“All Beethoven” was the title of the Boston Civic Orchestra’s concert presented at Jordan Hall, Max Hobart, conductor, Andrew Price, oboe soloist, and David Deveau, piano soloist, on Sunday, November 14. It was too much Beethoven for the BCO as a whole but not for the soloists who carried the day giving outstanding performances.
Largo, the only extant movement — and a reconstructed one at that — from Beethoven’s Oboe Concerto in F, Hess 12 (1792), found solace through the airborne interpretation of Andrew Price. The restoration work of Dutch musicologists Jos van der Zanden and Cees Niewwenhuizen varied quite markedly from the score I had before me, a reconstruction by Charles Joseph Lehrer. Price has a concentrated tone neither thick and rich or thin and piercing, an ideal moderation of the two that can grow on the listener in a short time. It appeared to me that the orchestra itself found the consoling mood of Beethoven’s youthful composition by way of Price who lifted the oboe line allowing it to settle on an imaginary high wire strung above us.
An intense inner-outer coverage of Beethoven seemed to be Deveau’s way of moderating the Classical with the emerging Romantic traits of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15 (1796-1797). Soloist Deveau breathed and danced in a space that he set up carefully and intelligently, then within it let go emotive spirits completely allied to the surface and subtext of this early concerto.
Completely scintillating was his playful performance of the rondo theme of the third movement. Marked Allegro scherzando, it tinkers with deception and interception. Again, but this time with the pianist, Hobart’s Civic Orchestra caught onto some of the Deveau spirit. Beethoven in his A-flat Largo mood took on finely paced and richly articulated phrasing under this non-showy musician’s hands. Deveau thoroughly engages at the keyboard technically and expressively when it comes to joking around, as in the last movement, or shaping longer classical constructs meant for more complex contrasts, as in the first movement. Passagework in all the movements, sometimes florid, other times punctuated, found, with Deveau, welcome sincerity, directness of purpose. As with Price, it doesn’t take long to be won over to this artist’s corner.
Overture to Egmont Op. 84 (1809) and Symphony No. 6 in F Op. 68, Pastoral (1808) met with tuning problems (especially in the strings), horn troubles, sectional imbalances, and some rowdy brass. “Scene by the brook” spinning out many kinds of nature’s vibrations, yes, I daresay, was murky, if not muddy. Flashes of excitement in the “Thunderstorm” were as exciting as they were roughly hewn. The overture and symphony in addition to the other Beethoven, proved to be too much for all the genuine wealth of desire and experience this orchestra projects. Judging from today’s program, I would proffer that Boston Civic Orchestra may not yet be up to “All Beethoven.”