The Archduke and the Knight
Lütfi Kırdar International Convention and Exhibition Centre
Ludwig van Beethoven: Triple Concerto in C Major, Op. 56
Richard Strauss: Don Quixote, Op. 35
Valeriy Sokolov (violin), Efdal Altun (viola), Cac Erçac [Strauss], Narek Hakhnazaryan [Beethoven] (cello), Yulianna Avdeeva (piano)
Borusan İstanbul filarmoni orkestrası, Sascha Goetzel (conductor)
Y. Avdeeva (© Christine Schneider)
Beethoven’s Triple Concerto is possibly the least performed of his mature orchestral works. Composed in 1803-1804 and dedicated to his royal pupil and benefactor Archduke Rudolf, it is less profound than Beethoven’s works from the same period, such as his Piano Concerto No. 4, the Symphony No. 4 or his opera, Fidelio. The work was premiered four years later in Vienna, with the composer as pianist, in one of his final performances, as he had grown deaf.
More than a true concerto for three instruments, it is a piano trio with orchestral accompaniment, more a decorative diversion than a cerebral piece. One reason for its relative rarity from the stage is perhaps pecuniary: three soloists instead of one in a piano or a violin concerto. Indeed, it is an extravaganza to have three first-rate soloists in one orchestral performance. This was the case in this brilliant concert given during the Istanbul Music Festival, a surprisingly rich musical bash that lasts three weeks every June. All three soloists were excellent performers and under the guidance of conductor Sascha Goetzel, each impressed with excellent technique but none dominated the two others. This concerto is a marathon bras de fer (tug of war) between three hors pair soloists. It was a balancing act between exuberance and self-restraint. Pianist Yulianna Avdeeva, whose part is technically the least challenging, played brilliantly but never tried to outshine the other two. The violinist’s role is probably the most demanding technically but the virtuosic Ukrainian Valeriy Sokolov performed it like a walk on the beach, with dazzling technique and panache. As for the cello part, it is more pensive than the other two, particularly in the middle slow movement. Armenian cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan managed to make his instrument sing in the Largo. The finale, Rondo alla polacca, displayed felicitously harmonious ensemble playing by the three soloists, deftly supported by an inspired orchestra.
The second part of the concert was Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote , premiered in 1898, almost a century after Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. If the latter may seem like a lightweight divertimento, Strauss’s tone poem is grandiose. The Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra seemed well-rehearsed by Sascha Goetzel. They managed to display the full spectrum of colour Strauss imagined for the various episodes of the Cervantes’ noble knight. Amusingly, Strauss chose a cello to depict Don Quixote and a viola to depict his servant Sancho Panza. Strauss intended these two instruments to be drawn from the orchestra and not soloists brought from outside. But as the work grew popular, leading cellists appropriated the work. Cellist Cac Erçac and violist Efdal Altun brought the noble knight and his bumbling servant to life. Erçac managed to evoke Don Quixote’s various states of mind, from the heroic, the noble and the bombastic, to the endearingly ridiculous. The oboes sounded appropriately sweet in the first variation representing Don Quixote’s chaste love for Dulcinea. Most moving was the final variation, evoking the knight’s moment of death, when the cello slides down its lowest string to disappear into oblivion.
Ossama el Naggar