According to Turnage, Scherzoid was originally planned as a scherzo that keeps trying to change personalities, from light to dark, but after a preliminary reading by the Philharmonic last year, he decided to restructure the piece to make is less changeable. Even so, the changes are plentiful and swift in this highly energetic work, which consists almost entirely of continuous fast music. The piece follows a scherzo-trio-scherzo-trio-scherzo pattern, and the insistent pulse continues throughout the arrangement, even in the relatively slower trio sections. The work displays a wide range of influences, jazz being central to them. Zhangs confident and fluent conducting responded aptly to the wide-ranging demands of the piece, with the Philharmonic players delivering an energetic and exciting performance.
Following the Turnage, Zhang had an opportunity to demonstrate her impact on more well-known music as she led the Philharmonic players through a reading of Brittens Sea Interludes. Using broad, dramatic gestures, she elicited impressive color from the strings, and responsive playing from both the horns and the winds. This was an inspired performance that displayed all the power and atmospheric beauty of Brittens music.
Maazel, who conducted the first half of the program, had a less rigorous task. Before ceding the podium to Zhang, he conducted Mozarts Symphony No. 29 and Strausss Horn Concerto No.1. His account of the Mozart was odd but not altogether unpleasing. In both the opening Allegro moderato and the ensuing Andante the pace was extremely relaxed, at times eccentrically slow. But his reading of the last two movements was quite different. The Minuet was especially light and tripping, and the final Allegro was played at an exhilarating speed.
Philip Myers, the Philharmonics principal horn, took center-stage in Strausss muscular First Horn Concerto, a work the composer wrote at the age of 18. Myers was in especially good form for this concert, delivering a brightly toned, ripely exuberant performance and relishing the cheerful good humor of the piece. The rest of the orchestra was in equally good shape and everybody, including the maestro, appeared to be enjoying themselves as they provided the soloist with admirable support.
- The performance was followed by ones on January 13, 15 and 18
- New York Philharmonic
- UK premiere of Scherzoid on 26 January, Royal Festival Hall, London Philharmonic conducted by Jonathan Nott