Review: National Philharmonic: Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No. 7’ with Brian Ganz at The Music Center at Strathmore

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The National Philharmonic kicked off its 2016-2017 Fall/Winter season with three of Beethoven’s most celebrated works, featuring a special appearance by pianist Brian Ganz performing Piano Concerto No. 4.

Brian Ganz. Photo by Jay Mallin.
Brian Ganz. Photo by Jay Mallin.

It’s been a busy year for Brian Ganz at the Music Center at Strathmore (Strathmore). First appearing in January for an evening of Chopin with celebrated mezzo-soprano Magdalena Wór, he took the stage again in February for a performance of some of Chopin and Mozart’s most popular works as part of his ongoing Chopin Project series.

 Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski. Photo courtesy of TheNational Philharmonic.
Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski. Photo courtesy of The National Philharmonic.

This weekend Ganz visits Strathmore once more, this time to help National Philharmonic’s Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski usher in the new Fall/Winter season with a spirited performance of three of Beethoven’s most popular works: the Coriolan Overture, Piano Concerto No. 4, and Symphony No. 7.

Gajewski leads the orchestra masterfully throughout the evening, opening with the “Coriolan Overture,” written as an accompaniment to Heinrich Joseph von Collin’s tragedy Coriolan when it was performed for the composer’s patron, Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz in 1807.

Based on real-life Roman patrician Coriolanus, the five-act play tells a story of exile and revenge, dishonor, and ultimately death. Gajewski immediately sets the stage for something dark and ominous on the horizon, and the strings perfectly capture the pleas of Coriolanus’ wife and mother, advocating for peace and forgiveness.

Brian Ganz then appears onstage to help them perform one of Beethoven’s most beloved piano concertos. Composed of three movements, the artist debuted Piano Concerto No. 4 as part of a marathon, four-hour event in 1808. The program marked the composer’s last public appearance as a concerto soloist.

Opening with the simple, solo notes of a piano, Ganz and the orchestra enter a breathtaking back-and-forth between keys and strings. The conversation that follows is delightful and revitalizing and when Ganz joins the audience after the intermission he’s met with well-deserved smiles and hugs from the crowd.

Gajewski closes the night with a stirring performance of Symphony No. 7, a piece that Beethoven himself considered one of his best works. It first premiered in 1813 at a charity concert for wounded soldiers, its enthusiasm is undeniable and it remains one of the artist’s most interpreted symphonies.

Brian Ganz. Photo courtesy of The Music Center at Strathmore.
Brian Ganz. Photo courtesy of The Music Center at Strathmore.

It’s a perfect closer for this season opener and Ganz and Gajewski make a perfect pair. Separately they are such passionate performers, together they are infectious – filling the space with their energy and pure love for music. The entire performance was beautiful, energetic, and incredibly inspiring – a fantastic way to kick-off the season.

Visit Strathmore’s event page for a complete list of the National Philharmonic’s upcoming Fall/Winter season. Brian Ganz will join them again this coming February to continue his Chopin Project with an exploration of some of the artist’s early works.

Running Time: Two hours with a 20-minute intermission.

National Philharmonic: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 has performances today, Saturday, September 17, 2016 at 8 PM, and on Sunday, September 18, 2016  at 3 PM at The Music Center at Strathmore – 5301 Tuckerman Lane, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets call the box office at (301) 581-5100, or purchase them online.