Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic present contrasts of Mozart, Debussy

Reviewed by Dwight Casimere October 14, 2011

Lorin Maazel conducts the New York Philharmonic in ‘homecoming’ concert

New York—Lorin Maazel, former Music Director of the New York Philharmonic from 2002-2009, conducted the orchestra in an exquisite, yet understatement performance, presenting contrasting works by two of the music world’s most beloved composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Claude Debussy.

The first work, Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 in D Major, The “Prague,” show the young composer in his prime. Maazel and the orchestra mined its majestic themes and forward-looking modulations, revealing all of its hidden gems. Maazel once again displayed his uncanny ability to bring out the inner voices of a piece, often stepping forward on the podium in the direction of the first violins to urge them deeper into the melodic line. His attention to the brass in the sprightly Allegro and his elongated approach to the opening bars of the Andante were among the sublime moments of this performance.

The Concerto in C major for Flute and Harp featured the considerable talents of the orchestra’s Principal Flute Robert Langevin and Principal Harp Nancy Allen. Both are accomplished players with a flair for the extraordinary. Langevin possesses an even, rounded tone that soared above the orchestra particularly in the cadenzas he offered in the Andantino. Ms. Allen’s delicate filigree of triplets and glissandos created a contrapuntal contrast to Langevin’s fluid, even-handed approach to the music.

Claude Debussy’s Jeux: Poeme danse was all airs and atmosphere. The composer’s final completed orchestral work, it is a signpost pointing in the direction of music yet to come. Originally written for dance and the choreography of the great Nijinsky, Maazel chose to emphasize the work’s more contemplative nature. He and the orchestra explored its more droll rhythms and sonic depths. The title, Jeux (Games), suggests children or young adults at play, but with its translucent tone, suggesting fading light and clouds bathed in the crimson after-glow of dusk, Maazel’s interpretation leaned more toward the quiet whispers of the approaching nightfall.

Debussy’s Iberia was all crackling castanet’s and the sound of distant tambourines. Maazel and the orchestra captured the very essence of Spain in this romantic fantasy. This was music emanating like the smell of perfumed flowers from the gardens of the Generalife in Granada or the distant singing of Gypsies in Andalusia.

Piccolos and flutes sparked daring melodic excursions, with the oboes and English horns giving the melodic lines further clarification. Maazel gave the percussion lots of running room with tuba, timpani, triangles, cymbals, celesta and harps joining in the festive atmosphere. The chimes underscored the brilliance of this fine performance.

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