Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 23, 2017

Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto

Springfield Symphony, Springfield, MA
January 21, 2017
by Michael J. Moran

Conductor Kevin Rhodes
The classical music repertoire doesn’t get more “standard” than Mozart and Beethoven, so it might shock followers of the adventurous Kevin Rhodes to find him scheduling a full program of their music. But, as the canny maestro notes in his “Rhodes’ Reflections” column in the program book, “after a fall season of fairly weighty works, I thought it would be fun to start the New Year with some lighter fare.”

Well, not all that light, except for the concert opener, Mozart’s thirteenth serenade, which he called “A Little Night Music.” Serenades in Mozart’s late-18th century Vienna were usually played as background music at social events, and this lively piece, in four short movements totaling about 15 minutes, has been pleasing crowds for over 200 years. Rhodes led the strings of the Springfield Symphony in a sparkling, vivacious account.

Mozart’s fortieth and next-to-last symphony dates from 1788. All four movements, except for the brief Trio section of the Minuet, reflect a dark overall mood, but its emotional intensity and the beauty of its melodies have made this the most popular of all Mozart’s symphonies. The performance was urgent and moving, as Rhodes’ fleet tempos pressed the music relentlessly forward.

The program closed with an exhilarating rendition of Beethoven’s fifth and final piano concerto, nicknamed “The Emperor.” In his third SSO appearance, the rising young American soloist, Spencer Myer, launched into the vigorous opening movement with power and precision, played the lyrical melody of the radiant “Adagio” with quiet finesse, and romped through the exuberant closing “Rondo” with controlled abandon. Conductor and orchestra partnered him with sensitivity and enthusiasm.

So while this “greatest hits” program may have lacked Rhodes’ customary innovation in repertoire, the freshness and clarity of his energetic and imaginative approach to these three “warhorses” made each of them sound almost new again.