New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert – Symphony in Three Movements & Daphnis et Chloé – Frank Peter Zimmermann plays Beethoven

Violin Concerto in D, Op.61
Symphony in Three Movements
Daphnis et Chloé – Suite No.2

Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin)

New York Philharmonic
Alan Gilbert

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 26 January, 2012
Venue: Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York

Frank Peter Zimmermann. Photograph: Franz HammThe big draw was Frank Peter Zimmermann, a frequent presence on the Avery Fisher Hall stage since his New York Philharmonic debut in 1996 and the Orchestra’s current Artist-in-Residence. This was the fourth of five Philharmonic programs featuring him this season. Last October Zimmermann began his residency, advertised by the Philharmonic as “A Master Plays the Masters”, with Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins (with Alan Gilbert as the other soloist) and Berg’s Violin Concerto. This was quickly followed by a Bach recital with pianist Enrico Pace. And earlier this week he joined members of the NYP (including Gilbert on viola) in a Brahms concert.

This concert started off with a meticulous but disappointing performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. Never a flashy performer, Zimmermann’s solo work was consistently refined, clean-cut and full of lyrical beauty. But on this occasion his highly individualized style of playing seemed overly focused on communicating the nobility in the music and failed to convey its exuberant possibilities. Only in the second- and third-movement cadenzas (Kreisler’s) did his playing become sufficiently free-spirited and expansive. The NYP’s response was of a kind – clean-cut, consistently alert, and taking the work very seriously.

Alan Gilbert. Photograph: Chris LeeAfter intermission, things livened up with an invigorating performance of Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. No orchestra has closer connections with this remarkable piece than the New York Philharmonic. Stravinsky himself led the orchestra in the 1946 world premiere at Carnegie Hall, and dedicated the work “to the Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York as a homage in appreciation of my association for the period of twenty years with that eminent musical institution.”

Under Alan Gilbert’s vigorous, forthright conducting style, Stravinsky’s outstanding score, bursting with drama and rhythmic vitality, sprang to life. Played at the fullest impetus, the performance was compelling from beginning to end. In the Andante the conversations for piano, clarinet and strings were especially vivid, and the obbligato roles for piano and harp were resplendently conveyed by respectively Jonathan Feldman and Nancy Allen.

The excitement and brilliant playing carried over to the Second Suite of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. The New York Philharmonic delivered a wonderfully opulent, richly-hued account of Ravel’s lush and radiant score. The harps and woodwinds in the ‘Daybreak’ section were especially evocative, and Robert Langevin’s flute-playing could not have been rendered more gracefully.

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