This orchestra, under Jarvi's direction, has an outlook on Beethoven not unlike that of Zinman and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra (see previous post). I believe that he is also using the new Barenreiter urtext editions of the symphonies. Modern instruments, chamber sized orchestra, and a fresh approach to these well tread symphonies. To give an idea of the size of this band, I counted seven first violins, six seconds, five violas, four cellos, and three basses. That string section is about half the size of the biggest romantic-era orchestras. This allows the other instruments in the orchestra to be heard more clearly.
All three works were played with speed, precision and clarity. In the 19th century style, they used faster tempi, and the smaller orchestra size let the pull it off with crispness. They were able to turn on a dime, running at high speed, like driving a Subaru WRX instead of a Hummer H1.
The concert seemed a bit undersold (~60% full), but the small audience was very appreciative, and we were rewarded with two encores: Sibelius' 'Valse Triste' and the Finale to Beethoven's First Symphony. In that last encore, the first and second violin sections switched places, to show that they all could play at a high level of virtuosity, and that nobody is "second fiddle" in this ensemble.
It was a great performance, and all you New Yorkers should get out in the snow tomorrow night to see them at Allice Tully Hall. This is a fantastic German orchestra under one of the world's great conductors.