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ASO plays invigorated Beethoven’s Seventh, third time around

01.12.18
Peter Oundjian
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Beethoven's Seventh Symphony should be fresh in the collective memory of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra patrons. Paired with the premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff's Symphony No. 2 in November 2015, ASO Music Director Robert Spano again looked to the Beethoven Symphony No. 7 for that season's closing concert, in June 2016, as a last-minute replacement for a bedridden guest performer. During the current two-season celebration of Beethoven and Bernstein, there was no way around another reading of the Seventh - the German master's symphony had to be programmed eventually.

On Thursday evening at Symphony Hall, guest conductor Peter Oundjian and the ASO were able to mold a passionate performance of the symphony that felt more energized than the most recent attempts. From the sprightly, pastoral theme in the first movement (just imagine skipping down a cobbled country lane), played with a light staccato, to the whirlwind of sound that closes the composition, Oundjian played up dynamic contrasts for dramatic effect.

In the second movement, Oundjian's careful attention to dynamics helped the ensemble produce an enthralling eight minutes of music. Starting with a melancholic theme in the low strings, played at no more than a stage whisper, Oundjian and the ensemble slowly brought up the volume as more instrumental voices entered the piece. Soon, the entire ensemble sang out the lachrymose theme with controlled grace. 

Read the rest of the review here