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NSO: your review here

Unfortunately, illness prevented me from reviewing last night's National Symphony Orchestra concert.

Your posts about the concert will, therefore, be more welcome than ever. Have at it.

By Anne Midgette  |  January 15, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  from readers  
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I thought last night's NSO concert was fabulous! We were in the choir seats--a fantastic vantage point for hearing those 3 works. I thought that the guest conductor and the members of the NSO worked together remarkably well, especially with the soloist for the Beethoven. I highly recommend this program.

Posted by: unclegg | January 15, 2010 6:11 AM | Report abuse

Robert R. Reilly's review of last night's performance for Ionarts:

Posted by: Charles_D | January 15, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

I agree completely with the review by Robert R. Reilly. I had never heard of the conductor, Michael Stern and therefore did not have particularly high expectations (or low ones for that matter) for the evening. And the program notes left out the fact that he is the son of Isaac Stern and that after receiving his degree in American history from Harvard in 1981, he went straight to the Curtis Institute from which he graduated in 1986. As noted by Reilly, he is not a flamboyant conductor, but his conducting style to this viewer appeared precise and straight forward. And the music sounded the same. A very satisfying evening. I like Samuel Barber very much but his first symphony seemed more a work of promise than one of an accomplished composer in full command of his craft (in spite of his later revisions.) It was an enjoyable piece but not one that made me think that I just had to hear it again soon. Emanuel Ax and the Beethoven 2nd piano concerto was elegant and made me think that this is what people who go to classical music concerts want to hear. The Sibeleus 2nd symphony is also not one of my favorites but one that profits, again for me, from a clear, straightforward performance which is what we received last night. The dynamic range of the entire work was perfect as was the balance between the strings and winds. Lots of empty seats in the audience which is too bad. A bunch of people missed an excellent concert, at least from this amateur listener's point of view.

Posted by: William Kirchhoff | January 15, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, seconding what William wrote about Michael Stern above, a few thoughts on what Stern has been doing as music director of the Kansas City Symphony:

Posted by: Charles_D | January 15, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I wasn't familiar with the Barber symphony and the opening sections failed to capture me, but as the work progressed I began to see what he was working toward and I began to enjoy it very much. Ax and early Beethoven go together splendidly, although it was only the final movement that I was totally familiar with. For me, the triumph was the Sibelius. It has been a favorite of mine since I first heard it as a teenager (I am in my 70's), and I luxuriated in the deliberate, almost leisurely way the composer builds his ideas - and his climaxes. I know that a summer it Italy was supposedly instrumental in bringing this symphony to fruition, but I never detected a whiff of the Mediterranean in the composition - to me it is northern Europe all the way. This was my first experience with Michael Stern, and I thought he was excellent. The orchestra's soloists shone, also.

Posted by: b18bolo | January 15, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse

I heard the concert on Thursday, and was so taken with it that I attended again this evening (Saturday). I have never posted anything on this site before, but in the absence of any comment from Anne Midgette, I felt compelled to write something. It is too bad that this program did not get an official review in the Post, given the fact that it was by far the best outing that the National Symphony has had all season. Too often this orchestra sounds dispirited, disinterested, and disengaged, despite the undeniable collective talent assembled on stage. But in this program it sounded like a different orchestra. Of course, Emanuel Ax is a master, especially for Beethoven, and the concerto was a model of refinement and balance. Clearly, Ax had a great rapport with the conductor, Michael Stern (a conductor unknown to me before this weekend), who provided a wonderfully balanced accompaniment, by turns playful and intimate, and to this listener unusually well together (not always the case with the NSO, especially in Classical repertoire!) But all the credit goes to Stern for the way the orchestra delivered the Barber First Symphony (a wonderful work, too seldom heard) and especially the riveting Sibelius 2nd which closed the program. The string sound was unified and committed; the winds and brass in balance (although I might have liked more personality and artistic and soloistic presence in the oboe solos in both the Barber and the Sibelius); the pacing and arc of the piece crystal clear (it is a work I have lived with since my teenage years, and I know it well). The tempos were judiciously chosen, so that the inexorable tension and the long breath of the line, especially in the 2nd and 4th movements, was extraordinarily well done. I agree with the other posted comments who remarked that Stern is not a "showy" conductor. But I found his gestures elicited a great response from the orchestra, and he clearly has great command, control, and confidence. Bravo to all concerned, and I hope to see this conductor again, and soon. I did not know who his father was until I read the comments posted here (his bio in the program makes no mention that he is the son of the late Isaac Stern) but independent of that fact, he is the real deal. I would hope he would be brought back often.

Posted by: ichesnickyahoocom | January 17, 2010 2:17 AM | Report abuse

I am so pleased to find "Comments"on this performance. So sorry Anne was ill and missed this grand evening. The comments so far have said it all - I will just add my thanks to the NSO for this magnificent presentation.

Posted by: MarjorieTLee | January 19, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

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