Thursday, July 05, 2007

New York Philharmonic – Lorin Maazel, Conductor; Deborah Voight, Soprano. June 23, 2007.

Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Orchestra (Seat GG106, $0.01)


Four Orchestral Songs: “Befreit” (“Set Free”), Op. 39, No. 4 (1898; orch. 1933); “Lied der Frauen” (“Song of the Women”), Op. 68, No. 6 (1918; orch. 1933); “Morgen!” (“Tomorrow!”), Op. 27, No. 4 (1894; orch. 1897) and “Fruhlingsfeier” (“Celebration of Spring”), Op. 56, No. 5 (1903-06; orch. 1933) by R. Strauss (1864-1949).

Symphony No. 7 (1904-05) by Mahler (1860-1911).

About the ticket price. We got two free tickets as a result of our subscriptions to the season. And they were for any available seat in the house. These seats have a good view of the stage and have good acoustics. However, the floor isn't sloped enough for us to have a good view of the orchestra. Mahler's piece calls for all kinds of percussion instruments (including the rute, a bundle of sticks), so a seat with a better view of the section would be interesting.

We saw Deborah Voight earlier this year at the Metropolitan Opera as Helen in Strauss's Opera Helen of Egypt. My comments about her performance there apply here also. She has a voice that projects very well, even against a full orchestra, but it is a bit on the harsh side. I am generally not a “song” person, although the four songs were enjoyable enough, and there were a few tender moments. The program annotator managed to write a rather long article on the pieces, though.

I usually enjoy the way Maazel conducts Mahler. Tonight was no exception. The seventh is an awfully long symphony, advertised in the Notes to be 82 minutes long; the actual performance was close to 90 minutes. Lately I have wondered about Maazel's stamina (he is over 75), he didn't seem to have any problems tonight though.

The Symphony's five movements are Slow – Allegro risoluto, ma non troppo; Night Music: Allegro moderato – Andante; Scherzo: Shadowlike, flowing, but not fast; Night Music: Andante amoroso; and Rondo-Finale: Tempo I (Allegro ordinario – Allegro moderato ma energico). Mahler's inscriptions for his movements are always quite interesting, a mixture of English and Italian in this instance. By my watch, the lengths are respectively 30 minutes, 15, 10, 15 and (without pause) 20.

The first movement was complex and seemed chaotic. There were some miscues, and sometimes the orchestra was barely under control. The second movement was a delight. The third was more serious. The solo violin was featured prominently in the fourth movement. The guitar and mandolin (unusual instruments in a symphony) also participated. They needed microphones in order to be heard over the rest of the orchestra. The viola and other instruments also got solo passages here. The last movement was driven along by the timpani, which got quite a bit of workout tonight.

The crowd gave an enthusiastic ovation. Maazel also pointed out the members who would be retiring this year. There were a couple of people who insisted on letting their displeasure known by louding booing – fortunately the booing was by and large drowned out by the applause.

This was the final series for the season. We haven't renewed our subscription for next year, partially due to not knowing whether we would move out of the area. So there was a bit of melancholy involved also.

See also the New York Times review. The reviewer describes the orchestra as being a car without an engine.