Beethoven cadenzas stun in season-ending ASO concert

Violinist Veronika Eberle joined the ASO for Beethoven's Violin Concerto. Photo courtesy of Raftermen

Credit: Raftermen

Credit: Raftermen

Violinist Veronika Eberle joined the ASO for Beethoven's Violin Concerto. Photo courtesy of Raftermen

Twenty minutes into the first movement of Beethoven’s violin concerto, the motif — four sixteenth notes rising up in pitch, then a fifth descending, ushering in another string of notes to echo the first — had become imprinted on the brain.

That’s when guest violinist Veronika Eberle stepped forward for her solo cadenza, a usually conventional but virtuosic exercise in violin acrobatics — joined by principal bassist Joseph McFadden. This seemed a little different. And where did the timpani come from?

Next Eberle sawed and plucked on her instrument, hammered out notes col legno with the back of her bow, and wandered into eerie harmonics. It all morphed into a quasi trio with bass and timpani before she unloaded blistering runs of sixteenth notes. At the core of all that sometimes extremely dissonant virtuosity? The friendly, familiar motif and other musical hallmarks from the movement.

This 21st-century echo of Beethoven themes elevated a beautiful version of the composer’s violin concerto — which seems like an annual presence at Symphony Hall but hasn’t been heard here since 2020 — into something much more grand. The thanks goes to Eberle’s U.S. premiere of three new cadenzas — each movement re-imagined in miniature by composer Jörg Widmann. Even more impressive? The cadenzas flowed naturally from Beethoven’s music, seamlessly updating his work with a modern twist.

Eberle commissioned these centuries-spanning addenda for her debut concerto recording, released in early 2023. On the disc, Sir Simon Rattle, who introduced a teenage Eberle to the international stage at the 2006 Salzburg Easter Festival, led the London Symphony Orchestra. Thursday night at Symphony Hall, it was music director Nathalie Stutzmann’s turn with the ASO.

There’s familiarity and trust between Stutzmann and Eberle, making the collaboration seem effortless. Stutzmann has been conducting Eberle as a soloist since at least 2017, when Stutzmann served as the principal guest conductor for the RTE National Symphony Orchestra in Dublin. In February, the two of them brought Mozart’s sinfonia for violin, viola and orchestra to the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse.

The ASO programmed two short Ravel orchestrations — “Alborada del gracioso” and “Menuet antique” — after intermission as a bridge between Beethoven and Stravinsky. Swirling with radiant tone colors, the joyful, upbeat tunes turned the spotlight on the percussion and woodwind sections, including masterful solo work by principal bassoonist Anthony Georgeson.

Closing the program with Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” seems like an easy decision. The crowd-pleaser — which follows the composer’s “Rite of Spring,” performed under Robert Spano mere weeks ago — begins in the low strings, with calm and mysterious seesawing figures soon welcoming subdued trombones. Stutzmann had the musicians in top form during the entire ballet, playing with emotion and a rich tonal vibrancy. As an ensemble, the musicians blended well, but the expert solo passages — Georgeson on bassoon, Ryan Little on French horn, principal oboe Elizabeth Koch Tiscione — made the piece even more memorable.

With a flourish, Stutzmann’s second full season in Atlanta has come to an end. And while she is dedicated to her work in Atlanta, her star is very visibly on the rise. Stutzmann will be making her debut in Boston next season, bringing Thursday’s entire program to the BSO in February 2025. She’ll also be in New York that January, leading the Philharmonic in “The Ring Without Words,” performed here earlier this month. Last February, she brought two ASO Bruckner programs to London for concerts with the LSO. Next season, Stutzmann will lead the ASO in 11 weeks of concerts, including eight Beethoven symphonies, promising a further blooming of her artistic vision for the orchestra.


Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Two more performances 8 p.m. June 15 and 3 p.m. June 16. $28-$116. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-5000,