Oh yes, about the Beethoven. It’s about time Thomas Zehetmair showed up here; his discs (especially several on ECM, of all labels the one most hospitable to the free of spirit) proclaim him one of a small band of trustworthy originals. His Beethoven bore this out not only in the goodies-laden cadenzas, but in the body of the work as well: the thread of pure, lustrous silk he fashioned in the heart-stopping G-minor episode in the first movement, and again throughout the slow movement.
The first-movement cadenza was a hoot and a half. From Beethoven‘s alternate piano version of the concerto, Zehetmair lifted the idea of inviting the timpani to join the solo violinist; he then took both instruments on a fabulous joy ride. Another escapade of similar high imagination linked the slow movement and finale, again with no harm done. Lovable though it be, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto needs a boost here and there, which it got this time -- and how!
Jarvi, now 38, moves up in his world; he was a trainee back in the glory days of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute under Leonard Bernstein. He takes over the Cincinnati Symphony next September, an act of high bravery considering that the orchestra‘s great old hall confronts him with 3,417 seats to fill. To end last week’s concert he offered a goofy, pulverized version of Schumann‘s “Spring” Symphony, punctuated with tempo changes and huge timpani outbursts. At least it was interesting; this too is music that needs all the help it can get.