New York Philharmonic – Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Catamorphosis & The Rite of Spring; Nemanja Radulović plays Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto

Anna Thorvaldsdottir
Catamorphosis [US premiere]

Prokofiev
Violin Concerto No.2 in G-minor, Op.63

Stravinsky
The Rite of Spring

Nemanja Radulović (violin)

New York Philharmonic
Santtu-Matias Rouvali


0 of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 12 January, 2023
Venue: Wu Tsai Theater, David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City

Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Catamorphosis, is – in the composer’s words – inspired by “the fragile relationship we have to our planet” and its core “revolves around a distinct sense of urgency, driven by the shift and pull between various polar forces – power and fragility, hope and despair, preservation and destruction.” Premiered in a streamed performance by Kirill Petrenko and the Berlin Philharmonic during Lockdown in January 2021, the abundantlyatmospheric work is cast in a single twenty-minute movement divided into seven sub-sections. Densely scored for a large orchestra, the work abounds in restless, shifting sonorities. Each section evolves naturally from what precedes it as the sharply detailed, multiple layers of sound alternate between heavily accented passages and lighter, more lyrical lines. Santtu-Matias Rouvali and the Philharmonic delivered a spectacular rendition, cogently conveyed the fragility of Nature and the precarious situation of our planet.

Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto featured Nemanja Radulović in an impressive Philharmonic debut. After repeatedly raising his bow above the strings of his instrument, Radulović gently began the solo entry and launched into a beautifully balanced performance which stressed the soulful, tender lyricism of the work. His playing was direct, firm, and elegant in the long-breathed melodies of the first two movements and splendidly swaggering in the tumultuous, Spanish-inflected Finale. Rouvali and the orchestra lent excellent support, delivering with admirable clarity and understanding.

Paganini’s flamboyant Caprice No.24 in A-minor was the encore, on this occasion turned into something even showier in a pastiche arrangement by Radulović and his compatriot, Aleksandar Sedlar. The high-spirited playing was not only dazzling and also a lot of fun.

For The Rite of Spring, Rouvali was at his very best. Shedding any restraint but keeping everything under control, his accurate gestures and sweeping arm movements elicited a consistently gripping performance, marked by extraordinary clarity in the rhythmically ruthless passages, and plenty of atmosphere in the more lyrical moments. Full of brilliant contributions from wind players (especially Judith LeClair’s fine work on the bassoon), tightly focused sounds from the strings, and fiery tuttis, this was a wild, thrilling, absolutely riveting account of Stravinsky’s rule-changing masterpiece.

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