It's always a long wait for the vocals on this, but well worth it with some of Beethoven's best music. Mr. Howard's opening "O Freunde" was so forceful and filled the huge hall so easily, despite the fact that the soloists were at the rear of the orchestra in front of the chorus! I hadn't heard the piece in so long, I forgot how little the quartet actually sings. Each voice was indeed easily recognizable within the group and they all blended so well. while still standing out when necessary.

The tenor solo or Turkish march was superb for Mr. Kaiser and so nice to have him back in DC where he called it home before his career skyrocketed. The women get much  less, but could easily be called, "tochter aus Elysium!"

The chorus was supreme and rang through the hall and got the most applause deservedly at the end.

Interestingly enough, when Maestro Eschenbach entered for a second set of bows, the orchestra sat and refused to stand when he motioned for them to do so. They wanted him to have all the applause on his last bows in DC!

Bravi, tutti!

ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

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