Reviewed by Dwight Casimere
NEW YORK--The Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin is one busy young conductor. Besides leading performances of Verdi's Otello at the Metropolitan Opera, which recently concluded performances, he joined his 'home team' across town for the orchestra's first appearance of the season at Carnegie Hall. In every way, the performance bristled with excitement and suspense.
First, the suspense part. Orchestra members had just signed a new contract the day prior to the concert, which averted the possibility of a strike and cancellation of the concert. Nezet-Seguin himself has renewed his commitment to the orchestra with a deal that has him at the podium through the 2021-2022 season. So much for the behind-the-scenes cliff-hangers. The real drama unfolded on the stage of the Isaac Stern Auditorium with a thrilling program of Edward Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Bela Bartok's heroic Violin Concerto No. 2 with Philadelphia Orchestra favorite and Grammy-winner Gil Shaham as soloist and Jean Sibelius's stirring Symphony No. 5 in E-flat as the conclusion. It was an exciting evening of great, inventive music at every turn.
Nezet-Seguin is a conductor who finds the rhythmic heart of a piece and isn't afraid to break out in a sort of balletic dance at the podium to emphasize his point. He marshaled the full force of the orchestra's legendary brass section to give the "In The Hall of the Mountain King" section all of the pre-Halloween atmosphere it is famous for.
Gil Shaham used the full power of his interpretive skills to imbue Bartok's moody Violin Concerto with a sense of controlled passion. The music spans the breadth of human emotions and Shaham's playing expressed them with lucidity.
Sibelius's Symphony No. 5 is an almost impressionistic tone poem. Nezet-Seguin utilized all of the orchestra's superb soloists and section leaders to great advantage. He gave the piece a luster that allowed each of its shifting themes to shine in the shimmering light. He built a dramatic tension throughout that showcased that famous "Philadelphia Sound."
The Philadelphia Orchestra returns to Carnegie Hall for three additional programs this season. Visit carnegiehall.org for details.