Review by Danny Gaisin
An evening with the music of Beethoven with a little Haydn & Mozart as aperitifs…what’s not to thoroughly enjoy. Augmented with an inspired dessert, the Hamilton Philharmonic’s first concert of 2017 was under the baton of guest conductor Tim Hankewich and showcased a somewhat abbreviated body of musicians. Opening with Haydn’s short three-movement Symphony No. 16, the work was presented in an almost chamber-ish approach. From a somewhat timorous opening allegro, to a deliberate yet romantically lyrical andante; Hankewich’s finale was animated yet tightly reined with the theme in contrapuntal debate between violins & celli/basses.
To present Beethoven’s piano concerto No. 2, the HPO’s guest soloist was Hinrich Alpers, whose resume reflects an amazing list of competitive accomplishments. The piece’s opening allegro con brio (with vigor) was performed in a concise and technically faultless manner but was somehow uninspired. The adagio was overly pedantic almost as if the soloist was simply displaying his astonishing digital dexterity. However, the familiar-themed finale was presented with lilt and even élan with a modern-style dimension quite noticeable. It was certainly an acceptable reading of this challenging work.
Post-interval, Hankewich and the HPO aced an enthusiastic Marriage of Figaro overture. His comments to the audience reflected not only his musical acumen & erudition, but his expertise as an orator…historically not usually the case from the HPO podium.
The evening’s major work was the Beethoven Symphony no. 1. This writer’s benchmark standard IS the Sawallisch 1995 with the Royal Concertgebouw. This recording surpasses the Walter; Toscanini, or Von Karajan versions; and even outshines the Szell account. Hankewich led an effervescent and animated opening adagio that was being performed by a seemingly relaxed yet focused demeanor projected by the musicians on stage. The andante cantabile was given a dramatic flair with a visceral sensuality that carried over into the menuetto 3rd, but with an added almost jazzy mien. This definitively was a molto vivace. This scribe and my seatmates all agreed that this HPO team exhibited absolute CONFIDENCE. They deserve the right to feel that way!
The aforementioned dessert: – a mezzanine concert displaying the first-time rehearsal of local musicians under concertmaster Stephen Sitarski exercising the opening 97 bars of Beethoven’s fifth Symphony. Humorously titled Pro-Am Jam, watching these first-timers seated with some of their far more experienced counterparts, and noticing the enthusiasm plus intensity of such a divergent assemblage, was something rare and hopefully will become a tradition.
For readers who have instruments at home, and a little experience…here’s the opening!