Yoel Levi took the podium at the National Symphony's salute to Beethoven Saturday night at Wolf Trap. The orchestra, playing in shirt sleeves, gave generally good performances of the mighty Fifth Symphony, the "Fidelio" Overture, Twelve Contredanses and, with pianist Yefim Bronfman, the forward-looking Concerto No. 3.
The fourth of Beethoven's operatic introductions, the short overture to "Fidelio" depends heavily on the horn and wind sections. Unfortunately, their first entrance was wobbly and insecure, but they pulled together with the strings for a rousing, rich performance overall. Competing with much external noise, Bronfman and Levi delivered a stylish third piano concerto marked by a handsome freedom of melodic line. The extended orchestral introduction brought out subtle inner voices and set the pace for the soloist's fluid approach. Bronfman used too much pedal in the first movement, but he executed the closing rondo with the spark required for the playful movement.
After a swift set of contredanses, the orchestra plunged into the Fifth Symphony, where the brass and winds were not always sharp and timing was not always accurate. The crescendo leading to the finale was well crafted, however, and the finale's triplet figure progressed skillfully. The work's motivic development was clear, if a little stilted.