Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 10, 2017

Beethoven’s Eroica

Hartford Symphony, Hartford, CT
October 6–8, 2017
by Michael J. Moran

Conductor Carolyn Kuan
The “Star-Spangled Banner,” which launched each concert in this opening weekend program of the HSO’s 74th season, took on a personal meaning for Carolyn Kuan, Saturday, when she and 10 other Connecticut residents became American citizens at a naturalization ceremony held earlier on the same stage. Beginning her own seventh season as HSO Music Director, Kuan led the national anthem with a festive enthusiasm that drew a standing ovation from a full house.

The concert proper began with a majestic account of Beethoven’s dramatic “Egmont” Overture. Part of  a score written for Goethe’s 1810 play about a nobleman who led a revolution in 16th-century Holland against Spanish tyranny, the overture depicts the suffering of the Dutch people, the execution of Count Egmont, and the jubilation of eventual victory. Conductor and orchestra brought it to vibrant life.

Yugo Kanno next gave two Japanese instruments, the koto (a zither-like stringed device) and the shakuhachi (a vertical bamboo flute), solo roles in his concerto “Revive.” Played with virtuosity by Masayo Ishigure and Kojiro Umezaki respectively, they blended delicately with the sumptuous orchestra, which reflected the composer’s primary experience in writing film music. The three movements of this 2014 piece progress from the tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan in 2011 to the reconstruction of many destroyed communities. The musicians honored the composer’s intentions with an affecting performance.

A dynamic reading of Beethoven’s third (“Eroica”) symphony brought the program to a triumphant close. From the energetic opening “Allegro con brio,” through the somber “Funeral March” and the uproarious “Scherzo,” to the exuberant theme and variations “Finale,” Kuan and her ensemble vividly conveyed the massive scale of this unprecedented work, which introduced the modern symphony.

Under the enlightened leadership of their new American conductor, this program was an inspiring start for the HSO’s upcoming season.