This was my kind of concert.
I'm old school, or maybe just old, so the latest Long Beach Symphony concert at the Terrace Theater the other night was right up my alley.
Two masterworks from the late Classical era, the Beethoven Violin Concerto and Schubert's Symphony No. 9, made up the entire thing. This was mainstream, serious stuff, with no overture, no novelties, and no extra-musical frills. Love it.
None of which would have been anything to celebrate if the execution hadn't been exemplary, the music-making at the highest level. Check and check.
Born in the former East Germany, music director Eckart Preu has this German-Austrian repertoire in his DNA. He has, of course, also proven himself adept at French, American, Mexican, and Russian music, but there's nothing like home cooking.
He communicated his affinity with an affection for this music to his orchestra, and they played as well as I've ever heard them. Their playing was precise, energetic, confident and expressive, and the end result was two immensely satisfying performances.
The bedrock of the late Classical sound is the strings, especially the violins. They were magnificent. The winds also played beautifully, particularly principal oboe Rong-Huey Liu. The brass, and timpanist Gary Long, who opened the concert with the Beethoven's famous, measured boom-boom-boom-boom, contributed to the overall excellence.
Presiding was Preu, setting judicious tempos, achieving a nice sense of propulsion while lingering here and there over felicitous moments, and exhorting his troops to ferocious displays of energy as appropriate. The second movement of the Schubert was quiet, calm, poetic and sublime. It's been awhile since I've heard this orchestra play that softly, but with shimmering intensity.
Speaking of poetic, that also describes soloist Stefan Jackiw's interpretation of the Beethoven. Attired in the standard uniform for young male violinists, long sleeved black shirt buttoned to the collar, his performance, while not lacking in power and incisiveness, had a gentleness and delicacy about it that may not have been to all tastes, but which I found enchanting. Preu matched him with exquisite restraint. And here again, the orchestra played softly and beautifully; only the horns were too prominent at times.
Jackiw achieved real distinction in the first movement cadenza. My spies tell me it was the familiar one by Fritz Kreisler, but in Jackiw's hands it sounded fresh, new, and different, in a good way. His distinctive silvery tone weaved a spell.
If one noteworthy thing about this concert was the soft playing, the finale of the Schubert was dazzling, frenetic, and powerful. Along with the evening's charms, there were also thrills. You may get tired of reading here about how our hometown symphony continues to grow, develop, and improve under Eckart Preu's leadership. I can't help it; having observed and written about this orchestra for 20 years, I think it needs to be mentioned, and celebrated.
This was a terrific concert, from start to finish.