The Dresden Philharmonic plays at a higher default decibel level than most other orchestras I've heard in over half a century (Chicago excepted). Sometimes it makes for uncomfortable listening when a concert-room has as probing an acoustic as we have in Symphony Hall.
So the opening of Beethoven's Egmont Overture almost shocked me out of my seat, strings raspingly heavy as they dug into those portentous chords, conductor Michael Sanderling's orchestral layout favouring double-basses making the sound-picture swing strongly to the left. I recovered in time to admire the fierce nobility of the horns as this developed into a well-defined reading.
Arabella Steinbacher was soloist in the ineffable Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, her tone rich, intonation glacially pure, her bow wielded almost like a weapon. This was a performance of huge personality, tempi deliberately unsentimentalised, musical paragraphs well contrasted, and with a first movement cadenza which was articulated in the manner of the great solo violin works by Mendelssohn's beloved Bach.
If only Bach had provided the much-demanded encore; at least we could have recognised it. Instead Steinbacher launched into a glitteringly martial showpiece without announcing its provenance. I have my own idea which I will keep to myself, but had to disappoint punters who asked me if I knew what it was. There should be a law banning anonymous encores.
There was a change of layout, and indeed of timpani. for Brahms' Fourth Symphony. Orchestral tone was rich, Sanderling tended to overphrase, horns redeemed themselves in the slow movement after a few accidents beforehand, and the principal flute made a poignant solo contribution to the awesome finale which drew playing from musicians totally appreciative of how wonderful this music is -- though towards the end Sanderling's balances could have been kinder.
Coolly launched as Sanderling returned to the podium after multiple curtain-calls, Rossini's William Tell galop was an encore bringing a silver lining to the end of the afternoon.