The Symphonies, Concert 4 (Adelaide Symphony Orchestra)
Beethoven may have called his eighth symphony a “little symphony”, but it still contains the composer’s characteristic emotional range and drama.
In the latest installment of its Beethoven concert series, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Douglas Boyd, has continued to bring out this emotion with conviction. The first movement opened with a wonderfully warm timbre and excellent blending through the orchestra. Incredible attention and care has gone into the articulation in the Allegretto scherzando, which was taken at a brisk pace. The minuet had a delightful, joyful quality, with lyrical playing in the trio’s horn solo, while the last movement was played with great enthusiasm.
Perhaps due to the flattened seating arrangement to accommodate the choir, there were some balance issues scattered throughout this symphony, with some of the more delicate melodic patterns getting lost in texture.
Beethoven’s Ninth may be one of the most heard works in the classical canon, but Boyd and the ASO managed to bring a freshness to their interpretation. The contrast between the restless character of the second movement and the lyricism of the third worked particularly well in this interpretation. The fourth movement opened in a sublimely mellow tone, and the bassoon countermelody and subsequent wind patterns were set off to great effect.
The soloists – Emma Matthews, Sally-Anne Russell, Henry Choo and Christopher Richardson – were all excellent. Choo’s bugle tone really suited this work, capturing its exuberance well. The choir, an amalgamation of the Elder Conservatorium Chorale and the Graduate Singers, also gave an energetic performance, though the sopranos were somewhat overwhelming at times.
Given the enduring popularity of Beethoven’s symphonies and the sold-out performances of this series, one can understand the business reasons for this lineup. However, a chronological study of these works might not be the most engaging way to present them in 2022, and it might have been more interesting to hear the works in some kind of context, pairing them with the music of his contemporaries or to musical responses to Beethoven’s symphonies, or even simply to schedule them in an order which might have brought out different connections and contrasts between earlier and later symphonies.
Nonetheless, the ASO and Boyd demonstrated commitment and stylistic understanding in their interpretation of these symphonies, with virtuoso playing through the orchestra.