Here is my Saturday April 24 Chicago Sun-Times and suntimes.com review of the Thursday April 22, 2010, Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert with Jaap van Zweden conducting and violinist Christian Tetzlaff.
Van Zweden saves the day again with CSO
Marvelous violinist Tetzlaff's performance a little puzzling
BY ANDREW PATNER
Repeats Tuesday April 27 at 7:30 p.m.
Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden had been the man on a white horse twice for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, stepping in with very short notice for announced guests who took ill, before he was tapped to have a CSO program of his own next fall.
So successful were those substitutions last season, for Riccardo Chailly and Semyon Bychkov, it was hardly surprising that the CSO turned to van Zweden again this month in the meantime when Esa-Pekka Salonen withdrew from concerts for undisclosed personal reasons.
This week’s program required some revision to secure van Zweden, music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and several ensembles in the Netherlands and Belgium, and the unusual Fifth Symphony of Carl Nielsen that Salonen was to bring was replaced with the more popular Rachmaninoff Second Symphony played here just two years ago.
Still, listeners were hopeful, based on past performance, and it was good to have an additional unexpected installment in the informal series of early Rachmaninoff works at Orchestra Hall the last two months.
As it turned out, Thursday night van Zweden showed himself to be brisk and efficient and connected strongly with the orchestra for great results across the sections even if he made no deep statements. He clearly respects the 55-minute work and takes it seriously enough to please fans of this 1906-07 revival of Romanticism. But he also is careful not to add any extra syrup, especially in the oft-quoted and repetitive slow movement, so the strengths of the work’s orchestration are clear even to those of us for whom too many other trains had left the station by the time Rachmaninoff wrote this nostalgic piece. Young Finnish clarinetist, Olli Leppäniemi, principal in the Danish National Symphony, played the Adagio’s solos beautifully.
I’ve been a great fan of violinist Christian Tetzlaff for many years. While he’s clearly of the German school of great clarity and precision in his playing, he also has a spirit that moves in the direction of the Russian tradition. His great love is Bach, though, and the Leipzig master’s special sense of dance rhythms and abilities to vary emotions through seemingly simple harmonic changes. These connections showed movingly in an exquisite encore of the Largo of the C Major Sonata, BWV 1005.
But on Thursday his billed work, the 1878 Brahms D Major Concerto, seemed to interest Tetzlaff more as a puzzle or a template than a work calling for a consistent interpretation. He did many marvelous things -- and he can do just about anything -- but I didn’t hear him put these together. Van Zweden basically stayed out of his way. Principal oboe Eugene Izotov was characteristically elegant in this Adagio and to this listener more in touch with the spirit of Brahms.