A surprising BFO concert in New York

2018 marks my twentieth year of writing music reviews from New York and the number hovers around the 1000 mark. Not many of those events were as surprising as the last one conducted by Iván Fischer. For better or worse Maestro has earned a reputation as a trickster. Last season here at Lincoln Center he allowed about 20 music student instrumentalists to crash the party during the final moments of the Beethoven 5th Symphony, which did seem to energize the crowd but called into question his serious musical bona fides. A critical review by Concertonet.

New York, David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center

“Welcome to the jungle
we got fun and games”
Guns N’ Roses

The New York Philharmonic is the only orchestra in this town that features chamber music. Often their Saturday matinee concerts consist of a small ensemble performing an instrumental piece followed by intermission and then a full-bodied orchestral essay. Maestro Fischer began this event with Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2, utilizing a septet of instruments as well as a portable organ that he himself struck to announce key changes. This was a generously subdued version with the flute of Gabriella Pivon given pride of place. A handsome introduction to the Beethoven to come (see below).

The greatest Russian symphonies ignored in America are those of Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov, all of which deserve a much more comprehensive exploration and presentation, so we owe a vote of thanks to maestro for his programming this afternoon. He found the secret to pleasing and challenging a sold-out audience. The Rachmaninoff 2nd Symphony is perhaps the most emotionally devastating in the entire Eastern European lexicon.

The combination of vivid colors, courageous juxtapositions and overwhelmingly beautiful and sad melodies  “and their arrangements” is almost too much to bear if the performance is a good one. This reading was exceptionally fine, the first movement positively psychedelic in fervent content reminiscent of Scriabin. Rachmaninoff was deeply depressed during his days composing this symphony and he wears his heart (and his tears) on his sleeve. The third movement was excruciatingly beautiful and pathetic. I am not ashamed to state that I cried during it. Rachmaninoff found the secret to the moving of an audience when the clarinet sings its solo of beautiful sadness against glimmers of hope and radiance. I would state emphatically that this was the best concert of the season except that the Concertgebouw will be here in three days!

You can read the full review here.