by Nick Stubblefield
If you're an avid musicgoer like me, then chances are good that you're constantly seeking out new music. Sometimes, though, you just want to hear the hits. The New York Philharmonic began their concert last Saturday with Ottorino Respighi's Vetrate di chiesa (Church Windows), full of sweeping horn lines and bell-like sonorities. Though its melodies and harmonic progressions may have been less memorable than Resphigi's other works (Fountains of Rome), it's hard to beat the thrill of feeling the rattle in your ribcage as the full Philharmonic brass blares all at once.
Following was the US Premiere of Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg's Violin Concerto No. 2. Lindberg, who was the New York Phil's Composer-in-Residence from 2009-2012, was present for this performance. He stressed the importance of the interplay between the violin and the orchestra, noting that he did not wish for the orchestra to merely "back up" the violinist, as in some other concertos. Frank Peter Zimmermann took the spotlight, executing some beautifully delicate passages with such a soft touch that he could scarcely be heard.
Conductor Alan Gilbert. Photo by Chris Lee, juilliard.edu
Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) occupied entire second half of the program; frankly, if it had been the only number on the program for the whole night, I doubt you would have heard many complaints. As rendered by the Philharmonic, the work conveyed a galaxy of emotions in thirty-minutes: suspense, wonderment, bitter loneliness, and awe. The horns tongued notes with breathtaking precision, and every accent and attack spiked one's heart rate. Famous for starting a riot upon its premiere in 1913, the piece spawned a standing ovation after this performance. With music director Alan Gilbert at the helm, the orchestra rose to the demands of the work with grace, poise, and thrilling energy.
The Rite of Spring felt so second-nature to orchestra, one could really just sit back in ease and bask in the euphoria. This was a superb musical experience.