Carnegie Hall Opening Night Gala – Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Daniil Trifonov

La valse – poème chorégraphique
Piano Concerto No.1 in E-flat
Gabriela Lena Frank
Chasqui (from Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout)
Symphony No.8 in G, Op.88

Daniil Trifonov (piano)

Philadelphia Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 29 September, 2022
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

The Philadelphia Orchestra opened Carnegie Hall’s 2022-2023 season with a festive program. The evening got off to a thrilling start with a dramatic and exuberant rendition of Ravel’s La valse. After raising his baton, the maestro waited for almost a minute before summoning an infinitely soft and ethereal opening out of the mists. As the piece went on, it moved from one electrifying climax to the next, generating an abundance of adrenalin as it careened toward its conclusion. This was a performance short on subtlety but huge on passion, ending in near-frenzy, but still under control.

Next up was another high-voltage work: Liszt’s First Piano Concerto. Daniil Trifonov gave a bravura performance of the relatively brief but often dazzling work. He kept it bright and sparkling through all its fluidly interwoven movements, but especially in the animated, airily light Allegro animato where his and the orchestra’s playing flew along seamlessly in a stunning display of synergy.

As an encore, the pianist moved into a more meditative mood with an exquisite, gently flowing rendition of Myra Hess’s transcription of J. S. Bach’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’.

Immediately after that came Gabriela Lena Frank’s ‘Chasqui’, the brief fourth movement in her Leyendas, a six-part work that mixes elements of Andean folk music with those of the Western classical tradition. Originally composed for string quartet and later arranged for string orchestra, the high-spirited piece – inspired by the chasqui messenger runners of the ancient Inca empire – brought new energy to the program as pizzicato high strings sprinted along with the sounds of a charango (a high-pitched cousin of the guitar) and the quena (a lightweight bamboo flute).

The evening ended on an optimistic note with a compulsive and spontaneous account of Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony, overflowing with vigorous melodies and echoes of the Bohemian countryside. Nézet-Séguin emphasized the score’s dynamic contrasts, bringing great tension to the climaxes of the Adagio, which was full of expressive feeling. There was a wonderful sense of vibrant energy in the outer movements, along with passages of great elegance, the most notable being David Kim’s gleaming violin solo in the first movement. In the Finale the momentum built up steadily into an electrifying coda.

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