Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New York Philharmonic – Charles Dutoit, conductor; Andre Watts, piano. April 26, 2008.

Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Orchestra 1 (Seat O6, $59).


Overture to Le nozze di Figaro, K. 492 (1786) by Mozart (1756-91).

Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15 (ca. 1795/1800) by Beethoven (1770-1827).

Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 (1940) by Rachmaninoff (1873-1943).

La Valse (1919-20) by Ravel (1875-1937).

We got tickets to this concert because we wanted to hear Martha Arguerich, whom we had heard several times before. But she had taken ill and Andre Watts was asked to substitute. Andre Watts is a well-regraded pianist, so it was no disappointment at all for us. Beethoven's first piano concerto (which turns out wasn't the first he wrote, it is his second) did not have the flourish of his later piano works, I would even attribute it to Mozart if I didn't know the work.

In any case, Watts played very well. His playing had a very well defined structure to it, phrasing was exquisite. The full dynamic range of the piano was utilized. We were seated quite close to the stage, so we could tell he enjoyed playing as much as the audience enjoyed listening to him.

The short piece that began the program was a light-hearted piece. We usually hear it as a “real” overture (i.e., part of an opera performance.) Good as the Met Opera's Orchestra is, the New York Philharmonic managed to make them look like amateurs. While this is a relatively simple piece, it does make one appreciate how good the Philharmonic can be.

The rest of the program was quite enjoyable. Rachmaninoff's Dances didn't sound like his usual melodic piano concertos or symphonies, but were nonetheless pleasant. Ravel evidently had a habit of writing “tribute” music, in this case (evidently) to the Viennese Waltz. However, the events of the time made him quite disillusioned about the decadent lifestyle of that period, so the piece showed a “dark side,” which made it quite interesting.

Unfortunately I am writing this about three weeks after the concert, so don't remember much of how I felt about the concert. That's the whole point of having these written blogs, isn't it?

Dutoit, whom I had always thought was French or Canadian, turned out to be Swiss. Anne noticed the hairpiece he was wearing. The texture was similar to the rest of his hair, but the color match could have been better. Now I cannot get the image off my mind! He did put out an enjoyable performance, though.

See the New York Times review. The reviewer thinks highly of Dutoit and the program also; it is interesting to note that in the reviewer's opinion the pairing between Dutoit and the Philharmonic didn't work so well in the 80s.

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