You wouldn't think of 10th-century Hungary as having been a funny place, but on the evidence of Beethoven's King Stephen overture, that seems to have been the case. It's rather unexpectedly sunny and un-Beethovenian, like the overture to the bel canto opera he never wrote (and wouldn't have). Good clean fun (skating over some dodgy horn and trumpet intonation) and a refreshing start to this week's Philharmonic program with Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Afterward, Jeremy Denk joined them for Beethoven's first piano concerto, demonstrating both his keyboard superpowers and a rather astonishing array of ridiculous faces. Though I'm skeptical of his stage presence and fashion sense, he plays a mean piano. And he gets points for sticking around for the second half, a rather fine Firebird (Stravinsky, not Beethoven), which unfortunately featured a hearing-aid whistle throughout. I thought some of the middle got a little slack, but just a little and not for long, and Salonen made a good wind-up to the finish, rattling the rafters quite thoroughly. I think I may have said it last season, but I'll welcome him back any time.