Concert Reviews

Tokio, Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra debut in Japan, 21 September, Musashino Cultural Hall

Classical Drama

Enthusiasm and food for thought

Classical symphonies in bang-up-to-date interpretations. The first concert given in Japan by Thomas Fey and his Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra was an immensely stimulating experience. The players not only use historical brass instruments and kettle-drums, they also model their renderings on an “authentic” performance style. But the most important feature in all these endeavors is that they have not succumbed to the temptations of a backward-looking approach but have revived all the enthusiasm and energy that 18th century audiences looked for in performances of what were then new works.

The first subject of Haydn’s Symphony No. 82 contains various fanfare motifs. But what we hear from the Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra is the almost deafening clamor of noises from the battlefield. The more sedate sections were dispatched with considerable elegance, thus pinpointing the contrast. Fey is courageous in his tempo changes, displaying the music of classical Vienna not as an insipid or predictable expression of some kind of utopia but rather as an in-your-face sonic drama. The quickening of tempo at climaxes and the punchy accents in the main theme of the second movement are likely to make present-day audiences sit up and take notice. Thus underlined, the crunches we normally take more or less for granted are suddenly revealed for what they are – dissonances.

The energetic performance of Salieri’s overture “Les Horaces” developed a degree of genuine violence fully in line with the plot of an opera taken from the military history of ancient Rome.

A challenging interpretation of this kind may sometimes run the risk of fragmenting the overall sound of the ensemble. With the Heidelberg Symphony such misgivings are unfounded. The first movement of Mozart’s “Linz” symphony was taken at quite a lick, but the balance was kept under skillful control. In addition, the vitality displayed by the players cast a revealing light on the composer’s strategy of spinning out melodic phrases from one movement to the next. Perhaps it was this that the audience responded to so enthusiastically. At all events, the applause following the performances was long and rapturous.

Yasuda Kazunobu, music critic, Yomiuri Shimbun, 2 October 2007

Heidelberg, symphony concert, 6 May 2007, Kongresshaus Stadthalle

Tempo Is It

The Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Fey kept things going at a very smart pace but still managed to accommodate an accelerando here and there. They gave the music its head but never let it get out of hand … All this made for a very lively performance of Haydn’s Symphony No. 75 in D major. The quick movements titillated the ear with unobtrusive point-making and bold dynamic contrasts between light and shade. The approach to the variations was calm and relaxed, the team spirit was evident throughout … In Mendelssohn’s String Symphony in G minor and the “Italian” Symphony the performances were a miracle of transparency from beginning to end … Consummate skill, precision, creative response, outstanding wind and brass, ensemble, and infectious enthusiasm all called for unstinting admiration …

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, 8 May 2007

Schwetzingen Residence, benefit concert, 21 January 2007, Rococo Theater

The Gleam of Precious Metal

Thomas Fey headed an orchestra decking out the scores with delicate pastel shades, galvanizing the string parts with vigorous bowing, and bringing out an exciting array of colors. With the Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra and their traditional benefit concert in the Rococo Theater of the Residence in Schwetzingen, the Rotary Club of Schrieshim-Lobdengau had a real treat in store for the audience. From the outset Fey kept things moving, though never with undue haste, allowing the music to flow and giving the motivic material the necessary scope to unfold. With his lucid and transparent approach he also managed to conjure uncommonly seamless sound textures from the orchestra. Wind, brass, and strings were ideally balanced, the sound picture was clearly defined and finely etched … The music was gilded with the gleam of precious metal, and the performances were greeted with tumultuous applause.

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, 27/28 January 2007

Heidelberg, New Year’s concert 2007, Kongresshaus Stadthalle

Violin Romances and Swooning Cellos

The Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra under their conductor and founder Thomas Fey were on top form for the capacity audience at Heidelberg’s Stadthalle concert hall. The mostly youthful members of the orchestra won the hearts of their listeners with structural precision, infectious enthusiasm, sparkling sonic wizardry, and a spot-on percussion section … Musically, Fey has a great deal more to offer than superficial thrills. He gives the music time and space to develop, pays careful attention to structure, and - notably in Beethoven’s Violin Romances - subtly queries our pre-conceived notions about the meaning of the term “cantabile”. In addition, the highly appreciative audience were treated to bubbling and boisterous Rossini, lovingly molded Johann Strauß, darkly dramatic Salieri, and a swashbuckling Nicolai overture.

Manneimer Morgen, 3 January 2007