My Big Weekend (VPO, Philly, Gewandhaus)

Have you been to a concert somewhere in the world recently? Share your thoughts with us about the performance, the more details the better!

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Barry
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My Big Weekend (VPO, Philly, Gewandhaus)

Post by Barry » Sun Mar 04, 2007 8:36 pm

The concert schedule worked out well for me this weekend. I had initially planned on going to NYC to hear Barenboim and the Vienna Philharmonic play Wagner excerpts and Schumann's fourth today, but because the Gewandhaus was here in Philly this afternoon, I went to NYC for the Friday VPO program of Schubert's fifth and Bruckner's seventh symphonies instead.
Now I'm a huge Bruckner fan and have never cared that much for the Schubert symphonies other than the "Great" and "Unfinished." So I went mainly for the Bruckner, but much to my surprise, I wound up being even more impressed with the way the VPO performed Schubert's fifth; that being like they were born to play it. The Vienna string players had a delightful way of leaning into a phrase to give it more emphasis; especially in the first movement. It reminded me of the way they played the Mozart 36th on the DVD with Kleiber conducting. That's another piece I could generally take or leave (I'm just not a big classical period fan other than mid and late period Beethoven), but which the VPO made me love, at least for that performance. They were also in very good form for the Bruckner 7th, but Barenboim's tempos were a tad faster than I prefer. Every time I started to really wallow in a phrase, he'd move on to the next one a little sooner that I was expecting (based on my favorite recordings of the piece) and breaking the mood for me. He also had the trombones and tuba playing a bit too loudly at times. I prefer the brass to blend in more in Bruckner. But still, it was certainly not a bad performance by any means. In fact, some of the climaxes, like the coda of the first movement and big one late in the second movement were absolutely breathtaking.
Saturday night, it was on to the Philadelphia Orchestra here at home. There was a definate feeling that this was a special occassion in the air. Dutoit was conducting his first set of concerts here since being named the Orchestra's interim chief conductor, Argerich was the soloist and the house was packed (it's usually closer to 80-90 percent full). I've said before that I've seen Dutoit conduct many times and have never been a huge fan of his. He tends to leave me cold interpretively. But both he and the Orchestra rose to the occassion Saturday. My mother is a fairly casual music fan, but she goes to maybe five or six concerts per season. She came up to me right after the concert and immediately said that the Orchestra sounded very much like they did under Sawallisch; meaning the Philadelphia Sound was in full bloom. And it certainly was. This was unquestionbly the best concert I've ever been to when Dutoit has been on the podium, and it may have been the best the Orchestra has sounded all season. They couldn't have played Finlandia or R-K's Scheherazade any better than they did. The various principals were spectacular in Scheherazade and the strings were as lush as one would expect from this orchestra. Scheherazade is one of my very favorite pieces and this was a performance I won't soon forget (I don't think I've ever said that about a Dutoit-led performance before either). Argerich was also in outstanding form in the Beethoven 2nd concerto. As the VPO did for Schubert's fifth, she made me sit up and take notice of a piece I generally can take or leave. She was so damn powerful and fast, and also played the slower parts with great beauty. An encore followed; something by Bach, but I'm not sure what. I came away from the concert convinced that the Orchestra's management made a smart move in bringing in Dutoit for a few years until they find a longterm conductor. Even if he doesn't lead many more concerts as exciting as this one, he'll keep the Orchestra in top form and let them play with their patented sound. I'm an Eschenbach fan, but I like him for his exciting interpretations of things like Mahler and Shostakovich symphonies. He doesn't bring out the Philadelphia Sound to the extent that Sawallisch did or Dutoit apparently does (and he said in a recent interview that one of his goals will be to restore that sound).

Today, the Gewandhaus was in Philly to perform Schumann's first and Mahler's fifth symphonies under Chailly. The Schumann was first. While I can't say there was anything wrong with it, I wouldn't say there was anything special about the performance either. The Orchestra played with precission, but I think I still had the sound of the VPO and Philly bands in my head, and the Gewandhaus strings suffered at least a little by comparison. But boy did they give a spectacular performance of Mahler's fifth after intermission. It really brought the house down. I thought the principal trumpet was a tad too loud with some of his solo passages at the beginning, but that's about the only negative thing I can say about the entire performance. The Gewandhaus sounded huge during the climaxes. The brass projected amply, but for the most part, they didn't blair over the strings. They blended in nicely, just the way I like.

It was a spectacular weekend for me that lived up to and even surpassed my high expectations. The Schubert fifth by the VPO, Scheherazade by Philly and Mahler's fifth by the Gewandhaus were all spectacularly good performances; not that the other pieces on the programs were played poorly by any means.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbp0hur ... re=related

Ralph
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Post by Ralph » Mon Mar 05, 2007 10:12 am

What a terrific weekend! Thanks for the full report.
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Werner
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Post by Werner » Mon Mar 05, 2007 2:34 pm

I wanted to give you a reply to your excellent reciew last night but lost it for some unexplained reason. So here goes again:

It looks like you struck it rich, Barry. Don't know how many of these weekends you can take, but once in a while it's great, isn't it? And I enjoyed the enthusiasm and appreciation with which you reported. I'm impressed by your musical commentaries.

One thing that struck me is your earlier reservations regarding Schubert, as compared to your enthusiasm for Bruckner and Mahler. If Barenboim and the VPO brought out something more for you in the Fifth, that's great. I've always had a feeling that there is much of Schubert in Bruckner and Mahler - that without Schubert's "heavenly lengths" and chains of modulations, we might have no Bruckner or Mahler. Does that make sense to you?

Somehow, the Bethoven Secod Concerto seems to be a calling card for Argerich - I'm not certain but it seems to be more so than anything else. I've heard her do it several times - and I'll gladly hear her do it again. Of course you know that this Second Concerto is actually the first in time of composition but the C Major one was published first (Opus 15 vs. 19.) By a coincidence not otherwise explained the same thing happened with the two Chopin concerti - op. 11 and 21.

Anyway, a weekend of great music - here's wishing you many more!
Werner Isler

Barry
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Post by Barry » Mon Mar 05, 2007 2:51 pm

Thanks Werner. Yes, your point in Schubert does make sense. I just wasn't expecting to react so positively to the Schubert and a little less enthusiastically to the Bruckner (just a couple strictly subjective issues I had with Barenboim's interpretation and the way he had the low-end brass sounding). Still, it was clear that the VPO is a majestic orchestra.

On Argerich, I was talking with some people in the Philadelphia Orchestra rush ticket line Saturday about her repertoire and that I wish she'd expand it. I'd love to hear what she'd do with the Brahms concertos. But again, as the VPO did with the Schubert, Martha elevated a piece that isn't normally a favorite of mine to a higher level and made the listening experience a positive one for me. Having my mini binoculars to get a good look at her keyboard work helped too.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbp0hur ... re=related

mickey
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Post by mickey » Tue Mar 06, 2007 4:21 pm

first off, new forum member here.

secondly, i had the opportunity to see both friday afternoon and saturday evening's performance by dutoit and the philadelphia orchestra. spectacular if must say. friday was very good, saturday was great.

as stated by the op, argerich played the beethoven piece wonderfully. i too can take or leave that piece but argerich's performance got my attention..

as for the encore it was bach's english suite no 2 V. Bourrée I and VI. Bourree II - Bourrée I da Capo

argerich unfortunately hasto cancel her performances in boston this week as she is exhausted, however she will play tonight in philly before heading home on doctors orders
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Barry
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Post by Barry » Tue Mar 06, 2007 6:02 pm

Thanks for the information on the Argerich encores.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbp0hur ... re=related

Lance
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Post by Lance » Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:26 pm

mickey wrote:first off, new forum member here.

secondly, i had the opportunity to see both friday afternoon and saturday evening's performance by dutoit and the philadelphia orchestra. spectacular if must say. friday was very good, saturday was great.

as stated by the op, argerich played the beethoven piece wonderfully. i too can take or leave that piece but argerich's performance got my attention..

as for the encore it was bach's english suite no 2 V. Bourrée I and VI. Bourree II - Bourrée I da Capo

argerich unfortunately hasto cancel her performances in boston this week as she is exhausted, however she will play tonight in philly before heading home on doctors orders
Mickey - a BIG WELCOME to our boards. Glad you made it over. Thank you for the information. I'm a huge Argerich fan, as are many others, of course! Hope you enjoy yourself amongst us.
Lance G. Hill
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Bob
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Post by Bob » Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:54 pm

For any who are interested, the encore (English Suite #2 in a, BWV 807, Bouree I/II) Martha Argerich played in NY and Philly have also been recorded, some as part of live performances. The ones I know of are:

Accord 13 305-2 Bourees only
DG 453 572-2 (also on other DG releases)
EMI 7243 5 56975 2 3 Bourees only
Artists FED 070

These are each reflected below in the following more complete listing from the Paul Geffen (et al) Argerich discography.

English Suite #2 in a, BWV 807

(Venice, 10 February, live -- no year, but the probably same vintage as other performances)
Artists FED 70
Fonit Cetra 9075 022
Palladio PD4220

[ Bourrées only ] (Amsterdam, Concertgebouw, May 7 1978)
EMI 56975) (Live) (CD)
Musical Heritage Society MHS 516001L (CD)
EMI [Japan] TOCE 55385 (CD) or TOCE 55102 (CD)

(Berlin, Studio Lankwitz, February 1979)
DG 2531088 or 423880 (CD) or 453572 (CD) or 463028 (CD) or 463604 (CD) or 463028 (CD) or 463604 (CD)
DG [Japan] POCG30159 (CD)

[Bourrées only] (Warsaw, 5-8 December 1979)
Accord [Polsak] ACD 020 (CD)
PolyGram [Polska] 011 305 (CD>

Bob

Ralph
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Post by Ralph » Thu Mar 08, 2007 9:31 pm

Great to see you here, Mickey. Please post often!
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