Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Carnegie Hall – Verklärte Nacht & Schubert’s Great C-major Symphony

Verklärte Nacht, Op.4 [1943 version]
Symphony No.9 in C, D944 (Great)

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 26 February, 2017
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Carnegie HallPhotograph: Chris LeeThe Vienna Philharmonic did not disappoint in this concert, which concluded its current three-concert residency at Carnegie Hall.

The program began with a moving and memorable account of Arnold Schoenberg’s ultra-romantic Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). Franz Welser-Möst led the VPO’s strings in an incandescent and widely-expressive performance. Responding to Welser-Möst’s exquisitely refined and subtle gestures, the stellar ensemble gave its all without sacrificing any of the chamber-like qualities of the work (the original was for string sextet). Throughout this ravishing reading the musicians played this poetic piece (based on Richard Dehmel’s prose) with easy virtuosity and opulence of tone.

The concert’s second half offered a fresh, dramatic, and often exciting rendering of Schubert’s behemoth ‘Great C-major’ Symphony. Welser-Möst set a brisk pace for the majestic opening and maintained a steady tempo throughout the coda while managing to avoid sounding mulish. The VPO players had no trouble relaxing into the glowing lyricism of the Andante con moto without giving up the impetuosity of the first movement. Throughout, Welser-Möst sustained momentum and elicited taut, incisive playing, delivering a vivacious Scherzo and crisply articulated Finale.

As an encore there was a lively and colorful rendition of Josef Strauss’s For Ever, a Polka-schnell, Opus 193.

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