Yannick's fresh look at a classic

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Ricordanza
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Location: Southern New Jersey, USA

Yannick's fresh look at a classic

Post by Ricordanza » Sun Feb 01, 2015 6:01 pm

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Arguably the most famous composition in classical music, and clearly, the piece with the most recognizable opening. We all know how that goes: Da-Da-Da-Dummmm. Hold that note. Da-Da-Da-Dummmm. Hold it again, now, pick up the pace. Da-Da-Da-Dum, Da-Da-Da-Dum, etc. But that’s not what the score says (yes, folks, I looked it up on the Internet—the first time I consulted an orchestral score in connection with any concert I’ve attended). In the score, the fourth note is not held more than one bar. The eighth note is held one extra bar, but there’s no long pause before the rest of the movement begins, nor is there any indication of a tempo change. But these modifications have been added in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of performances over the years for extra dramatic effect.

I was at first taken aback when, on Saturday night, January 31, the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, performed the opening of this iconic work as originally written. And that was just the beginning of a distinctive and intelligent approach to this all too familiar work. The persuasive logic of Yannick’s interpretation is that this symphony, especially the first movement, is dramatic enough as originally conceived, without these well-worn embellishments. At the same time, this was not an attempt to recreate an exact historical version of the work. A full orchestra was used, with modern instruments. But everything was fresh, incisive, with just the right tempos—forward momentum without rushing in the fast movements, and flowing and magisterial in the second movement. And the Philadelphians played magnificently, as they so often do for their music director. Standing ovations have become the norm, but the ovation that followed the especially thrilling finale was one of the most enthusiastic I’ve seen and heard in many years of Philadelphia Orchestra concerts, and one that was decidedly well deserved.

While the Philadelphians’ performance of Beethoven’s Fifth was clearly a highlight, the remainder of the concert was no less enjoyable. Kirill Gerstein, a 35-year-old Russian-born pianist, was the excellent soloist in Shostakovich’s wry and playful Piano Concerto No. 2. Gerstein offered an encore, announcing that he would be playing something “by a composer very much identified with the Philadelphia Orchestra” and proceeded to play a beautiful, lyrical piece by Rachmaninoff that I had never heard before.

The conclusion of the program was another work by Shostakovich, a four-segment suite from the score he wrote for the film, The Gadfly. Nothing particularly deep or musically advanced in this 1955 score, but on first hearing, it’s imaginative and engaging music. The final segment was particularly heroic and stirring, delivered with great spirit by the Philadelphians.

A couple days before this concert, the Philadelphia Orchestra announced that Yannick’s initial contract, originally for five years ending in 2017, had been extended another five years to 2022. This concert was a perfect illustration of why this is welcome news for fans of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

josé echenique
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Joined: Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:01 am

Re: Yannick's fresh look at a classic

Post by josé echenique » Wed Apr 01, 2015 8:47 pm

And this week´s gloriously conducted Met Don Carlo if any more proof is needed.

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