NSO offers energetic Dvorak and a fresh cellist?

11.17.16
Johannes Moser
The Washington Post

Thursday night’s audience at the National Symphony Orchestra seemed happy to embrace the article’s premise, getting to their feet at the end of Krzysztof Urbanski’s lyrical, detailed, slightly careful reading. But Urbanski and the orchestra showed no more than a very, very good symphony.

The first half also offered energy in the person of Johannes Moser, the German cellist, who made his NSO debut playing the original version of Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme” — the first time the orchestra had played this take on a familiar work most often heard in the arrangement made by its first performer, Wilhelm Fitzenhagen. 

Moser has a big, warm, generous sound, and he played with evident enjoyment and a bit of showmanship. The piece is a particular calling card for him — he took a special prize for it at the 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition, where he also took second place (no first place was awarded) — and he made it very much his own, with the unfamiliar order of the variations (including an eighth variation) giving freshness to a piece known well to NSO audiences. 


It’s almost de rigueur for young conductors to champion little-known works by their countrymen, and Urbanski opened with a bang with what, for some, was the evening’s highlight: a piece called “Orawa” by Wojciech Kilar, who died in 2013 at 81. Named for the region of Poland where the composer spent most of his life, the piece folds in folk influences that sound in the concert hall like neo-minimalist repeating string patterns, mounting in generous layers to a big, full, romantic sound that the NSO made wholly exuberant. Hearing the best symphony of all time is all very well, but there’s a good case to be made for fresh music. 
 
Read the rest of the review here