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Rattle’s Enraptured Bruckner

Verizon Hall of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
05/08/2009 -  & May 9, 2009
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major
Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 in C minor

Imogen Cooper (piano)
Philadelphia Orchestra, Simon Rattle (conductor)

Simon Rattle (© Mat Hennek/EMI Classics)

What happens when a great conductor steps in front of a great orchestra? The audience in Verizon Hall found out Friday afternoon when Simon Rattle led the Philadelphia Orchestra in a sublime performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8. Rattle has forged a close partnership with the Philadelphia Orchestra in more than a decade of concerts. That partnership produced an enthralling performance of Bruckner’s symphony. Conducting the 80-minute work without a score, Rattle engaged the musicians in an intimate dialogue that unfolded with seamless control and matchless intensity. Responding to every nuance of Rattle’s baton, the orchestra became an extension of the conductor’s expressive arms.

Bruckner’s music grew organically from phrase to phrase and from movement to movement. As if mesmerized by the conductor, the Philadelphia Orchestra played with the utmost beauty of tone and matchless precision. From a hushed whisper to a thunderous outburst, Bruckner’s music expanded and contracted seamlessly. The high point came right where it must – in the sublime Adagio. Rattle caught the intense longing and spiritual ecstasy in Bruckner’s music. Conducting as if in a trance, he summoned playing of exquisite refinement and incredible majesty from the orchestra. The tension was released in the final movement. Rattle controlled the Finale keenly but let it unfold with a fluid freedom. Cheers and applause engulfed the maestro and his musicians as the last chord died away.

Rattle opened the concert with Mozart’sPiano Concerto No. 25 with soloist Imogen Cooper in her Philadelphia Orchestra debut. The conductor set the tone in the opening measures. This was large-scaled but pliant Mozart, grand in scale and intense and yet gracious and refined. Cooper’s playing was notable for its limpid tone and technical ease. She spun out a delicate flow of sound in the Andante but also conveyed the spirit and energy of the Allegretto. Throughout, her shining
performance was lovingly embraced by the conductor and orchestra.

Robert Baxter



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