Karl George Berg, Die Rheinpfalz, 30th June 2022

“Beethoven is original – and in more ways than one. Admittedly not with old instruments, but with the tempo intended by Beethoven and a clear sound without much vibrato. Above all, chief conductor Michael Francis and his orchestra, which was brilliantly arranged across all registers, gave the work an almost bursting tension and dramatic variety that made it clear in every bar what kind of exciting and revolutionary music it was then – and still is today…

The piece was full of extremes and fundamentally shocking twists, but of course, also powerful and vibrant. These are hard to find in many popular performances. Not so with Michael Francis and the Staatsphilharmonie. The funeral march alone was an instrumental drama of moving intensity and a phenomenal penetration of the structure and visualization of the musical elements and developments. The range of dynamic and tonal nuances was almost boundless. Again and again, emphasis in the timpani, for example, provided electrifying tension.

In short: Beethoven’s symphony was brought to the point in all its expressive dimensions and became a moving sound drama.

Robert Schumann is at the center of the music festival program this year. His fourth symphony op. 120, actually his second in the first version, opened the music festival. From the very first bar, it was clear that Michael Francis would explore the piece very carefully because the theme, which recurs in the course of the symphony, was very expressive and vocally paraphrased. The performance by the Staatsphilharmonie under their chief conductor had lots of poetry – for example, during the slow part with the beautiful violin solo by concertmaster Yi-Qiong Pan – and also lots of fire. The tempo in the first and fourth parts, especially in the closing coda, was sparkling and rousing. As with Beethoven, all musical gestures here were highly passionate. The transition from the scherzo to the finale was grandiose with the use of the trombones, which in its grandeur also fitted perfectly into the church space.”