The Fifth Avenue Chamber Orchestra danced through the first movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony Monday with such virtuosity the audience here did something it probably hasn’t done anywhere in some time.
It sat on its hands.
That was the only way to keep from applauding three movements too early. The playing was crisp, confident, dynamic, expressive. It radiated power — enough to give this ensemble of about 35 the sound of an orchestra twice its size.
For Classic Chamber Concerts, it was a good night all the way around, with Naples Philharmonic Orchestra principal cellist Adam Satinsky starring on the Schumann Cello Concerto and the Jasper Quartet in residence as principals for the orchestral string sections. The Beethoven, however, enveloped the entire Sugden Theatre, where William Noll, artistic director for Classic Chamber Concerts, was conducting with a loaded baton.
The work is forged from four movements actually praised for their dance attributes, meaning it’s nearly impossible not to shake your head or sway at some point. The grandly dark second movement even lends itself to headbanging, if you’re channeling ‘80 rock culture.
The woodwinds gifted the piece with clean, clear solos, and the flutes shot deliciously peppery phrases into the third movement. Its ubiquitous timpani sounded like loads more fun to play than it must have been.
A dozen violins and about nine of the lower-registers were making lush music, throwing phrases from upper to lower and holding a marathon multimeasure note behind the other sections in the final movement. The secondary theme of the Second Movement seemed to pose a few challenges in tone for the violins. Still, this section sailed through the treacherous finale so nimbly and happily the uninitiated would never know this isn’t a standing orchestra with a full schedule.
We have heard this symphony live three times in the last four seasons — once from the Los Angeles Philharmonic — and this stands with the best of them. It renews our call to Classic Chamber Concerts: It’s time to list the creditworthy personnel of this ensemble on the program.
Robert Schumann would have approved of the hand-sitting. He’s said to have hated applause between movements and composed his cello concerto without any pauses to thwart that.
Unfortunately, that has also left little time to digest each of its segments. This is considered one of the 19th century’s finest works for the cello, and each of its parts deserves to be savored, if only for 10 seconds, in our mental echo chambers.
The Fifth Avenue Chamber Orchestra and Satinsky largely did their best to overcome the crowding of movements. Satinsky plays with a warm tone and elegantly engaged vibrato. He sprinted precisely through Schumann’s deceptively tricky runs, the tiny mine fields of this concerto. In the greater themes, they’re here and gone so quickly that the casual listener may miss the richness they bestow on the concerto — or their treachery.
There were a few notes, particularly during bowing on the midsection, that were a bit flat. And once or twice the orchestra and Satinsky seemed to be working to stay in sync. But for the most part, this was a warm and expressive reading of the Schumann work, one we would like to hear again from this same partnership.
Right after we talk to Schumann about putting in those pauses.