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Hall of the Giants: Beethoven, Mozart and Zemlinsky

Updated on January 20, 2012
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New York Philharmonic Pictures

The New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall
The New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall | Source
Orchestra Picture
Orchestra Picture | Source
Nuria Pomares performs with the New York Philharmonic
Nuria Pomares performs with the New York Philharmonic | Source
The violinist Julian Rachlin performing Thursday with the New York Philharmonic, led by Lorin Maazel.
The violinist Julian Rachlin performing Thursday with the New York Philharmonic, led by Lorin Maazel. | Source

The evening of November the 6th, 2009 was definitely one those memorable occasions. On that beautiful evening, the New York Philharmonic played the Overtures to the Creature of Prometheus by Ludwig Van Beethoven, the Prague Symphony by Wolfgang Mozart and the Lyric Symphony by Alexander Zemlinsky in Avery Fisher Hall. Neeme Jarvi conducted the concert, while the renowned American baritone Thomas Hampson and Swedish Soprano Hillevi Martinpelto also made an appearance.

Jarvi started with the Overtures to the Creatures of Prometheus promptly and conducted it splendidly. The 5 minutes of the overture held the audience spell bound as they imagined Prometheus stealing fire from the gods. The opening trumpets and violins captured the attention to audience quickly. The violins and violas played in tune along with woodwinds and repeated the theme wonderfully. The Oboes did an exceptional job by playing slowly, harmoniously and crisply. The call and response between the descending violins and ascending woodwinds was done amazingly. The crescendo was executed perfectly by the woodwinds. The flutes also played very clearly and their timing was also good. The accelerando near the end was brought to a good conclusion with the Oboe and Timpani doing an excellent job.

After Beethoven, Jarvi conducted the Prague Symphony or Symphony number 38 in D major. Unlike the Mozart’s traditional 4 movement symphonies, this only has 3 movements. Though Mozart wrote the opening Allegro to be done slowly, Jarvi conducted it lethargically. A little more passion on his part would have expressed the tension in this piece of music. However, the violins played the allegro with great speed and depth despite Jarvi’s compunctions. The orchestra and trumpets did an excellent job of capturing the forward momentum of this symphony. The orchestra surprised the audience when they jumped from mezzo piano to fortissimo, which they executed quickly, cleanly and crisply. The flute solo after the initial introduction was also done beautifully. The Lyrical andante was sung marvelously by Thomas Hampson. His voice captured the momentum of the music in the absence of the trumpets. The final presto in the end was a delight to hear with hints from The Marriage of Figaro.

The next piece of music was the Lyric Symphony by Zemlinsky with poems by Rabindranath Tagore. This piece brought a much larger orchestra on to the stage. This piece was truly a delight to hear because it included the Hampson for the baritone and Martinpelto. Jarvi conducted this piece with force and zest. He did an excellent job capturing the serious undertones and depth of the symphony. The trumpets, horns and drums did a great job of catching the finality of the music. The strings slowly increase their volume to state the gravity of the Tagore’s poems and the fearful expectation of what might happen next. Hampson and Martinpelto do a great job of singing the 7 poems. Hampson and Hillevi could have sung the first two poems with a little less force. However, they did an excellent job of singing “Oh Mother, the young Prince”. Hillevi’s voice does a marvelous job of capturing the travails of the young woman who desperately wishes to be noticed by the haughty prince.

Overall the concert was very worthwhile to attend. It was a pleasure to listen to the giants that have graced noiseless concert halls whether they are recognized like Beethoven and Mozart, or forgotten like Zemlinsky and Tagore.

New York Philharmonic plays "Arirang"


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