MUSIC REVIEW: The Schleswig-Holstein Festival Chamber Orchestra (SCA performance)


If you want a special summer treat, visit the Salzau Castle near Hamburg, Germany, and hear the fantastic young musicians of the Schleswig-Holstein Festival. Hand-picked, auditioned and under the age of 27, these are some of the finest young players in the world.

If you weren’t planning a trip to Europe, I hope you had a chance to hear the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Christoph Eschenbach, when they were presented Friday at the Van Wezel, under the auspices of the Sarasota Concert Association, in works by Beethoven and Mozart with the astonishing superstar pianist, Lang Lang.

I say “astonishing” because he was the soloist in the Mozart G Major Concerto, K. 453, a charming but deceptively simple work, written for one of the composer’s pupils. Lang, known for his fiery, flashy flamboyance, was pure finesse this time around, electrifying in his straightforwardness. He produced music that was unpretentious, clean and spectacularly beautiful and moving.

There were moments when the small chamber orchestra and Eschenbach became one organism and the pianist another and played off each other in the kind of honest, open musicianship that goes straight to the heart of the music and cuts deep into the heart of the listener. Lang, playing with grace and introspection, was the essence of artistry.

From the Beethoven “Leonore” Overture No. 3, which had a slightly shaky start, to the concise, beautiful phrasing of the composer’s Seventh Symphony, these youthful masters of music and their conductor gave us perfectly arched phrases in enthusiastic performances. The music was first and foremost, and the result was breathtaking.

Special mention must be made of the wind section, especially the principal flutist and oboist, who were spectacular. The orchestra, made up of musicians from all over the world, would probably sound like the Tower of Babel if they spoke. But, when they played, there was only one language: music.

— June LeBell


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