Sunday, November 15, 2015

Friedhoffs' performance makes Beethoven's "Triple Concerto" a family affair at Vancouver Symphony concert

Mark, Jolán, and Isaac Friedhoff
It’s a very rare thing to hear Beethoven’s “Triple Concerto” featuring three members of the same family as the soloists, but that was the case at the Vancouver Symphony’s concert on Saturday afternoon (November 14) before a fairly full house at Skyview Concert Hall. Violinist Jolán Friedhoff, cellist Mark Friedhoff, and pianist Isaac Friedhoff gave a solid performance of that work before a large audience at the Skyview Concert Hall in Vancouver. Jólan and Mark are sister and brother who left Portland years ago to carve out their musical careers in Europe. While Jólan returned to the Sacramento area to play and teach, Mark continues to teach at two conservatories in Barcelona, Spain. In the meantime, Mark’s son Isaac is pursuing a doctorate in piano performance at USC.

In their performance of Beethoven’s “Triple Concerto,” the Friedhoff clan conveyed the sense of a convivial conversation. Phrases started by one soloist were passed seamlessly to the others, and sometimes they circulated around as a duet or a full-blown trio. When all three Friedhoffs were playing at the same time, it seemed that the cello got a little buried. The ensemble drew spontaneous applause after the rousing end of the first movement, and the cello solo at the beginning of the second movement had a beautiful cantabile quality. Overall, the trio created a light and amiable atmosphere, and their artistry, at times, had a luminosity that glowed.

In Barber’s “Second Essay for Orchestra,” which began the concert, the orchestra turned the opening statement into a bold theme. The woodwinds created a marvelous array of quick, bird-like sounds. The muscular fanfare towards the end of the piece featured excellent demonstrative brass and a robust ending. Principal timpanist Florian Conzetti weighed in well with some terrific blows, and the piece, overall gave a sense of assertive will-power.

With Music Director Salvador Brotons conducting from memory, the program closed with an uneven performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. The first movement got off to a good start with strong contributions by the woodwinds and horns, and the orchestra delved into dynamic contrasts that made the piece exciting, but the closing cut off was squeaky. The low strings sounded better than ever in the second movement, and upper strings played well yet suffered at times from intonation problems. The third movement reveled in the presto momentum but was marred by a missed entry by the normally reliable woodwinds. Urged on by Brotons, who clearly loves this music so much that he pounced forward on the podium and actually moved it, the orchestra dug in con brio and delivered a satisfyingly vigorous dance-like conclusion for the fourth movement.

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