Johann Strauss II
Die Fledermaus – Overture
Violin Concerto in A, K219
Symphony No.4 in E minor, Op.98
Augustin Hadelich (violin)
New York Philharmonic
Reviewed by: Violet Bergen
Reviewed: 28 May, 2015
Venue: Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City
With Alan Gilbert scheduled to depart in 2017, it is hard to hear any New York Philharmonic guest-conductor without contemplating his or her potential candidacy to be the next music director. It is a great shame that Manfred Honeck is already committed to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra until 2020, as his leadership in this concert brought the Philharmonic players to new heights of brilliance. He even achieved the impossible task of making Avery Fisher Hall’s notoriously tricky acoustics sound resonant and sensitive.
Honeck swayed the balance in favor of the strings in the Overture to Die Fledermaus. The Philharmonic played with sprightly enthusiasm, and it would be nitpicking to say that the violins were bright and precise instead of employing the warmth and portamento one might expect in such sentimental music.
Mozart wrote his Violin Concertos while in his teens, and they progress sequentially in terms of maturity. The final A-major is sometimes referred to as ‘Turkish’ owing to the Oriental-inspired segments of its finale, invoking a gypsy spirit fashionable at the time. Augustin Hadelich displayed impeccable technique and brilliant tone, mirrored by the Philharmonic’s reduced string section. Hadelich’s intonation was notable for its superb expressivity, his smooth bowing and a wide vibrato In the Adagio creating a sense of exquisite serenity. Both soloist and orchestra revved up the intensity in the last movement, yet the big swells in the chromatic passages never seemed stylistically inappropriate. Hadelich played his own cadenzas, cleverly incorporating such feats as double-stopped artificial harmonics while still maintaining Mozartean elegance. As an encore, he played Paganini’s ‘Agitato’ Caprice (No.5 in A minor), portraying its whirlwinds of arpeggios with utmost clarity and inherent musicality.
Honeck’s tempo was fluid in the opening of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, and the huge sound he elicited from the orchestra was also finely nuanced. In the first movement, details such as brass punctuation were noticeable without overshadowing the melody, and the succeeding Andante moderato featured seamless legato passages in the woodwinds, contrasting with lush intensity in the strings. The Allegro giocoso Scherzo was driving and passionate even in pianissimo passages, and the Finale was taken at a brisk pace, each variation of the passacaglia subtly different yet intimately connected, building to an exciting climax. The New York Philharmonic has never sounded finer than it did under Honeck.