Review by Edward Kliszus
Carnegie Hall is the perfect venue for the accomplished The Orchestra Now. As the audience waited in anticipation for the opening chords initiating our journey back to the early 20th century in this sacrosanct place, one imagines those who first graced its stage. If we close our eyes, perhaps we might hear a glimpse from musical luminaries like Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Edith Piaf, Walter Damrosch, Arturo Toscanani, Jascha Heifitz, or Enrico Caruso.
Acclaimed conductor Leon Botstein stepped up to the podium, gently beckoning the orchestra to rapt attention. Arthur Honegger’s 1928 work Rugby launched our transcendent visit to an evolutionary period when late 19th century lush tonal Romanticism continued to wrestle with the dodecaphonic chromatic “Kandinskyesque” expressionist forces of the Second Viennese School. Melody as a predominate musical element eliciting musical pathos and meaning is about to give way to Klangfarbenmelodie. On an aside, Rachmaninoff aficionados deftly argue that his seemingly anachronistic Romanticism, nostalgia, melancholy, and intra-tonal chromaticism eventually triumphed. After all, his second Piano Concerto and Variations on a Theme by Paganini continue to fill concert halls.
Othmar Schoeck’s 1926 work Lebendig begraben (Buried Alive) featured the marvelous baritone Michael Nagy. This venture into literary realism, angst, and setting of a written work by Gottfried Keller drew us into the dark world of German expressionism. Nagy masterfully guides us into the work’s despair, loss, tragedy, regret, and perhaps humankind’s eternal quest for the meaning of life.
The second portion of the concert opened with Dmitri Mitropoulos’ Concerto Grosso (1920), exemplifying his mid-20th century relationship with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall and congruent to tonight’s theme.
To close the concert, The Orchestra Now rewarded us with its delightful interpretation of Hans Christian Anderson’s chilling tale of the Isjomfruen (The Ice Maiden) through Igor Stravinsky’s 1928 work Divertimento, Symphonic Suite from the Ballet The Fairy’s Kiss. This apposite tender homage to Tchaikovsky stemmed from the Stravinsky family’s earliest contacts with the composer. While the 11-year-old Igor Stravinksy only briefly saw Tchaikovsky at a performance of Mikhael Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila, the memorial concert for Tchaikovsky he attended with his mother impressed him significantly. The program book for the memorial became a family treasure along with a picture signed by Tchaikovsky displayed in his father’s studio.
This delightful collection of works effectively propelled performers and listeners alike back in time into the musical and artistic world of the early 20th century. This was a marvelous, challenging, intellectual and artistic experience for the youthful orchestra musicians as it brought to the forefront important works not often performed. Bravo Maestro Botstein and The Orchestra Now!
Runtime is about 2 hours and 25 minutes, including a 20 minute intermission.
The Orchestra Now (TON) series continues its Fall season with a FREE concert led by Resident Conductor Zachary Schwartzman, offering an afternoon of selections from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 (November 24, 3:00 pm, Hudson Hall, Hudson, New York). Tickets are free but RSVP here , type or click https://tinyurl.com/ud2x9p7 or call 518-822-1438.
On December 8, 2 pm TON presents its Paris theme with music of Honegger, Vallotton and the Avant-Garde of Paris at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Tickets range from $1 for children to $50 for adults. Order tickets here, type or click https://tinyurl.com/uyfryxc, call 212-570-3949 or for more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next concert at Carnegie Hall is Into the Wilderness, a program featuring the NYC premiere of César Franck’s beautiful What You Hear on the Mountain (April 30, 2020 at Carnegie Hall).