There were fraying hairs on violin bows as the Vienna musicians played the last movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as if their life depended on it driven on by a multiplicity of vigorous semaphore gestures by Andrés Orozco-Estrada.
The young Colombian-born conductor, the orchestra’s present music director, is a real bundle of energy who, on the evidence of this concert, doesn’t agonise over looking for ‘insights’ in music which might or might not be there.
Hence, the famous first movement of the symphony was genuinely exciting in its unaffected dramatic drive and the whole performance had a breath of fresh air running through its often-hackneyed strains by virtue of Orozco-Estrada’s sheer enthusiasm for the music.
His tempi, generally brisk, were consistent throughout without easing up for statements of profundity but the grandeur of the work was still there, shorn of interpretive baggage, and it was superbly played by the Tonkünstler orchestra with considerable collective virtuosity.
Orozco-Estrada’s unmannered, no-nonsense approach was ideal for the three lesser-known Beethoven works on the programme, especially a magnificent account of the Choral Fantasia in which Barry Douglas provided individual virtuosity in the piano part.
Some of his astonishing finger dexterity was jaw-dropping in the extreme, yet it never sounded mechanical as he brought tonal warmth and humanity to often improvisatory-sounding music, not least in his shaping of the long opening solo.
The Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and six excellent un-credited soloists ensured the work’s choral finale was a paean of total triumph, having earlier sustained the vocal lines of the first half of Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage with admirable projection.
In between, Sarah Fox made a notable, valiant attempt at the scena and aria Ah! Perfido! but the dramatic recitative stretched her before the aria fell more comfortably for her essentially lyric soprano voice.