Posts Tagged ‘Zukerman’

In Praise of …

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

By Alan Gilbert

I’ve often spoken about the uniquely awesome capacity of the New York Philharmonic, but I really must tip my hat to the musicians for what they have done over the last few weeks.

From Sunday, October 24, through Thursday, November 4, we were on tour in Europe, playing in familiar cities, such as Hamburg, Paris, and Luxembourg, and those that were new to most of the players, such as Belgrade – which the Orchestra hadn’t visited since 1959 – and Vilnius, where we just made our debut. Touring is demanding from a repertoire standpoint: the Orchestra must juggle multiple programs, which are mixed and matched in different combinations. On this particular tour there was some music that we also had to rehearse and perform while on the road. In Warsaw, our second concert featured Yulianna Avdeeva, the recently crowned winner of this year’s Chopin Piano Competition, playing Chopin’s E-minor Piano Concerto. One always feels a frisson of extra pressure when playing music that is both well known and beloved in its native land; in this case, a large ornament that hung above the stage didn’t let us forget how important, how connected to the Polish national psyche Chopin’s music is. (You are even reminded of that fact when you land at the Frederic Chopin International Airport!) Playing the orchestral accompaniment in Chopin’s concertos is far from straightforward, and in this case we had only one rehearsal, for a national broadcast, so it was even more of a challenge, but I must say that the Orchestra’s performance and the soloist’s, of course, were wonderful.

We also rehearsed Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with the tour’s other soloist, Leonidas Kavakos, while we were traveling, although it did help that we had just played the work in New York City with Joshua Bell.

On top of all this, on the day of the tour’s final concert, in Luxembourg, there was a preparatory rehearsal for Mendelssohn’s Elijah, the work that we were going to perform within a week, just after returning home from the tour. Elijah is a fantastic oratorio that combines moments of great drama with music of tremendous warmth and tenderness; at close to two hours and ten minutes, it’s practically an opera in its scope. I heard snatches of Mendelssohn cropping up while the musicians were warming up in the days preceding the work’s tour rehearsal; this wasn’t surprising, because it is what they do, but it was still impressive and gratifying. As if it wasn’t already enough that the musicians had to prepare this massive oratorio in the midst of everything else going on during the tour – they did so amazingly well.

You might think that the Orchestra would deserve a relatively light week upon returning from a European journey, and you would be right. That’s not how it was, though; we had the balance of the Elijah rehearsals and its three performances, and, to top it all off, we threw in a major concert at Carnegie Hall that featured Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, played by Midori, and John Adams’s Harmonielehre. This performance went extremely well, I think, so I couldn’t rightly say that we didn’t have enough rehearsal time for it. Let’s just say that I was amazed by what the musicians were able to accomplish considering how much, or little, preparation time we had.

Incidentally, I also want to observe that we have been lucky this fall to have a veritable parade of some of the greatest violinists in the world playing with us. I mentioned Midori, Kavakos, and Bell, and we also had Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman. The violinistic riches continue this week with Anne-Sophie Mutter – I heard a few minutes of her rehearsal this morning, and know that New York is in for a treat.

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