You know that feeling when you're sitting with someone you love on a quiet evening, by a fireplace, and you run your fingers fondly through her hair, feeling the smoothness of it, the familiar shape of the skull underneath, the remembered groove of the skin behind her ear? The way you let your fingers linger on nape of her neck and instant longer than necessary, so that that one moment of touch carries with it a lifetime of longing, of intimacy?
That's how Christoph Eschenbach conducted Beethoven's Sixth tonight - like the caress of an old friend. It was a fascinating performance - one that made up in serenity and languor what it lacked in momentum. Here was no surprise, no sudden lark of a note soaring high into the air, instead there was the sense of great calm that is nature's, the sound of it soothing, almost consoling. As though Eschenbach, knowing full well that everyone in his audience would have heard the Sixth before, decided to bring out the nostalgia in Beethoven's symphony, rounding out its edges, accentuating its curves, and giving it a sweet richness of tone. Tonight's performance of that slow movement ranks among the finest I've heard. And if the other movements seemed tame in comparison, but that's a small price to pay.
All in all, an interesting performance (it's always impressive when you go to listen to a piece that's almost hopelessly familiar, and come back with something, anything, you've not heard before). Plus there was the added bonus of a post-concert concert featuring one of the violinists from the Orchestra performing Beethoven's Second Violin Sonata, complete with its Andante piu tosto Allegretto, a heartbreaking gem of a movement - one of Beethoven's finest.
All in all, an evening well spent.