An Ode to Audra

by Sedgwick Clark

Carnegie Hall celebrated its 120th birthday party on May 5. Some thought it could have waited five years, but I would welcome a Carnegie fête every night if Audra McDonald were singing. On this evening she sang four Duke Ellington songs with the New York Philharmonic and once again revealed that her emotional truth in any music she sings is blinding. Her four-year gig on TV’s Private Practice ends this season, and her manager reports “a bunch of concerts scheduled between now and Thanksgiving.” This includes a Carnegie concert all her own on October 22, which is as great a cause for rejoicing as any I know. If there is a more entrancing singer in the world, I’m not aware of her (or him).

This was one of Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert’s best nights.

His well-judged celebratory program began with a rousing Dvořák Carnival Overture and continued with a downright bubbly Beethoven Triple Concerto, garnished with an unbeatable trio of cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Gil Shaham, and pianist Emanuel Ax. His Ellington accompaniments had just the right elegant swing. I couldn’t stay for Gershwin’s An American in Paris, but I’m told I shouldn’t miss the PBS broadcast on May 31. You shouldn’t either.

Dutoit’s All-Stravinsky
Two nights before, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s first Carnegie Hall concert since its board filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (April 27 blog) was an all-Stravinsky program conducted by Charles Dutoit. There were bravos amidst the applause as concertmaster David Kim walked onstage, and some members of the audience stood, to the evident pleasure of the musicians. The performances, however, were mixed. Dutoit’s devitalized Apollo sorely lacked balletic verve; moreover, except for Kim’s bewitching violin solos, the string ensemble sounded unaccountably coarse and monochromatic. Things improved immeasurably in the opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex, which was conducted with a taut sense of drama, played with power and rhythmic acuity, and sung effectively by Paul Groves (Oedipus) and Petra Lang (Jocasta), in particular, and the Men of the Philadelphia Singers Chorale. David Howey was the appropriately haughty narrator.

Curse of the Proofreader
Poor Igor. In recent years his last name has become one of classical music’s most frequent typos. The Times review head of the Philly concert shouted out in 26-pt. boldface type: “A Stravinksy Program With Ancient Inspiration.”

Have any commentators pointed out that the license plate of The Royal Newlyweds’ car did not read “JUST WED,” but “JU5T WED”? One hopes it’s not a harbinger of thrings to come.

And then there was the “beautification” of Pope John II on the TV. Good lord.

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