Make us your home page

Florida Orchestra's all-Beethoven concert is sublime

Irish pianist John O’Conor is the soloist with the Florida Orchestra for the all-Beethoven concerts.

Courtesy of the Florida Orchestra

Irish pianist John O’Conor is the soloist with the Florida Orchestra for the all-Beethoven concerts.

"When you find conductors that care about the concerto, cherish them." So says pianist John O'Conor, who thinks maestros would rather put more energy into the symphony that's on the second half of most orchestral programs. For the Florida Orchestra's all-Beethoven concert at the Straz Center on Friday, Brazilian-born guest conductor Marcelo Lehninger clearly relished conducting Ludwig's third piano concerto.

Lehninger was especially attentive to Irish pianist O'Conor; every entrance was coordinated with care. The communication was especially clear in the first movement, with the themes passed back and forth between the piano and orchestra quite frequently. At one point, the cellists finished a phrase begun by O'Conor and it was just as if the piano's timbre had been altered with no change in performer.

The second movement to Beethoven's third piano concerto is truly sublime. If that was all the orchestra played, you would have gotten your money's worth. However, you wouldn't have experienced the radical shift in moods from the first movement, which is part of the concerto's magic. All the power of the first movement melts away, and we are forced to pay attention to every delicate motion. For about 11 minutes, O'Conor brought the audience into his world — and the world of Beethoven — by playing the most beautiful music of the night.

The lively rondo that follows, ripe with trills and scales, is refreshing in a way after the sensual second movement. O'Conor did it justice with just the right amount of liberty taken in key moments. Then the audience heard his most enthusiastic playing of the night during the last 15 seconds of the concerto, when he finished the final descending passage with a fierce intensity.

Perhaps none of Beethoven's other works reminds us of his great appreciation of nature more than his sixth symphony, Pastoral, which concluded the program. Beethoven was a man forced into seclusion because of his deafness, which made him love the solace he found in nature all that much more. Each of the five movements was given a title that describes its character, all revolving around an idyllic scene in the countryside.

While the first two works on the program were in a minor key (Overture to Goethe's Egmont in F minor and Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor), the Pastoral symphony certainly made up the difference in mood. No doubt it had at least a few members of the audience imagining the centaurs, cupids and fauns from when the work was featured in Disney's 1940 animated film Fantasia.

.If you go

Bravo Beethoven

The Florida Orchestra performs the concert again at 7:30 tonight at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. $15-$45. (727) 892-3337 or toll-free 1-800-662-7286.

Florida Orchestra's all-Beethoven concert is sublime 01/11/14 [Last modified: Saturday, January 11, 2014 9:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 19: A peregrina spends the whole day under the weather, and part of the day under the table


    Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Puente Villarente: 25.4 km, 7.5 hours (Total for Days 1-19 = 454 km (282 miles)

    This list pretty much sums up my day:

    Eat two bananas

    Walk 13.1 kilometers


    Walk 6.2 kilometers


    Eat half an apple

    Walk 6.1 kilometers

    Crash< …

  2. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 18: Despite feeling ill, this pilgrim passes the midpoint in her 500-mile journey on foot


    Day 18: Lédigos to El Burgo Ranero: 34.3 km, 12.25 hours (Total for Days 1-18 = 428 km (266 miles)

    Today was a struggle.

  3. Actor John Heard dies at age 72


    John Heard, who played so many roles in the '80s but was probably best known as the dad in the Home Alone movies, has died, according to media reports. He was 72.

  4. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 17: Think 11 miles of nothing but straight trail and open, flat fields sounds easy? Think again.


    Day 17: Villarmentero de Campos to Lédigos: 33.5 km, 10.25 hours. Total for Days 1-17 = 394 km (245 miles)

  5. Tom Sawyer with a revolver? Twain house has live 'Clue' game


    HARTFORD, Conn. — Was it Tom Sawyer in Samuel Clemens' billiard room with a revolver?

    In this July 14 photo, actor Dan Russell, left, portraying the character Arkansas from Mark Twain's book Roughing it, responds to a question from 10-year-old Emma Connell, center, of Arizona during a "Clue" tour at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. The tour allows visitors to interact with Twain characters while playing a live-action version of the board game. [AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb]