Celebrating Beethoven for 250th birthday
Beethoven Celebration Manawatu¯ Sinfonia Sunday, November 21 Speirs Centre Reviewer: Maria Sokolova On the third Sunday of November, Manawatu¯ Sinfonia hosted its third and final attempt at a concert celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday. The sinfonia’s plans had been cancelled twice due to lockdowns — third time lucky indeed. Both the audience and orchestra were appreciative of Andrew Atkins making the trip from Wellington three times. Atkins’ mesmerising conducting style and piano solos brought each piece played on Sunday to life. The programme offered detailed insight into Beethoven’s life and the context for each of the pieces. The little bits of trivia made this afternoon of Beethoven even more enjoyable. The Piano Concerto No. 5, the Emperor Concerto, was a huge highlight. I was surprised to see Atkins skilfully switch between his piano solos and conducting the orchestra. Growing up, I remember listening to my father’s collection of CDs and cassettes of piano concertos. Hearing Atkins’ solos in this concerto reawakened the feeling of wonder and awe I had felt listening to concertos as a kid. I especially enjoyed the softer sections. Atkins executed precise, yet light and airy runs that, through the help of the sustain pedal, brought Beethoven’s intricate harmonies to life. The last solo before the interval could have been near perfect if it had been a bit slower. The beautiful phrasing I had heard in the solos prior did not carry through to the very end of the concerto. After a brief interval came a selection of movements from some of Beethoven’s most recognisable symphonies — No. 6 Pastoral, No. 5, No. 7 (my favourite), and No. 3 Eroica. Many wonderful solos from all the different sections of the orchestra were heard throughout this part of the concert. The wind section received recognition from the conductor after some of the movements, which was refreshing to see from an orchestra. The orchestra played each loud section beautifully. The orchestra at its fullest was exactly what I would have expected from a great rendition of Beethoven’s greatest works. However, the softer sections were less consistent. Some, like the ones in the allegro in the piano concerto, were truly captivating. Others, however, seemed to be lacking tone and expression. The second movement of Symphony No. 7 lacked the tragedy you would expect from a funeral march apart from the gutwrenching and grand fortes, powered by a mighty trumpet sound. I am grateful I didn’t miss this concert. I have always loved Beethoven’s works, so it was a pleasure to hear them live, especially in celebration of his 250th birthday. Two hundred and fifty years later and his works are as influential as ever. It was wonderful to spend the afternoon with an auditorium full of people appreciating this great composer.