STOMP for Orchestra [New York premiere]
Piano Concerto in F
Symphony No.9 in E minor, Op.95 (From the New World)
Aaron Diehl (piano)
New York Philharmonic
Reviewed by: Christopher Browner
Reviewed: 21 September, 2016
Venue: David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City
To inaugurate its 175th Season – and Alan Gilbert’s last as Music Director – the New York Philharmonic highlighted the role it has played in the musical life of its home city. Following a few brief speeches and the singing of the National Anthem, Gilbert led an upbeat program, opening with John Corigliano’s STOMP, which he originally created as an audition exercise for violinists. Corigliano’s father, also John, was a former Concertmaster of the Philharmonic.
With short, jagged figures and sliding musical lines, Corigliano conjures an increasingly unhinged soundscape. As the piece progresses, the musicians stomp their feet in syncopation to their playing, a gesture inspired by American fiddlers. It proved an exciting introduction to the evening.
George Gershwin’s colourful and swinging Piano Concerto offers a cinematic perspective on urban life. It had its first performance in 1925, with the Philharmonic, the composer as soloist and with Walter Damrosch conducting. Here jazzman and bandleader Aaron Diehl was the pianist. His fingers floated across the keys with great dexterity and his good-humored back-and-forth with the Philharmonic members lent the rendition the feel of an informal duet.
After intermission, Gilbert led a bombastic rendition of Dvořák’s ‘New World’ Symphony, its 1893 premiere being in New York led by Anton Seidl. The Symphony combines intensely surging passages with poignant lyricism and charming folk-like melody. Gilbert drew an enthusiastic performance, although the fervor led to dynamic imbalances, the brass brashly overpowering strings and woodwinds at times. That being said, he also coaxed great restraint during intimate, softer moments.