John Axelrod

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10 Jan 2002
Beethoven Times Three
From the concert hall

I always await the Sinfonietta Cracovia's monthly concerts with great interest. This time my attention was concentrated mainly on Beethoven's Triple Concerto in C Major, op. 56. This piece is played on concert stages relatively rarely, due to the fact that for a decent performance of it not one, but three soloists are needed, who are capable of working together in the way that a chamber ensemble requires, while also retaining all of their virtuosity. This is a difficult thing to do, and Tuesday's evening of music at the philharmonic hall was proof of this.

On Tuesday, the soloists in Beethoven's Triple Concerto in C Major, with the Sinfonietta Cracovia under the direction of John Neal Axelrod, were: Robert Kabara - violin, Derek Menchan -- cello and Alpin Hong – piano (both from the United States). And though there were moments of beautiful, sensitive playing in their interpretation, the entirety left a bit to be desired, mainly due to deficiencies in the cellist's intonation. The pianist was also affected at times by emotion and tended to try to rush the tempo, which the conductor - luckily - was successful in preventing. Robert Kabara proved to be closest to the ideal, displaying the appropriate virtuosity and chamber music sensibilities.

The C Major Concerto was preceded by Beethoven's "Egmont" Overture. John Neal Axelrod measured tempos and diversified the dynamics and dramatic tension with care and accuracy, while the orchestra realised his intentions with aplomb. The Sinfonietta Cracovia is currently in excellent form, and continually improving. It fuses the delicacy and transparency of the chamber sound with a symphonic impetus. This creates a powerful effect, and enables one to follow the structure of the works performed. This was especially noticeable in Beethoven's Symphony no. 4 in B flat Major, op. 60, which was performed during the second part of the evening. If not for some minor flaws on the part of the French horn, the interpretation would have been worthy of a commercial recording.

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