New York Philharmonic/Mehta Pinchas Zukerman

Violin Concerto in D, Op.61
The Rite of Spring

Pinchas Zukerman (violin)

New York Philharmonic
Zubin Mehta

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 4 January, 2007
Venue: Avery Fisher Hall, New York City

Avery Fisher Hall was sold out for this concert in which old favorites – both the pieces and the performers – made return visits to the New York Philharmonic. Zubin Mehta, the orchestra’s Music Director from 1978 to 1991, was the conductor in a program that featured his great friend and colleague Pinchas Zukerman as the soloist in the Beethoven Violin Concerto, and also included Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. This was the first of two New York Philharmonic programs that will be led by Mehta at Avery Fisher Hall this month. On January 11 and 13, Mehta leads Elgar’s Cello Concerto and Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony.

With great beauty of phrasing and pure, refined tone, Zukerman opened the program with a highly engaging performance of the Beethoven. He delivered a warm, spacious and persuasive account of the Allegro, but his playing was most deeply felt in the gentle simplicity of the Larghetto. Marked by magical moments of tenderness and poetry, his playing was individual but without self-indulgence. He gave a clean-cut, joyfully buoyant account of the finale, with steady, energetic support from Mehta and the orchestra. This was a moving performance that brought the capacity house to its feet for long, enthusiastic applause.

In the second half of the program, Mehta led a richly-hued, exuberant account of The Rite of Spring. This incisive, virtuoso performance highlighted the more brutal qualities of the score as well as the calmer, more lyrical beauty of the quieter passages. Mehta interpreted the work with tremendous fire, sweep and emotional versatility and at the same time maintained complete control of the complex rhythms and constantly changing meters and moods in the work. Principal bassoonist Judith LeClair was especially notable in the opening solo, using minute changes in dynamics to create a soft, mystical atmosphere. The rest of the Philharmonic musicians played very well throughout, every one of them seemingly caught up in Mehta’s relentless forward thrust. The final ‘Sacrificial Dance’ was perfectly brutal. This was a performance of great impact and energy, but one that also reminded what a wonderfully melodious piece of music The Rite of Spring is.

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