Esa-Pekka Salonen and the NY Philharmonic

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John F
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Esa-Pekka Salonen and the NY Philharmonic

Post by John F » Tue Sep 29, 2015 4:50 am

Three debuts: Salonen as the NY Phil's composer in residence, Frank Huang as its new concertmaster, and David Allen, who may have written previous Times reviews but I missed them. This one seems to me a cut above the Times's recent standard, which is very welcome.

Review: New York Philharmonic Performs Esa-Pekka Salonen’s ‘L.A. Variations’
By DAVID ALLEN
SEPT. 27, 2015

Esa-Pekka Salonen has started seeing a new orchestra, but on his first dates he’s still talking about an old flame. After three film screenings and a gala, the New York Philharmonic’s subscription season finally began on Friday with Mr. Salonen’s “L.A. Variations,” part of a brief and underwhelming program conducted by Alan Gilbert at David Geffen Hall. A showpiece dating from 1996 that marks an important evolution in Mr. Salonen’s style, “L.A. Variations” reflects all that was happy about the composer’s time in California. It was written with the players of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in mind, a band which, as a conductor, he led between 1992 and 2009.

But it’s not yet clear what this king of Finnish cool is looking for in New York. The concert began his three-year appointment as the orchestra’s composer in residence. That suggests a fling, although it’s hardly no strings attached: He has already helped organize this year’s Contact! programs, and he’s involved in planning the Philharmonic’s 2016 Biennial. Even so, rumors persist that something more is in the cards. The Philharmonic, still searching for a music director to replace Mr. Gilbert, remains silent.

In the meantime we have an ungainly, if friendly, partnership. During an impromptu analytical lecture on Friday night, with Mr. Gilbert awkwardly ceding the stage beside him, Mr. Salonen looked poised, even eager to jump onto the podium and show how his composition worked. You could be forgiven for wishing he had: Mr. Gilbert’s account of “L.A. Variations” felt more like a study than a performance.

With this piece, Mr. Salonen shifts the affable modernism of his youth toward his later, warmer brilliance, cleverly building out from two hexachords, announced like a Big Bang in the work’s first bars. Those 12 notes could be treated as a serialist structure, in the Boulezian manner, or as the basis for some handsomely melodic, chromatic writing. The tension between the two is technically impressive, and immense fun.

As in Mr. Salonen’s more recent compositions, you get the impression that he’s enjoying imagining what an orchestra can do. He throws propulsive, Stravinskian rhythms at his forces, then urges them to outdo Ravel in lush string writing. He lobs ideas around, from a creepily orchestrated theme he calls “synthetic folk” to a juggernaut for timpani, log drums and roto-toms. There are two chorales and two canons, one in multiple tempos. And it all coalesces in a way that’s at once impeccably original and more than a nod to the influence of Ligeti and Carter, Mahler and Sibelius.

Even, perhaps, to another composer-conductor, Richard Strauss. His “Ein Heldenleben” took up the rest of the program, a welcome mat laid out for Frank Huang, the Philharmonic’s polished new concertmaster. Its long solos less than generously depict Strauss’s wife, Pauline, in hectoring, flirtatious lines. They can be a graveyard for tasteless violinists, but Mr. Huang’s touch was sensitive, his portrayal characterful but not melodramatic. Mr. Gilbert’s reading had a good sense to it, too, but without a final varnish of glamour it turned dour and overbearing.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/28/arts/ ... tions.html
John Francis

Modernistfan
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Re: Esa-Pekka Salonen and the NY Philharmonic

Post by Modernistfan » Mon Oct 05, 2015 3:59 pm

I just can't see Salonen, whom I really like, getting the job as music director in New York even if he would accept another music directorship at a major American orchestra. The scuttlebutt (and I do not have anything further to back this up) is that the powers that be, including the board, were unhappy with Alan Gilbert for a number of reasons, including Gilbert's concentration on unusual or contemporary repertoire. It would seem that the powers that be want to go back to the old-time stodginess and want to ensure that the major emphasis of the NYPO programming is on the usual safe, familiar, ultra-comfy repertoire that appeals to the elderly season-ticket holders: Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, rinse and repeat. For this crowd, even Carl Nielsen is just too difficult to take, much less Ligeti or Magnus Lindberg. (Note that Salonen is a huge champion of both these terrifying modernists (and has also recorded a complete Nielsen symphony cycle that I am trying to find.))

If anyone has any further information on this, I would appreciate posting it.

jbuck919
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Re: Esa-Pekka Salonen and the NY Philharmonic

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Oct 05, 2015 7:32 pm

Modernistfan wrote: For this crowd, even Carl Nielsen is just too difficult to take, much less Ligeti or Magnus Lindberg. (Note that Salonen is a huge champion of both these terrifying modernists (and has also recorded a complete Nielsen symphony cycle that I am trying to find.))

If anyone has any further information on this, I would appreciate posting it.
Um? http://www.amazon.com/Salonen-Conducts- ... B002KPW484

I'm not the right person to be talking to about symphonestravaganza. I listened to Bruckner's Seventh on the way back from the Albany airport late yesterday and it's just a good thing it did not push me over the edge to falling asleep at the wheel. Yet Andris Nelsons in Boston was there for multiple section-by-section ovations when it was over. (Apparently owning Wagner tubas to play a Bruckner symphony lifts an organization into another class.)

Did I post this just to sound like my old peevish self with regard to much accepted orchestral repertoire? No. It is because you mentioned Ligeti and Lindberg in the same phrase. One is a challenging composer who commands attention for as long as his like is taken seriously. The other, however talented, is one more run-of-the-mill neo-Romantic flash in the pan.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

lennygoran
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Re: Esa-Pekka Salonen and the NY Philharmonic

Post by lennygoran » Mon Oct 05, 2015 8:12 pm

jbuck919 wrote: it's just a good thing it did not push me over the edge to falling asleep at the wheel.
What's the worry-don't you have one of the self driving cars 60 minutes featured last night?

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/self-drivin ... 0-minutes/

Regards, Len :)

THEHORN
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Re: Esa-Pekka Salonen and the NY Philharmonic

Post by THEHORN » Mon Oct 12, 2015 7:00 pm

I for one would NOT want a conductor to succeed Gilbert who gave audiences nothing but the same old warhorses .
This would be deadly , even if some audience members would be pleased .
In fact, even before Gilbert, the New York Philharmonic's programming has long been much more adventurous than most other orchestras . Whether under music directors or guest conductors, they have done much more new or recent music than most other orchestras for decades, all the way back to Boulez and Mehta . Not to mention lots of interesting rarities from the past .
The New York Phil. does play standard repertoire, but critics who accuse it of being "stodgy " in our time are way off base !

piston
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Re: Esa-Pekka Salonen and the NY Philharmonic

Post by piston » Mon Oct 12, 2015 7:25 pm

That's not what I've been hearing on NPR's New York Philharmonic's weekly performances this year. Of course, there may be the obligatory gesture toward the "contemporary" piece, here and there. But the programming has been extremely conservative, far more so than the CSO or the BSO. Lots and lots of Beethoven, Rach, etc. Little exploration even in the Romantic period; just heavy on the standard Romantic repertoire. I'm not impressed at all. Is it a funding-related situation? Perhaps, but I can't prove that.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

THEHORN
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Re: Esa-Pekka Salonen and the NY Philharmonic

Post by THEHORN » Mon Oct 12, 2015 8:00 pm

So far for this season, which is just beginning, the programming looks heavy on standard repertoire, but things could be getting more interesting later .
Within the last 40 years or so, the NY Phil. has played music by just about every significant composer of our time who has written orchestral music You name the living or recently deceased composer, and they've played something by him or her .
John Adams, Glass, Penderecki, Carter, Messiaen, Lutowslawki, Bolcom, Thomas Ades, Tristan Murail, Nico Muhly, Sofia Gubaidullina, Rodion Shchedrin ,
Corigliano, Boulez , Wolfgang Rihm, Tan Dun, Unsuk Chin, Peter Maxwell Davies, Henze, Salonen, Magnus Lindberg,
Dutilleaux, Kaaia Saariaho, Arvo Part, Osvaldo Golijov, and so forth . This list doesn't come close to naming all the different contemporary composers whose music they've done .

piston
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Re: Esa-Pekka Salonen and the NY Philharmonic

Post by piston » Mon Oct 12, 2015 8:09 pm

From a long term perspective, the NYP has been at the cutting edge. Leonard Bernstein certainly wasn't afraid of bringing all kinds of new music to people's attention.

From the short term perspective of New York's financial woes in classical music, it's a different story.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

jbuck919
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Re: Esa-Pekka Salonen and the NY Philharmonic

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Oct 12, 2015 10:13 pm

THEHORN wrote:So far for this season, which is just beginning, the programming looks heavy on standard repertoire, but things could be getting more interesting later .
Within the last 40 years or so, the NY Phil. has played music by just about every significant composer of our time who has written orchestral music You name the living or recently deceased composer, and they've played something by him or her .
John Adams, Glass, Penderecki, Carter, Messiaen, Lutowslawki, Bolcom, Thomas Ades, Tristan Murail, Nico Muhly, Sofia Gubaidullina, Rodion Shchedrin ,
Corigliano, Boulez , Wolfgang Rihm, Tan Dun, Unsuk Chin, Peter Maxwell Davies, Henze, Salonen, Magnus Lindberg,
Dutilleaux, Kaaia Saariaho, Arvo Part, Osvaldo Golijov, and so forth . This list doesn't come close to naming all the different contemporary composers whose music they've done .
Let's see, 40 divided by 26 = hmmm. ;)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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