Review: SPCO Wins Unprecedented Ovation For Beethoven

There’s something about strolling over to one of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s neighborhood concerts, the SPCO truck parked in the driveway of a church on Summit Avenue, the smell of new grass in the fading light, that makes one feel lucky. And I’m not the only one who feels it: This week’s performances (the last is April 15) of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, complemented by Schubert, and a couple of quirky modern composers, have been packing the house.

There’s a good reason, of course, and it goes beyond the pleasant concert-going experience: Violin virtuoso Thomas Zehetmair is in the house, playing and conducting Beethoven’s one and only violin concerto from memory. In fact, he appears to be playing it, to paraphrase Salieri in Amadeus, as though he were taking dictation from God. Zehetmair tackles the soaring showcase, a bit overt at times in its incredibly fast runs, less like the high-wire act it could be and more like a tribute—to Beethoven’s genius, not his own—emoting the perfection of each exquisite note. Nonetheless, Zehetmair won himself and the orchestra something like seven standing ovations at the of the performance—an unprecedented amount in my experience—prompting an encore of a sprightly contemporary bit for solo violin. Check on tickets for his remaining performance, at beautiful Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater on Thursday, at spco.org.

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