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Goodwin engages with German rep

Verizon Hall
04/10/2015 -  & April 11, 2015
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony in D major, K.320 (after the “Posthorn” Serenade)
Carl Stamitz: Viola Concerto in D major, Op. 1
Ludwig van Beethoven: Overture “The Consecration of the House”, Op. 124 – Symphony no. 4, Op. 60

Choong-Jin Chang (viola)
Philadelphia Orchestra, Paul Goodwin (conductor)

C.-J. Chang (© Courtesy Phil. Orch.)

Conductor Paul Goodwin, artistic director of Carmel Bach Festival in California, is known for his period specific interpretations. He conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra’s performances of Handel’s Messiah three times since 2009 and was back this time for the subscription series for an intriguing programming of German repertoire.

Goodwin opened with an academic and taut early Mozart work Symphony (Posthorn). This piece had a quality of tentativeness, and sounded underpowered in this hall, which had nothing to do with the reduced size of the orchestra for these performances. This Posthorn had a cold quality and Goodwin the tempos in neutral drive, which dampened the charm of the piece. Perhaps it was just a bit under-rehearsed, because its more engaging character was surfacing late in the piece.

The orchestra and Goodwin projected warmer clarity for Carl Stamitz’s Viola Concert and with Choong-Jin Chang, principal violist of the orchestra, instantly driving home the point that Stamitz debunks any notion that the viola is a second fiddle to the violin. Actually, as noted in the program, Stamitz performed and composed for the violin and viola, writing this piece circa 1770-74, the composer’s innovative structures fascinating in that they pre-date fusions of the baroque-classical era, Goodwin also bringing out the orchestral uniqueness. Chang performed with passionate precision on Stamitz’s two solo sections. You pick up Stamitz’s singular effects- unexpected arrests, line finishing and those quicksilver arpeggios. Chang is a rather stoic presence in his regular chair among the orchestra’s solid viola section, but he smiled broadly at the reception from this matinee audience and it was clear it was not just for this stellar performance alone.

Goodwin brought the full orchestral thrust to the Beethoven works in the second half, turning up the volume first with the The Consecration of the House, and propelling Ludwig’s lighter musicality to a showpiece at what was the first every performance by the Philadelphians. The conductor’s full stamp came in the robust tempos and translucence of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 4, eliciting luminous textures. The equalization and the modulation of volume by Goodwin, its serene center and roiling symphonic arc, reached a quiet grandeur.

The full orchestra is gearing up for a European tour this spring and it is their first since Yannick Nézet-Séguin took over as the musical director.

Lewis Whittington



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