NYC Notes, Part 4: A Night with the NY Phil at Lincoln Center

Blowhard, Esq. writes:


While in NYC last month I was lucky enough to attend one night of the New York Philharmonic’s inaugural biennial. Hosted and conducted by Alan Gilbert, the program was about 90 minutes long and consisted of three separate works.

The first piece was the world premiere of a short piano concerto by Julia Adolphe called “Dark Sand, Sifting Light” which began colorful and poetic but turns dark and tense. It felt like a piece of a film score for a thriller or horror movie. I wouldn’t be the first to point out that the joys of traditional classical music can be found more in Hollywood film scores than in contemporary concert performances.

The second piece was a violin concerto by Peter Eötvös written specifically for soloist Midori called (punning on her name) “DoReMi”. It was atonal piece that I found difficult to enjoy — anxious, jerky, insistent, punctuated by arbitrary percussive slaps. A soundtrack for your consciousness fracturing or the sound of dishes crashing to the floor while cats screech in the living room. My attention started flagging after about 10 minutes, so I surveyed the crowed and noticed a number of people nodding off (old and young), while others stared into their phones. Ms. Midori certainly enjoyed the piece as her enthusiastic playing caused her to break a bow string. Apparently she has a penchant for that sort of thing.

While all this is going on, I’m scribbling notes on a small pad. During an intermission, the gentleman sitting next to me said, “Excuse me, are you a music critic?” LOLOL, only in my fevered imagination, dude. He and his wife were in from Phoenix to visit the grandchildren.

The final work was the world premiere of Christopher Rouse‘s Fourth Symphony, specifically commissioned for this event. After Eötvös’s petulant work, the first movement of Rouse’s symphony perked up the audience with its ascending strings and horns. There were no memorable melodies during this section, nothing to send you whistling into the night, but the cheeriness was appreciated. The second movement, though, took a somber turn with mournful woodwinds, until the piece slowly and pitifully winds down into silence. Of this work Rouse said, “there’s got to be some kind of expressive message in a piece of music. My caveat is that the message may not necessarily be a happy one, and you have to be open to that.”


The most affecting part of the program, though, wasn’t any of the performances, it was when Gilbert announced that a number of musicians — some of them who had played with the NY Phil for decades — were retiring at the end of the season. A few gave warm speeches of appreciation to the institution and their gratitude was reciprocated by the audience.

Have you been to a classical concert lately? How was it?


About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
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7 Responses to NYC Notes, Part 4: A Night with the NY Phil at Lincoln Center

  1. Three contemporary pieces! You’re a brave man. Great review, even if the music itself wasn’t to your taste.

    My last in-person classical concert was this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Faze says:

    I’m a regular at Cleveland Orchestra concerts. Last week, I was at the orchestra’s fabulous rural outdoor venue, Blossom Music Center, for Liszt’s Concerto No. 2 played by Stephen Hough. A rip-roaring thunderstorm came through. Lightning struck about 50 feet outside the pavilion with a simultaneous crash of thunder that made all 20,000 people in attendance jump — including the orchestra. Fortunately, the lightning hit at the very beginning of a cadenza. Hough was playing a trill at that moment. He kept the trill going until orchestra and audience lowered themselves back into their seats and the buzz died down — the orchestra got it together and finished the piece in fine fashion. For me, any concert that doesn’t include a piece by Beethoven feels like a cheat. Fortunately, that night also featured the overture from Fidelio.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. j3morecharacters says:

    … people nodding off… To avoid that, the score in Israel includes cannon shots, Katyusha explosions, sirenas…


  4. Christine says:

    I went to a spectacular concert by the Pittsburgh Symphony at Carnegie Hall in May.
    Bruckner’s “Ave Maria” followed by the last scene from “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” then James McMillan’s “Woman of the Apocalypse.” After intermission, Act II was a mixture of Gregorian chants, sections from Mozart’s Requiem and other funereal music Mozart composed, with readings from Mozart’s letters by F. Murray Abraham. It was one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended. Grim, moving and beautiful.

    I had a short trip to Venice in June. On my last afternoon I squeezed in a visit to Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore and an organ recital started when I arrived. I can’t remember the composers but I listened to music for twenty minutes then went to the tower to look at the view and the monastery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I still remember an afternoon in Amsterdam. Once a week the Concertgebouw gave a free 30-minute lunchtime performance. It was many years ago, I forget the piece, but it was wonderful to listen to and then walk along the canals.


  5. I used to be a Philadelphia Orchestra regular– worked there– but haven’t attended as much since I started having to pay.

    The most recent performance was a couple years ago. The new Music Director for the Philadelphians did Mozart’s Requiem. It was superb. Just to my liking. A very well-reviewed concert at that. And the community seems to be taking a liking to him, which should be good for ticket sales. I hope.

    So it appears they have gotten a very nice fit with Nézet-Séguin. Sawallisch and Eschenbach were excellent– I preferred the former– but neither was really game for keeping up the Stokowski, Ormandy, Muti streak. I think Yannick might be the man for that job. If he’ll keep it. It’s a shame, but conductors seem much more peripatetic today than in the past.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The Best of UR 2014 | Uncouth Reflections

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