Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall with Beatrice Rana

Le tombeau de Couperin
Florence Price
Symphony No.3 in C-minor
Clara Schumann
Piano Concerto in A-minor, Op.7

Beatrice Rana (piano)

Philadelphia Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 28 October, 2022
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

This enjoyable program sandwiched works by two composers marginalized by history between time-honored pieces by Ravel opening with a refined reading of Le tombeau de Couperin at pleasantly flowing tempos, appropriately quiet in places but translucent throughout, with the woodwinds displaying a range of colors and timbres.

Next came Florence Price’s Symphony No.3, blending traditions of Romanticism with elements of classical Black composition. Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphians released a recording earlier this year (DG), and it was wonderful to hear the orchestra perform this one live, delivering a perfectly paced, full-sounding account, revealing all the finesse and detail in the score as it alternated between loud and soft, harmony and dissonance, grace and grit. After a tense, slightly operatic introduction calmed by the lush melody entrusted to Nitzan Haroz’s authoritative trombone. The beautiful opening of the second movement developed into something radiant near the midpoint, and the subsequent ‘Juba’ (a foot-stomping Afro-American dance) was particularly joyful and lithe. The Finale was a radiant display of colors and virtuosity.

After intermission came the Carnegie Hall debut of Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto, 187 years after the fifteen-year-old composer premiered the piece with Felix Mendelssohn leading the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Conceived in the customary three movements played without breaks, it trades a cadenza for the second-movement ‘Romanze’, written largely for the piano alone. While the scoring is unimpressive, the virtuosic writing for the piano is sublime, deeply melodious and emotionally refined, especially in the powerful Finale. Beatrice Rana played superbly, articulating each phrase with great clarity and revealing all the splendor of the music. The lyrical central section was made even more seductive by Hai-Ye Ni’s graceful cello-playing in the duet with the piano.  

Finally, a technically expert and hypnotically gripping account of Boléro. As the music rose steadily from pianissimo to fortissimo, the players responded brilliantly to Nézet-Séguin’s sensuous approach, their enthusiasm visible as they released extraordinary effects in the crescendo of sound. Among the many fine solos, Daniel Matsukawa’s highly polished turn on bassoon was memorable, and the strings sounded sensational. A shattering and spectacular climax was achieved.

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