The Klassische Philharmonie Bonn put on an evening of Beethoven, Mozart and Respighi to a delighted audience at the Berlin Konzerthaus. Led by Heribert Beissel, the program consisted of Pespighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances: Suite no.3, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 1, and Mozart’s Jupiter symphony.

Heribert Beissel © Klassische Philharmonie Bonn
Heribert Beissel
© Klassische Philharmonie Bonn

The Klassische Philharmonie Bonn gave the evening the title “Wiener Klassik” (“Viennese Classics”), the same name as their recent German tour, which ended in Berlin. Strangely, while those two Vienna stalwarts – Mozart and Beethoven – were well represented, it was the Italian Respighi’s Suite no. 3 that won the evening. Ethereal and melancholy, the piece is arranged solely for strings and is a throwback to baroque lute and guitar pieces by lesser-known composers. Beissel led the Philharmonie in a dreamy, sensual way, giving the music’s inherent sadness time to shine.

In contrast, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto and Mozart’s Jupiter symphony were much more perfunctory. There is no denying that Beethoven was a genius, but this concerto was written when he was very young, and like everyone else trying to gain a foothold in Vienna's musical world of the 1790s, he fell back to heavily imitating Mozart. He can hardly be blamed for it, but the piece sparkles and dances in a way that seems foreign to Beethoven, though with far more gravitas than had it been written by Mozart. The pianist was Soo-Jung Ann, a young Korean woman who, after graduating from the Korean National University of the Arts, moved on to Salzburg’s Mozarteum, before winning the annual Bonn Beethoven Competition last year. Her playing was fluid and passionate – not a note out of place. She handled the first movement’s difficult cadenza with real aplomb. Doubtless we will be seeing more of her in the future.

The evening concluded with Mozart’s Jupiter symphony. Sir George Grove once said that it “is the greatest of the world which preceded the French Revolution”, and it is true that the symphony is beautiful. However, the impression was that the joy of the music had gone out of the orchestra. Granted, they had been performing it almost nightly for several weeks before coming to Berlin, and technically, they did a superb job, but there was very little spirit in the music. For whatever reason, there lacked that special something that gives a performance oomph. Mozart suffered for it.

Nonetheless, the Klassische Philharmonie Bonn put on a charming concert, full of technical beauty and Viennese charm. Bravo!

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