The Munich Symphony Orchestra has a tough time making a reputation outside the Bavarian capital, residing in a musically rich city home to such elite orchestras as the Munich Philharmonic and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Yet the symphony's Saturday evening all-Beethoven concert at the George Mason Center for the Arts showed that, while it may not soon eclipse its more renowned counterparts, the ensemble certainly deserves greater attention.
The eminent French pianist and maestro Phillipe Entremont -- the orchestra's principal conductor since 2004 -- elicited a clear, agile sound from the group. Beethoven's overture to the ballet "Prometheus" was detailed yet forward-sweeping, and the orchestra infused a matching color, balance and rhythm into the Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58. If the concerto missed a bit of the overture's tight coherence, that was most likely due to double-tasking of Entremont, who served at once as conductor and soloist.
Thankfully, occasional ensemble issues detracted little from the nobility of the outer movements or the lonely tenderness of the Andante. Entremont's splendid pianism combined intelligent phrasing, well-rounded intonation and elegant restraint.
The Munich Symphony played the Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92, with a sense of abandon. After an animated opening, a funereal Adagio and a scampering Scherzo, the finale was all manic energy and fire. Entremont and his orchestra conjured up a joyous whirlwind of sound that ultimately launched the music blazing into the ether.
-- Daniel Ginsberg