Performance Review: Beethoven’s Fifth
The Jacksonville Symphony’s Florida Blue Classical Series presented “Beethoven’s Fifth” this weekend, a program featuring three beloved orchestral favorites led by guest conductor Giordano Bellincampi.
Silvery Rills by Sean Shepherd
Leading off the program was Silvery Rills by contemporary American composer Sean Shepherd. A short and punchy piece intended to evoke the flowing waters of a rugged mountain stream, this energetic and engaging work left me intrigued and curious to hear more from this composer.
Interested in learning more? Explore a full set of Program Notes.
From A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Felix Mendelssohn
The second selection on offer was A Midsummer Night’s Dream Suite by Felix Mendelssohn. After some informative remarks by Bellincampi on Mendelssohn’s life and influence, the opening woodwind chords sounded, and listeners were drawn deep into Mendelssohn’s colorful and precocious score. Throughout the “Overture,” what struck me most was the precision of the strings. Every note was crystal clear in even the most rapid and hushed passagework, giving the music the elfin lightness that served it well. The “Scherzo” movement demonstrated a considered control of dynamic shading, particularly in the quietest moments, that would be notable all throughout the concert. The horns were warm and sonorous in the melodious “Nocturne,” and the famous “Wedding March” brought things to a rousing conclusion with the Jacksonville Symphony brass arriving in top form.
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Rounding out the evening was Beethoven’s celebrated Fifth Symphony, whose opening motive is easily the most widely known tune in all of symphonic literature. Bellincampi launched into the fiery first movement with a driving energy that gave Beethoven’s dramatic musical rhetoric the slightly visceral edge it so needs. Tempos were well chosen in the second movement, a set of double variations, bringing out its achingly beautiful melodic lines and demonstrating its perfectly balanced form to full effect. For me, the standout of this performance was the third movement, which was a master class in dynamic control. As with the Mendelssohn previously on the program, the level of subtlety in dynamic shading was exceptional. This control allowed Bellincampi to coax to the surface melodic details that lesser performances often neglect. The audience was clearly hanging on to every note, making the crescendo into the rapturous final movement overwhelming indeed. This was one of the first major symphonies to employ trombones, and the Jacksonville Symphony brass did not disappoint, driving the work to its inexorable, triumphant conclusion after which an appropriately grateful audience leapt to its feet.
“Beethoven’s Fifth” was a real treat for symphonic music fans. This performance reminded audience members that these pieces are legendary for good reason. Bellincampi and the Symphony brilliantly managed to keep even the most familiar orchestral scores sounding fresh and vital, playing with an expressive range that was one of the widest I’ve yet heard from this orchestra.
Tim Tuller is the Canon for Music at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jacksonville, Florida. Tuller formerly wrote for the Florida Times-Union as the classical music reviewer.
Watch, Listen and Read
Interested in joining the Jacksonville Symphony for another innovative and engaging season? Please visit our 2022/23 Season page to learn more about the upcoming season programming. Additional content for this performance includes a full set of Program Notes. Looking for more content? Subscribe to our YouTube Channel to watch concert archives, interviews, behind the scenes content and more.
The Jacksonville Symphony would like to give special thanks to Florida Blue for sponsoring the Classical Series. Additional thanks are given to Tim Tuller for attending the performance and writing this performance review: Beethoven’s Fifth.