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Looking up

New York
David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center
11/09/2016 -  & November 10, 11*, 12, 2016
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Concerto for piano No. 25, K. 503
Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé

Daniil Trifonov (Piano)
Manhattan School of Music Symphonic Chorus and Chamber Choir, Kent Tritle (Director), New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski (Conductor)

V. Jurowski (© Drew Kelley)

Daniil Trifonov is following the steps of recent piano stars in broadening their repertories beyond the big Rachmaninov concertos. In the same hall and with the same orchestra, YujaWang had tackled a few months ago Mozart’s “Jeunehomme” Concerto and Lang Lang has been heard playing K. 503 in Vienna and Salzburg.

But if these works present little technical difficulties to these virtuosos, challenges abound and require changes in styles. The orchestra introduction of the concerto was a clear point: musicians were not perfectly at once, the trumpets coming audibly before the strings and the tuttis were on the heavy side with the strings lacking warmth. We were reminded once again that the next door ensemble and their former music director have shown capabilities in Mozart that are fairly unique. The beginning of the Allegretto was even more unusual. Jurowski started the soft toned introduction at a moderate pace and switching abruptly to a brisk tempo when the nuances became forte. Classical pieces require a steady pulse that was voluntary missing there.

At the keyboard, Trifonov displayed a nice touch with subtle soft tones in the long lined passages. He was here masterly and personal. In Mozart however, less is often more and there were a few signs showing that he still needs to adapt to classical works. His own cadenza had many notes and was too showy. More problematic was the lovely Andante where Trifonov’s added ornamentations were too complex and broke the overall line. But if we want to hear Mozart and Haydn played by young pianists, traditional symphonic ensembles and not only by original instruments, we will have to let them discover and experiment.

Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé is a work closer to the New York Philharmonic DNA. It was a piece that Pierre Boulez toured with before resuming activities in Europe and in which his care for details and balance were revealing. But if Boulez in his time wanted to let the music speak by itself, Vladimir Jurowski in a typical Russian tradition wanted to inject flesh, blood and drama into it. The first part, in which the lack of dancers on stage can be a liability, had nice animated tempi. The same care for characterization which had felt out of place in Mozart was clearly bringing positives here. A few pizzicati could have been a little more in place but there was a nice sense of togetherness as a whole. In a few places, balance favored too much the brass and the chorus was also forceful. Best were the woodwinds which have such an important part in this work, the principal flutist receiving form the audience a rousing welcome. The “Daybreak, Pantomime and General Dance” may have been the object of particular care in rehearsals as they had plenty of atmosphere and drama and broke the house down.

The NYPO audience was very quiet and concentrated for this evening. New York has first class musicians and halls but often the audience can be fidgety and inattentive. A few of my friends made the hypothesis that many in New York, a Blue state with a capital B, were still recovering from the election the day before. Some were still in quasi shock while the pragmatists were suggesting that what you say is not what you do after you are elected. But all in Geffen Hall this evening displayed a respectful and concentrated silence tonight. And during the last months, many felt that we had not seen behavior that we expect from leaders but that with these artists, these composers, we have human beings that we look up and not down and we are all blessed to have classical music as a source of joy and inspiration.

Antoine Lévy-Leboyer



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