For a classical concert, the crowd seemed young and wide-eyed with excitement—and that was just the group of players onstage. The Schleswig-Holstein orchestra consists of an international group of extremely talented musicians, all under twenty-seven, and their sound reflects both their skill and their age: bold, precise, and thrilling. Under Maestro Christoph Eschenbach’s eloquent conducting, they performed Prokofiev’s “Classical Symphony” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 brilliantly. Lang Lang, the twenty-six-year-old star of the evening, with his trademark glittering tie and spiky hair, outshone even his own enormous reputation and brought the audience to its feet.
Still, the Schleswig-Holstein Orchestra proved stellar in its own right. They began with Prokofiev’s strange attempt to emulate Haydn, the Symphony No. 1 in D Major, known as his “Classical” symphony. Eschenbach and the S-H Orchestra balanced the work’s odd juxtapositions perfectly, with elegant symmetries and clear rhythms on the classical side, and occasional odd harmonies and twentieth-century strangeness on the other.
Then came some real classicism—Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major. Lang Lang and the S-H Orchestra worked together extremely well, with the solo part taking the lead, then becoming transparent at interesting and brilliantly timed moments. Above all, this performance was about taste and touch in abundance. Lang Lang never overstepped or underplayed, and the orchestra responded in kind, playing with deep feeling, yet always with just enough restraint. The result was powerful, rich, moving, and emotional, yet without sentimentality. Clearly, Lang Lang has earned all the praise he has received, and will continue to give truly great performances for some time to come.
After the intermission, maestro Eschenbach and the S-H Orchestra returned to play Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, the last of his heroic-period symphonies. It’s a kind of farewell to an era, with everything that made the previous four symphonies extraordinary. It has bold, dramatic themes, a funeral march, wild crescendos and decrescendos, and the sense of strong, vital personality driving it all. In other words, the work is well suited to this orchestra, and they played it with appropriately glorious intensity. Eschenbach’s conducting encouraged them to do what comes naturally to excellent young musicians—he seemed to be saying, “Give it more! Even more!” And they did, and it was joy to hear. Congratulations to CAMA for bringing this thrilling concert to town.