Gilbert Conducts Salonen and Strauss

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic. Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic. (Chris Lee)

Thursday at 9 pm, listen to music director Alan Gilbert lead the New York Philharmonic in a pair of works written nearly a century apart. First, you'll hear Esa-Pekka Salonen's L.A. Varations, which he wrote for that city's philharmonic while he was its music director. Salonen is currently the N.Y. Philharmonic's Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence.

Richard Strauss's epic tone poem, Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Journey) follows, featuring concertmaster Frank Huang in the solo violin parts. 

Program Details:

Conductor: Alan Gilbert
Soloist: Frank Huang, violin

Salonen: L.A. Variations

Strauss: Ein Heldenleben

Comments [1]

Les from Miami, Florida

Hearing Salonen's "L.A. Variations" just once is provocation enough to hear it several times, so intriguing are the harmonies and the way they're voiced throughout the orchestra. I couldn't help but think how much this work cries out for choreography telling a ballet story: the rhythmic passages prompted me to think that, whether Mr. Salonen would countenance that view or not. I'm hard pressed to think of another composition whose harmonies resemble "L.A. Variations"; and the massed forces from the start diminishing to a single instrument (piccolo, I think) concluding with what sound like two grace notes is another point that makes it unique. R. Strauss's "Ein Heldenleben" has a long history with the predecessor of the New York Philharmonic in that it was played by its dedicate'e Willem Mengelberg, himself a Philharmonic music director. The recording made by him and the Orchestra in 1928 for the Victor company reveals the tendency for more portamento in the strings than heard today (if at all) and a tendency to accelerate phrase endings (played by the flutes, oboes, English horn and clarinets), most evident 15 bars before the dominant seventh chord on B flat that immediately precedes the "critics' mocking" in the solo flute. Frank Huang's violin solos are excellent, as were those of his distant predecessor, Scipione Guidi; likewise the principal horn solos of (presumably) Philip Myers and his predecessor Bruno Jaenicki. For me, there seemed to be a lethargy and perfunctory of tempo from the beginning up until the "battle music" begins. The portamentos asked of the 'cellos and contrabasses weren't that pronounced; and the five sixteenth note figuration in the bassoons, contrabassoon, horns 2 and 4, tenor tuba, 'cellos and contrabasses two bars after rehearsal number 97 (Eulenburg study score) were too fast to hear five accented notes as called for. The references to "Don Juan", "Also sprach Zarathustra", "Don Quixote" and "Tod und Verkla"rung" were well articulated and I continually marvel at how these references were placed in the work as adroitly as they are. There was much to delight in in this performance. "Ein Heldenleben" has long been a test of and showpiece for conductors and orchestras: Artur Rodzinski conducted it with the NBC Symphony Orchestra before Arturo Toscanini's initial appearance to be sure all was in readiness. Toscanini conducted it in 1941; and Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony's recording is another testament to their own excellence but also to the inventiveness and fecundity of the composer.

Apr. 16 2016 09:40 PM

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