21 September, 2009

Concert Review: SZSO-Weithaas-Ehwald

Concert Review: SZSO-Weithaas-Ehwald

September 17, SZ Concert Hall
Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra-All Shostakovich

I had come across Antje Weithaas (impressive biography here) several times previously in various chamber music compilations from Lars Vogt's excellent Heimbach "Spannungen" Music Festival (EMI, some available from the library; also AVI). I also admire her perfection in leading the magnificent Arcantro Quartet, whose Bartok cycle sets new standards.

I was curious how Weithaas would fare in a big concerto. And was I surprised! She gave possibly the most accurate rendition of the Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 I have ever heard live or on records. With perfect intonation and beautiful tone (playing on a modern violin), she seemed to have played more notes than I have ever heard. More importantly, she has a natural inclination for phrasing and architectural integrity. Dynamics were also perfectly graded. I think all these reflect her considerable chamber music expertise. More surprising, unlike some chamber musicians she had enough volume for this big piece, and one can see her bio above shows appearances with many prestigious orchestras. The orchestra was with her all the way. If I have any reservation about the performance, it was that in this tightly argued performance, perhaps German reserve prevented full display of the macabre. Still, what a find, and I count myself lucky to have heard her!

A similar Germanic resilience pervaded the Shostakovich Symphony No. 10, conducted masterly and symphonically by Christian Ehwald. The complete grip of architecture and non-sentimental approach reminds me of performances of the several Shoatakovich symphonies that I have heard conducted by the excellent Gunther Herbig on record (Berlin Classics; available in the library) . As in the concerto, I'd prefer a little more abandon and sardonic wit. The orchestra tried very hard, but their grasp of Shostakovich, in contrast to Brahms, was not quite that of the HKPO (in performanecs by the likes of Jaap Van Zweden and mark Elder). I eagerly look forward to the same symphony conducted by the legendary Rozdhestventsky.

The crowd was impressively quiet, and applause warm and sustained. The vista is changing fast up North.


  1. I wish I was there and regretfully I chose not going. Thanks reminding me about Antje Weithaas. Her name was so familiar but didn't ring any bell only after your post.

  2. Hi Dennis:

    Have you heard the SZSO or Ehwald before?

    It's really quite a hassle for most people, I just live closer.

    Make sure you catch Rozdhestventsky!