Posts Tagged ‘nyphil’

“We Didn’t Hear the Same Concert”

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

by Sedgwick Clark

That’s a traditional reader complaint. But it happens to critics too. Russian violinist Vadim Repin and Lithuanian pianist Itamar Golan have solid careers, and their program last Saturday evening (3/17) in Alice Tully Hall was an enticing selection of works by Janáček, Ravel, Grieg, and Chausson.

From mid-parquet I found Repin’s sound surprisingly coarse and aggressive, as if playing to the last row of Avery Fisher Hall, where he has often performed, rather than the medium-sized Tully. His tone, most deleteriously in Ravel’s jazzy Violin Sonata, was grainy and monochromatic, thick and unsubtle; pizzicatos made scant effect. The same composer’s Tzigane had little gypsy flavor, just headlong virtuosity, and Janáček’s Sonata sounded unaccountably ugly. Chausson’s Poème, which required mostly soft playing, elicited his best moments.

Two seats to my left, The Strad’s Dennis Rooney was filled with praise, although he did suggest that Repin’s violin had problems “in the middle” and would be in the shop next week. Maya Pritsker had been sitting several rows closer and walked back to say hello at intermission, rhapsodizing at how Repin reminded her of David Oistrakh. I reacted with horror and suggested that she stay back with me for the second half. At one particularly unattractive moment in Grieg’s Second Sonata I looked at her and she nodded in understanding; at the end of the work she said he didn’t sound so loud down front.

I was astonished to read Zachary Woolfe’s Times review, stating that “. . . Mr. Repin brought remarkable tone: sweet and focused to the highest reaches of the instrument but never syrupy or heavy. He was game for a wide range of colors—savage attacks and pale whispers—but the atmospherics were less precise and varied: in lyrical passages he tended to be square.” I could agree with only the last part of that sentence.

No movements were listed in the program, which may be why the over-enthusiastic audience applauded between movements—which can’t have helped the performers’ concentration. The stage lighting was distracting as well, throwing shadows on the performers’ faces. A shoddy presentation.

New York Phil Opens Its Archives

Tomorrow (Thursday, 3/22, 10:30 a.m. EST) the NYPhil Archives hosts an “online discussion” of its second release from its steadily burgeoning digital archives: a world-wide discussion of Philharmonic tours from 1943 to 1970. Most important, perhaps, are Leonard Bernstein’s tours with the orchestra to the former Soviet Union, Europe, Japan, and South America. Scholars and musicians from Russia, Japan, Munich, and the United States will join NYP Archivist Barbara Haws and moderator Jeff Spurgeon of New York radio station WQXR for the one-hour event, streamed live via Google Hangout. Click on this link for full info:

Gil Shaham’s Hartmann

Last week I wrote in anticipation of hearing Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Concerto funèbre played by Gil Shaham at the Philharmonic and promised a report. It’s not an immediately ingratiating work, and I look forward to the broadcast for further acquaintance. James Keller’s notes mention references to Mahler, Bartók, Stravinsky, Berg, Webern, and Hindemith, and when I went backstage I had to admit that I missed them. Gil’s eyes brightened and he played a passage containing an instantly recognizable quote from Stravinsky’s concerto. He hopes to record the piece, and perhaps my ears will be attuned to Hartmann’s allusions by that time.

MTT’s American Mavericks at Carnegie

My most highly anticipated concerts of the season are upon us: Michael Tilson Thomas’s American Maverick’s series, in celebration of the San Francisco Symphony’s centennial season, the first of which are listed below and will continue through the week. Twentieth-century American masters Ives, Ruggles, Cowell, Varèse, Cage, Feldman, and Adams in the big hall with full orchestra during the coming week. Then on Thursday and Friday in Carnegie’s mid-size Zankel Hall, members of the SFSO will perform works by Harry Partch, Lou Harrison, David Del Tredici (his Syzygy, which Michael told me 40 years ago was a masterpiece), Steve Reich, Lukas Foss, and New York premieres of hot-off-the-press works by Musical America’s 2012 Composer of the Year Meredith Monk, Mason Bates, and Morton Subotnick.

Looking Forward

My week’s scheduled concerts:

3/21 Rockefeller University. Rachel Barton Pine, violin. Paganini: Caprices (24).

3/25 Avery Fisher Hall at 3:00. Murray Perahia, piano. Bach French Suite No. 5. Beethoven: Sonata No. 27, Op. 90. Brahms: Klavierstücke, Op. 119. Schubert: Sonata in A, D. 664. Chopin: Polonaise in C-sharp minor; Prelude in F-sharp minor; Mazurka in C-sharp minor; Scherzo in C-sharp minor.

3/25 Zankel Hall at 7:30. Ensemble ACJW/David Robertson; Moran Katz, clarinet. Wagner: Siegfried Idyll. Ligeti: Chamber Concerto for 13 Instruments. Adams: Gnarly Buttons. Haydn: Symphony No. 8 (“Le soir”).

3/26 Zankel Hall. So Percussion. Works by Cage, Cenk Ergün, Matmos, Dan Deacon, and Jason Treuting.

3/27 Carnegie Hall. San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas; St. Lawrence String Quartet; Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, Jessye Norman, vocalists. Cage: Selections from Song Books. Cowell: Synchrony. Adams: Absolute Jest. Varèse: Amériques.

3/28 Carnegie Hall. San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas; Emanuel Ax, piano. Ruggles: Sun-Treader. Feldman: Piano and Orchestra. Ives: A Concord Symphony (orch. Brant).

Thinking About the Future

Monday, January 9th, 2012

By Alan Gilbert

On January 4 the Philharmonic made a very important announcement: Matthew VanBesien has been named the next Executive Director of the Orchestra. I feel very positive about this choice, as I was quoted as saying, but here I want to discuss some of the thoughts that have come to my mind in the wake of the announcement.

Filling Zarin Mehta’s shoes has been a challenge for a couple of reasons. First of all, he’s a master at what he does. He’s a legend in the business, and deservedly so: there’s nobody who has existed at this level of orchestral endeavor for as long as he has and with the success he’s had. Zarin’s sense of what the New York Philharmonic is, and of what it can and should be, is full of respect for the traditions of music. His connections with guest soloists and conductors and with concert presenters around the world are epic.

We looked for someone who could step into the role that Zarin has filled who would fully respect the heritage and the venerable traditions of the New York Philharmonic and, at the same time, have the ability to carry forward into the 21st century both the New York Philharmonic and the elusive notion of what an orchestra should be. It remains to be seen what will actually happen, but the discussions that the Philharmonic’s Board, the Search Committee, the musicians, and I have had were extremely positive and extremely optimism-inducing. What we’re trying to do is nothing less than to redefine the shape, function, and role of the modern symphony orchestra.

Certain things are not going to go away. We will continue playing concerts in our home — a concert hall that, by the way, we’re going to be renovating, if not completely reconceiving. That’s going to be an enormous project on Matthew’s plate. But also up for discussion is the way we interact with our audience, beyond the traditional concert format, how we connect with our community. This very broad concept of outreach — which means going out and not expecting people to come to us — is very important to us, and I think it is something that contains an enormous amount of potential. Also, we can expand the types of concerts we give — working with mixed media, blending cultural trends and forces, collaborating with other institutions in New York City such as arts and dramatic organizations, theaters, museums, schools. There are a lot of ways in which we can expand our reach in what will hopefully be a consistent philosophical mode; not in a way that would be gratuitous and or extraneous, but which would actually be central to what we, as an orchestra, can mean.

In terms of education, there has been a clear shift. Schools are not spending as much time, energy, or resources on music education. Orchestras are trying to pick up the slack — the Philharmonic already has been very active in this area, with our School Partnership Program and other projects ( — partly because they can, and also because I think it is becoming an essential part of what an orchestra is. In a sense, everything we do is “education.” When we introduce new music to audiences, or when we try to show connections between pieces on a given program that may not be immediately evident, that’s also education. So it’s not really a stretch to expand the function of the modern symphony orchestra to increase actual educational activities. The capacity of musicians to be teachers, to be advocates for music itself, is something we’re tapping into more and more.

Matthew is very committed to all these things and is interested in thinking out of the box, much as I hope to do.

(For more information on Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, visit