At the Philadelphia Orchestra, Something Borrowed....

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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Ricordanza
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Location: Southern New Jersey, USA

At the Philadelphia Orchestra, Something Borrowed....

Post by Ricordanza » Mon May 06, 2013 9:08 pm

Composers are frequent borrowers (musically speaking, of course), sometimes from others and sometimes from themselves. That tendency was clearly in evidence at Saturday night’s Philadelphia Orchestra concert. But it was also a night of originality, as well as the high standard of performance we have come to expect from first year music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

The evening began with a seldom heard excerpt from an even more rarely heard early opera of Richard Strauss, Feuersnot. The “Love Scene” is apparently all that is performed from this opera, and it’s a fine example of Strauss’ tremendous gift for the use of orchestral resources. No borrowing that I could discern in the thematic material, but the influence of Wagner was apparent.

Violinist Hilary Hahn has been an audience favorite in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) since her teen years as a student at the Curtis Institute. Indeed, she made her Philadelphia Orchestra debut in 1993 at age 14. I last heard her in concert in 2001, when she performed the Stravinsky Concerto with the orchestra. On Saturday night, she returned as a world-renowned star to perform Erich Korngold’s melodious and virtuosic Violin Concerto. Korngold first achieved fame as a child prodigy, then as an opera composer, and then as a leading composer of Hollywood film scores. When he wrote this concerto in 1945, he borrowed themes from four of his own film scores in this work. Yes, it does sound at times like music for the movies (as an audience member behind me commented at the end—evidently, he had not read the program notes) but it is still a work that has earned its place in the violin concerto repertoire. Hilary Hahn offered a passionate and engaging performance of this work. We heard what this violinist is noted for—a purity of tone in the lyrical passages, and when it was time for intensity or bravura fireworks, never an ugly note. A work by Bach (a gigue from one of the Partitas?) capped off her enthusiastically received return to the Philadelphia concert stage.

Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 features some borrowing as well. Mahler uses themes from his own songs for the first two movements. The third movement begins with a minor key version of Frère Jacques (known in German as “Bruder Martin”), with a solo by the double bass, and then, even more improbably, the tuba. Later, the movement evolves into what the program notes refer to as a Czech country dance. Well, to these ears, this section sounds much closer to Klezmer music, although I recognize that there is a strong relationship between Klezmer and other Central European folk music. Be that as it may, this hour-long work strikes some as a pastiche of styles and themes, but after repeated listenings, I hear a work of great originality and power. There were some inexact entrances in the first movement, but thereafter, particularly in the varying rhythms of the second movement, Yannick and the orchestra were as one in their splendid performance of this symphony. The finale is one of the most stirring in all of orchestral music, and when the Philadelphians delivered this thrilling conclusion, it brought the entire audience to its feet in a prolonged and thunderous ovation.

Seán
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Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 3:46 pm
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Re: At the Philadelphia Orchestra, Something Borrowed....

Post by Seán » Fri May 31, 2013 2:29 pm

I would have liked to have been there, I enjoyed reading your report, thanks Henry.
Seán

"To appreciate the greatness of the Masters is to keep faith in the greatness of humanity." - Wilhelm Furtwängler

Ricordanza
Posts: 1726
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:58 am
Location: Southern New Jersey, USA

Re: At the Philadelphia Orchestra, Something Borrowed....

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Jun 01, 2013 7:48 am

Seán wrote:I would have liked to have been there, I enjoyed reading your report, thanks Henry.
You're very welcome. I do hope you get a chance to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra in concert someday. Actually, the orchestra is currently touring overseas, but it's in China......which is a few miles from Ireland. :)

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