Symphony No.35 in D, K385 (Haffner)
Two Pictures, Op.10
The Three-Cornered Hat Suites 1 & 2
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski
Reviewed: 5 March, 2006
Venue: Carnegie Hall, New York City
A well-matched trio of twentieth-century works followed the Mozart. Two Pictures is one of Bartók’s early works. Composed in 1910, it shows the influence of Debussy in its harmonic language and loosely constructed patterns, and at the same time it reflects the heritage of Hungarian folk music that Bartók and his friend Zoltán Kodály so systematically researched and collected. The two movements of the piece, ‘In Full Flower’ and ‘Village Dance’, are constructed along an extended version of the traditional slow-fast pattern of the verbunkos or ‘recruiting dance’, a style popular in nineteenth-century Hungary and originally performed by Roma bands at recruitment ceremonies which were designed to convince young men to join the army. As played by the Vienna Philharmonic, the music was vibrant and charming. The musicians played with glowing affection and naturalness as Muti led them through the alternately swift and slow tempos.
In a positively luminous account of Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole, Muti showed off the orchestra’s prowess in the many sparkling and highly colored effects. The sensuousness of the piece was conveyed with unerring power and magnetism, as Muti moved naturally and spontaneously from the balmy, nocturnal atmosphere of the opening ‘Prélude à la nuit’ to the sparkling brilliance of the closing ‘Feria’.
Like the Rapsodie espagnole, Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat, given in suite form (if not advertised as such), was brilliantly played and wonderfully atmospheric. In a performance filled with character, Muti brought out all the color and humor of Falla’s vivid and seductive dance rhythms. The Vienna Philharmonic’s famously warm strings were especially rich and beguiling in this thoroughly enjoyable performance.
As an encore, Muti led the orchestra in a lively, unmannered performance of the overture to “Indigo und die vierzig Räuber” (Indigo and the Forty Thieves) by Johann Strauss II.