Something to Prove at the NYPhil

by Sedgwick Clark

Lionel Bringuier, an exuberant 26-year-old Frenchman with an apparent need to prove something, conducted the Philharmonic last Thursday (6/13) in an entertaining program of conservative 20th-century music at Avery Fisher Hall. The cartoonish side of Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was appropriately raucous, but the achingly slow, rubato-laden treatment of the Assez lent intro would have been better suited to the Tristan Prelude. Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto, with Leonidas Kavakos the exemplary soloist, received a fine accompaniment. Kodály’s Dances of Galánta seemed more stop and go than usual; the tempo changes are in the score, to be sure, but the older Hungarian conductors on record had more convincing ebb and flow in their blood. Stravinsky’s 1919 Firebird Suite was a crowd pleaser, as always.

Still, I wonder if the Philharmonic players liked their young conductor? The violins were accurate but coarse in tone throughout. Perhaps his just-ending, six-year tenure as resident conductor of the LAPhil in the velvety acoustic of Disney Hall didn’t prepare him for Fisher Hall’s uningratiating fortissimos. Moreover, the orchestra’s virtuoso French horn player Philip Myers, reverting to his misbehaving pre-Masur days, was at least four times too loud in his f espr. solo on the second page of the Kodály, and parts of the Firebird sounded like a horn concerto. None of the musicians applauded until Bringuier asked the woodwinds to stand for final bows.  

A colleague who heard the Friday afternoon concert of the identical program reported that the objectionable details above appeared to have been toned down overnight, but that the Dukas was deficient in humor and the Kodály in gaiety.

Happy Birthday, James Levine

Having celebrated James Levine’s 40th year at the Met last year with 21 DVD and 32 CD box sets of his hand-picked performances, the company is lighting candles for his 70th birthday this weekend with 14 of his favorite performances on Met Opera Radio, Sirius XM Channel 74. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

6 a.m. ET. Un Ballo in Maschera (Verdi) from January 26, 1991. Levine conducts Aprile Millo (Amelia), Luciano Pavarotti (Riccardo), Leo Nucci (Renato), Florence Quivar (Ulrica), Harolyn Blackwell (Oscar).

9 a.m. ET. Salome (Richard Strauss) from January 5, 1974. Levine conducts Grace Bumbry (Salome), Ragnar Ulfung (Herod), Regina Resnik (Herodias), Lawrence Shadur (Jochanaan), William Lewis (Narraboth).

12 p.m. ET. The Ghosts of Versailles (Corigliano) from January 4, 1992. Levine conducts Teresa Stratas (Marie Antoinette), Håkan Hagegård (Beaumarchais), Gino Quilico (Figaro), Marilyn Horne (Samira), Graham Clark (Bégearss), Renée Fleming (Rosina).

3 p.m. ET. Fidelio (Beethoven) from January 6, 2001. Levine conducts Karita Mattila (Leonore), Ben Heppner (Florestan), Sergei Leiferkus (Don Pizarro), René Pape (Rocco), Hei-Kyung Hong (Marzelline), Matthew Polenzani (Jaquino).

6 p.m. ET. Falstaff (Verdi) from April 5, 1975. Levine conducts Cornell MacNeil (Sir John Falstaff), Evelyn Lear (Alice Ford), Thomas Stewart (Ford), Fedora Barbieri (Dame Quickly), Benita Valente (Nannetta), Douglas Ahlstedt (Fenton).

9 p.m. ET. Die Zauberflöte (Mozart) from February 9, 1991. Levine conducts Kathleen Battle (Pamina), Francisco Araiza (Tamino), Luciana Serra (Queen of the Night), Kurt Moll (Sarastro), Manfred Hemm (Papageno), Barbara Kilduff (Papagena).

12 a.m. ET. Pelléas et Mélisande (Debussy) from January 22, 1983. Levine conducts Dale Duesing (Pelléas), Jeannette Pilou (Mélisande), José Van Dam (Golaud), Jerome Hines (Arkel), Jocelyne Taillon (Geneviève).

 Sunday, June 23, 2013

 6 a.m. ET. La Forza del Destino (Verdi) from March 12, 1977. Levine conducts Leontyne Price (Leonora), Plácido Domingo (Don Alvaro), Cornell MacNeil (Don Carlo), Martti Talvela (Padre Guardiano), Rosalind Elias (Preziosilla), Renato Capecchi (Fra Melitone).

9 a.m. ET. Carmen (Bizet) from March 21, 1987. Levine conducts Agnes Baltsa (Carmen), José Carreras (Don José), Ileana Cortrubas (Micaëla), Samuel Ramey (Escamillo).

12 p.m. ET. Idomeneo (Mozart) from December 21, 1991. Levine conducts Ben Heppner (Idomeneo), Dawn Upshaw (Ilia), Susanne Mentzer (Idamante), Carol Vaness (Elettra), Peter Kazaras (Arbace).

3 p.m. ET. I Vespri Siciliani (Verdi) from March 9, 1974. Levine conducts Montserrat Caballé (Elena), Nicolai Gedda (Arrigo), Sherrill Milnes (Guido di Monforte), Justino Díaz (Giovanni da Procida).

6 p.m. ET. The Rake’s Progress (Stravinsky) from January 17, 1998. Levine conducts Jerry Hadley (Tom Rakewell), Dawn Upshaw (Anne Trulove), Samuel Ramey (Nick Shadow), Stephanie Blythe (Baba the Turk).

9 p.m. ET. The Bartered Bride (Smetana) from December 2, 1978. Levine conducts Teresa Stratas (Marenka), Nicolai Gedda (Jeník), Jon Vickers (Vasek), Martti Talvela (Kecal).

12 a.m. ET. Stiffelio (Verdi) from March 5, 1994. Levine conducts Plácido Domingo (Stiffelio), Sharon Sweet (Lina), Vladimir Chernov (Stankar), Paul Plishka (Jorg), Peter Riberi (Raffaele).

Looking Forward

My week’s scheduled concerts (8:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted):

6/20 at 7:30. Avery Fisher Hall. New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert; Emanuel Ax, piano. Haydn: Concerto No. 11 in D major. Christopher Rouse: Symphony No. 3. Wagner (arranged by Alan Gilbert, after Erich Leinsdorf) A Ring Journey.

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