Surge [world premiere]
Violin Concerto in D, Op.35
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.43
Lisa Batiashvili (violin)
New York Philharmonic
Reviewed: 21 January, 2023
Venue: Wu Tsai Theater, David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City
Wang Lu’s Surge, a commission by the League of American Orchestras to perform new works from six female composers, runs a mere six minutes, a mix of Chinese and Western-based musical languages, an attempt to recreate the sounds of social movements – chants and cries of protesters, voices from large crowds – with acoustic instruments. The densely packed score is an agitated sequence of swaying gestures, murmuring dissonances, jagged rhythms, and disparate sounds, constantly moving in and out of focus and frequently coming together. With her long baton and uncommonly wide arm gestures, Dalia Stasevska conducted the energetic work with passion and precision, and the orchestra responded with tremendous vigor and clarity.
In the Tchaikovsky. Lisa Bariashvili shaped the warm-hearted opening melody in characteristically elegant style and went on to deliver a deeply thoughtful performance, with the orchestra providing a sensitive and supportive accompaniment. The soloist’s playing of the first-movement cadenza was especially remarkable for its blend of lightning speed and delicate control, enhanced by an infallible lyrical sense. The central Canzonetta, taken at a flowing pace, led into an exuberant display of virtuosity in a sparkling treatment of the Finale, offset by the violinist’s extraordinarily graceful approach in the more meditative passages.
In a high voltage, somewhat idiosyncratic reading of Sibelius’s Second Symphony, Stasevska was less than strictly faithful to the letter of the score, indulging in some spontaneous touches – the odd speed-up or slow-down – none of them harmful. The Philharmonic musicians responded to her highly animated conducting style with intensity, virtuosity, and panache, highlighting the dark colors and cool atmosphere of the music. The many memorable moments included the second movement’s mysterious opening with Judith LeClair’s haunting bassoon above the pizzicato cellos and basses, the Scherzo’s gently lyrical Trio section, complemented by Liang Wang’s fine phrasing of its oboe motive, and the glorious and powerful ascent into the Finale, marked by the precision of Markus Rhoten’s timpani.