Mulligan excelled in his pinch-hitting role, leading the ASO through proper readings of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 and the two concertos. While Mulligan lacks the conducting intensity of Spano, he nonetheless molded an ensemble capable of alternately rendering bits of blistering Beethoven intensity and serving as a considerate but strong accompanist to Osorio.
Beethoven’s second and third piano concertos are packed with voluble piano runs, and Osorio played like a man who’s had the notes under his fingers for decades but can still find the breathtaking musicality at the heart of the works. These concertos also make extensive use of the orchestra. The ensemble is more than just a bystander to piano solos; it opens each concerto with significant introductory music, establishing tone and thematic content.
The evening's intense look at earlier Beethoven works — his first symphony was published at 30, the second piano concerto arrived five years earlier — brought the ASO's magnificent woodwind section to the fore. Extended passages led by principal flute Christina Smith and principal clarinet Laura Ardan supplied the music with an earthy richness, with the bassoon of principal Andrew Brady filling out the low end.
Bassist Michael Kurth, who has become the ensemble's oft-programmed composer-in-residence, contributed to the start of the evening with an unscheduled addition. Under the guise of celebrating the birthdays of Rex and Mulligan, the ASO performed Kurth's zany reimagining of "Happy Birthday to You," replete with musical snippets from Beethoven symphonies. The piece had been performed only in rehearsal, as a surprise gift to the late bassist Jane Little, and the group rolled it out to mark Rex's departure and the symphony's continued celebration of all things Beethoven. Kicking things off with a bit of musical levity surely calmed new-conductor jitters, but there was no need to worry: With Mulligan, the ASO is in capable hands.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with Jorge Federico Osorio
8 p.m. Feb. 1. Additional performance at 8 p.m. Feb. 3. $52-$107. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-5000, www.atlantasymphony.org.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Here are some fun events happening in February around Atlanta “Don Quixote” Atlanta Hot Chocolate 15k and 5k Road Race Sips Under the Sea North Atlanta Home Show Mardi Gras Streetcar Adventure African-American History Tours of Oakland Cemetery Oysterfest