This concert opened with Till Fellner making an impressive New York Philharmonic debut in a sparkling performance of majestic Mozart. His elegant and idiomatic playing was marked by fluent and graceful passagework and astonishing clarity of tone. He brought a vigorous intensity to the first movement, instilling Paul Badura-Skoda’s cadenza with distinctive rubato. The melancholy Andante showed him at his most inspired and poetic, while the Finale was delightfully spirited, and bravura Hummel’s cadenza, Mozart’s student. Christoph Eschenbach proved a vibrant and supportive partner, the accompaniment a study in balance – consistently alive and graceful, full of characterful detail. The woodwinds were splendid, especially in the second movement, not least in the lovely duet between Robert Langevin’s flute and Judith LeClair’s bassoon.
Following intermission Eschenbach led a dignified and inspired reading of Bruckner’s left-unfinished Ninth Symphony, an account of great depth and strength, bringing a fine sense of structure and proportion to the music. Throughout, the Philharmonic responded with passionate and powerful playing, tackling the massive, wide-ranging score with virtuosity and finesse. The strings sounded exquisite and the refulgent brass offered appropriately imposing walls of sound in the grand climaxes. Eschenbach’s broad but not entirely unenergetic tempos brought out all the intensity, thematic richness and mystery of the vast opening movement. The relentless rhythms of the Scherzo were delivered with tremendous force, with the scuttling winds of the ensuing Trio providing excellent contrast. But Eschenbach and the Philharmonic were at their best in the Adagio, where the rich textures gradually built to a deeply powerful and satisfying conclusion.