Die Zauberflöte – Overture
Piano Concerto No.25 in C, K503
Closer To My Own Life [World premiere]
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op.28
Richard Goode (piano)
Christine Rice (mezzo-soprano)
The MET Orchestra
Reviewed by: Gene Gaudette
Reviewed: 16 October, 2011
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York
Fabio Luisi’s energetic entry to conduct the MET Orchestra was a portent of his vigorous approach to Mozart. Aside from a couple of uncharacteristic ragged entries at the beginning of the Overture to The Magic Flute, ensemble was tight, and surprising changes to the orchestra’s sound were apparent: far warmer strings (reminiscent of the sound Luisi cultivated as music director of Staatskapelle Dresden), and accents were less whip-crack than those cultivated by James Levine – yet sacrificed nothing in terms of power or effect.The Overture’s opening was properly stately, the allegro merry and swift. K503 was played with affection and cheerful character by Richard Goode – a more romantic, probing performance than expected, and Luisi and the orchestra (with a larger contingent of strings than normal these days) matched and complemented the mood, though the andante might have benefited from a quicker tempo and less pedalling from Goode.
John Harbison’s Closer to My Own Life, a setting of four texts by Canadian writer Alice Munro, received its world premiere. The songs are stylistically in line with most of his recent works – reminiscent of the music of Roger Sessions, but with more impassioned and expressive melodies, and with stronger tonal centers. Christine Rice’s deep, burnished voice conveyed the texts with consistent authority, distancing her singing emotionally from the sometimes disconcerting and desolate nature of the scenes described by Munro. Luisi’s colorful rendering of the sometimes labyrinthine accompaniment – particularly the more thickly scored sections, which were rendered with complete clarity — provided a vivid aural landscape.
Luisi is fond of programming Richard Strauss; his Dresden recordings of the tone poems are arguably the finest of the digital era. This was easily the best concert performance of Till Eulenspiegel I’ve ever heard. Balances were superb, with many often-buried details emerging with uncanny clarity. Luisi also took some surprising tempos; just a little faster or slower than is customary in this work, to marvelous structural effect. The comic, cheeky character was in the forefront thanks to the dazzling playing, with particularly excellent performances by the horn section and principal clarinet. The MET Orchestra has a reputation for excellence, to which Luisi adds something special. This concert was profoundly impressive.