Wednesday, December 08, 2010

New York Philharmonic – Sir Colin Davis, Conductor. December 7, 2010.

Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, First Tier Center (Seat CC108, $65).

Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36 (1801-1802) by Beethoven (1770-1827).
Adagio molto – Allegro con brio
Scherzo (Allegro)
Allegro molto

Twelve Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy’s Magic Horn; 1892-1901) by Mahler (1860-1911)
The Sentinel’s Nightsong (1892)
St. Anthony of Padua’s Sermon to the Fishes (1893)
The Earthly Life (1892-93)
Solace in Misfortune (1892)
Song of the Persecuted in the Tower (1898)
Who Thought Up This Little Song? (1892)
Reveille (1899)
Little Rhine Legend (1893)
Praise from an Advanced Intellect (1896)
Labor Lost (1892)
The Drummer Boy (1901)
Where the Fair Trumpets Sound (1898)
Dorothea Roschmann, Soprano
Ian Bostridge, Tenor

There were still tickets available during the morning of the concert, so I was glad to see the auditorium reasonably filled when the program began (about 85% I’d say). It has been unusually cold these last few days, luckily we didn’t have to go outside to get to Avery Fisher Hall once we got on the train in South Amboy. The walk from the subway station to Avery Fisher is not air-conditioned, and it felt cold. Dinner was a quick bite at McDonald’s at Penn Station.

The Beethoven symphony was premiered together with the first, and sounded very early-Beethoven (stating the obvious here), with the exception of the last movement. It is not heard very often, although parts of it sounded familiar. Davis at 80+ had a good standing posture and conducted with visible energy, however, I found most of the movement not “con brio” enough. A reduced-size orchestra was used, perhaps to more conform with the practice of the period. The last movement was generally delightful, the orchestra sounded a bit rushed at times, though.

The poems of The Boy’s Magic Horn were written by Clemens Bretano and Achim von Arnim. Mahler incorporated some of the poems in his symphonies, and set some others to songs. The title gives no indication of what the individual poems are like; turns out some are comedic, some macabre, and some sad. Most of them are close to being tonal, quite easy to enjoy – not so easy to pick up, though.

The tenor has an interesting background: he was doing post-doctoral work in history when he decided to become a singer. Unfortunately, having a great intellect does not automatically make a singer great. He was simply overwhelmed by the orchestra and didn’t come through at all. It would work out better during periods the orchestra played softly, but I still had to strain to listen to him. The soprano’s voice projected much better.

I also noticed that Thomas Stacy's name is no longer on the orchestra's roster. A search of the web indicated that he retired as the orchestra's English Horn player in October. I find the situation curious, what with Qiang Tu vacating his endowed chair, the orchestra seems to be going through some changes.

The New York Times review is very much like mine, albeit written more professionally.