Tuesday, December 02, 2008

New York Philharmonic - Lorin Maazel, conductor; Julia Fischer, violin. November 29, 2008.

Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Third Tier Center (Seat EE5, $48)

Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major, BWV 1046 (ca. 1717-23) by J.S. Bach (1685-1750).
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219, Turkish (1775) by Mozart (1756-91).
Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120 (1841/1851) by Schumann (1810-56).

We bought these tickets a couple of weeks ago (at least we thought we did) so we can spend the evening with Ellie and Kuau. Earlier in the day I couldn't find the tickets, and then discovered I was issued the tickets for Dec 9 (Elektra). Not only did I have no intention of seeing Strauss, I will be out of town on that day anyway. After some frantic wringing of the hands and calling the Box Office, I ended up purchasing new tickets for tonight's concert, and exchange the 4 Elektra tickets for 2 sets of 2 tickets for later concerts. (And ended up spending an additional $280 or so on NY Philharmonic.) All is well that ends well, though.

We drove in to NYC. We had no trouble doing that yesterday for the opera, and Friday after Thanksgiving is usually one of those aweful "gridlock" days. And there was also minimal congestion tonight. Perhaps the economy is really quite bad? We had a simple dinner at China Fun, and Ellie couldn't pass up buying a few cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery.

I am actually not familiar with Brandenburg No. 1. These six concertos were written by Bach as "audition" pieces for a position with the Margrave of (where else) Brandenburg; and Bach ended up not going. The movements are [Allegro]; Adagio; Allegro; Menuet: Trio I - Polacca: Trio II. The solo parts were played by Glenn Dictoerow (violin); Liang Wang, Sherry Sylar, Robert Botti (oboe); Judith LeClair (bassoon); Philip Myers, R. Allen Spanjer (horn); and Lionel Party (harpsichord). There were no flutes (solo or orchestra) in this piece. (Mozart didn't write any parts for flute either in Violin Concerto No. 5.) The performance didn't quite have the tight architecture feel one expects of Bach, the solo parts seemed more like on their own than being part of an integrated piece, and I was particularly disappointed at the solo violin (Dicterow has perfect pitch, per Program Notes). Ellie pointed out the violin was tuned a minor third higher to mimic a period instrument (the piccolo violin). This may or may not explain why it sounded the way it did. Another surprise is that Maazel conducted with the musical score.

The violin concerto is a familiar one, and technically not very challenging. Mozart wrote it when he was nineteen. The movements are Allegro aperto; Adagio; and Rondeau (Tempo di Menuetto). Fischer, at 25, is the youngest professor of violin in Germany. The program doesn't specify the violin she plays, but it didn't sound brilliant enough to be a Stradivarious or soft enough to be an Amati or Guarnerius. The is confirmed by her Wikipedia entry, which says she is also a pianist who has won several prizes in that instrument. Nonetheless, I thought the second and third movements were quite flat.

They rang the bell at about 10 minutes into the intermission so I rushed back to my seat. Turns out the total intermission was about 30 minutes long. Go figure.

Schmann's fourth symphony was written and edited by the composer in the span of 10 years (about his entire symphony-writing period), and he stopped composing soon after completing it. The movements are played without pause: Fairly slow - Lively; Romance: Fairly slow; Scherzo: Lively; and Slow- Lively - Faster - Presto. (Why would the description be in English?) A couple of motifs/themes seem to recur throughout, making the identification of where things are particularly difficult. Maazel conducted both the Mozart and this without music, and he did this with great enthusiasm, and the orchestra responded the same way. The piece was very enjoyable.

Ellie asked me if I was ever impressed with performances I go to. I told her at the end of the program the Schumann would be an example of something done very well.

The New York Times reviewer saw the program on a different date. Fischer was wearing a red dress on that day (black on the day we saw her play). The reviewer was much kinder than I am. Evidently Maazel hasn't done much Baroque music during his tenure with the Philharmonic.

No comments: