by Caroline Sanchez
Having only ever seen the New York Philharmonic in outdoor venues as part of their Concerts in the Parks series, I can technically call Saturday night’s concert my first Phil-in-Fisher experience. It was no wonder that the Phil played to a packed Avery Fisher Hall, as the concert featured crowd-favorite composers Stravinsky, Prokoviev, Dukas, and Kodály, as well as a pair of top-notch guest artists, the conductor Lionel Bringuier and solo violinist Leonidas Kavakos.
The concert began with the familiar Sorcerer's Apprentice, the orchestral interpretation of Goethe’s fictional poem made famous in 1940 by Disney’s Fantasia. From the onset, Bringuier’s musical interpretation was received well by the orchestra; he was sensitive without being overly flashy, giving him the ability to enhance the comic quality found in Dukas’ score.
Any fantasy created by Dukas’ work was sharply contrasted by the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2, performed by visiting soloist Leonidas Kavakos. Known for his long, winding melodic lines, Prokofiev created melodies in the concerto that hauntingly linger, grounded by unexpected harmonies and mechanical backing rhythms. Taking on the solo like a true virtuoso, Kavakos embodied the yearning and complexity that surrounds Prokofiev’s music, compelling the audience through all three movements.
Stravinsky's Firebird can be identified as the ballet that started it all for the young composer, its success paving the way for several other commissions from the Ballets Russes, including The Rite of Spring and Petrushka. The Philharmonic provided a most visceral experience for the audience, triggering everything from head nods to shudders and gasps. The third movement and the final movement were a real highlight for Lionel Bringuier, whose slight variation in tempo confirmed that his conducting was not only pleasant to watch but musically effective, never getting in the way of the power of the music being created.
Information about the final performance of this program can be found on the event page at the Phil's website.