Concert Review: Symphony in C in Camden

A feast of Beethoven at Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts

Conductor Kirian Stilov selected three works by Beethoven to commemorate the composer’s upcoming 250th birthday in 2020. Eschewing the traditional national anthem to start the season, he started with the “Prometheus Overture, Opus 43,” one of Beethoven’s earliest successful pieces.

Maestro Stilian Kirov has developed a wonderful string section – and it was their entry that smoothed out the overture and provided support for the excellent woodwinds. The orchestra ended with beautifully aligned crispness which made up for a slightly uneven attack on the strong chords at the beginning.

The “Concerto for Violin, Violoncello, and Piano, Opus 56” was the highlight of the concert. All three soloists played with innate individuality and style, yet they also listened to each other, responding to each other’s phrases with great sensitivity. Timotheos Petrin, cello, projected the music with smooth grace, taking on the highest register of the part with seeming ease. Janice Clarissa managed to make the piano sound extremely delicate as she raced through thirds, arpeggios, and feather-light trills. Her touch reflected the reputed Beethoven style – slightly crisp without being dry – and her dynamic control was such that she could bring out her own themes or play soft accompaniments for each of her fellow soloists. Nikki Choi managed to tame the high violin part and accelerated in some of the wildly difficult passages with the grace and agility. The soloists exchanged phrases, echoing themes and motifs with matching phrasing. The third movement, Rondo alla polacca, started so fast that it seemed impossible, yet both the orchestra and the soloists sounded confident and secure throughout. Maestro Kirov has brought his orchestra to a point where they can play softly yet clearly, which made the soloists stand out without compromising the lovely sound of the masterful orchestration. The horns sometimes sounded too loud, however, and perhaps this could be cured by moving them away from the back wall of the stage.

The final piece, Beethoven’s fifth symphony, was spirited and began with precision and clarity, with Maestro Kirov putting all his energy into the rhythms of the familiar theme of the allegro con brio, supported by a wonderful timpani performance by Jeremy Levine. The second movement, the andante con moto, started too fast and sacrificed the unhurried and luscious enchantment of Beethoven’s theme. There were thrilling clarinet solos (Sara Han) and the strings played beautifully, ending the movement on a dime. The third movement, the Scherzo allegro started a tad unclearly, but the trumpets led them out of the fog. The scherzo showcased the oboe (Rita Mitsel) and the string section’s ability to play a gamut of dynamics from pianissimo to forte. A fine piccolo performance (Alexjandro Lombo) and great woodwind playing brought out the themes of the final movement.

The next performance by Symphony in C will be a centennial tribute to the Stokowski concerts of 1919 at Macy’s Center City Philadelphia on September 28, 2019 at 8:30 pm featuring Peter Richard Conte. 

[September 7, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. at the Walter K. Gordon Theater, Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, 314 Linden Street, Camden, New Jersey. For tickets or further information www. or (856) 240-1503]

Timotheos Petrin, Nikki Choi, and Janice Clarissa. Photo by Margaret Darby.

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