Monday, October 6, 2008

Met Orchestra - Beethoven, Messiaen & Brahms - 10/05/08

Conductor: James Levine
Beethoven: Grosse Fuge in B-flat Major, Op. 133
Messiaen: Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum
Brahms: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77 – Christian Tetzlaff

As part of my New York-centric weekend, yesterday afternoon found me at Carnegie for a much-anticipated concert. While I usually try to come up for the whole weekend, time is sometimes not on my side, and I just go for the day if the performance is a matinee. Going to Carnegie Hall is always a special treat, even more so if I can combine it with a meal at Petrossian, but that did not happen yesterday. What happened, however, was definitely good enough to justify the quick jaunt. I get to hear the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra when I attend operas at the Met, but never outside their home. Add Christian Tetzlaff and Brahms' violin concerto and the whole package definitely sounded like a winning combination.

The concert started with a short piece by Beethoven that I was not familiar with. After one of his trademark openings, the Fuge unfolded full of energy, with notes galloping ad infinitum, and complex enough to keep the audience effortlessly engaged. Those were 16 exhilarating minutes.
The second piece was by Olivier Messiaen for the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth. It had been composed for woodwinds, brass and percussion instruments only, and as a piano and string aficionada, that did not bode well. The five short movements, inspired by the Bible, were obviously meant to be played in a church or cathedral setting. To say that the general mood was austere would be an understatement, although one could occasionally distinguish some bird chirping, and maestro Levine taking overlong breaks between movements added to the solemnity of the piece. It felt like a weight had been lifted when it ended.
After the intermission, the strings were blissfully back, and in powerful force, for Brahms’ much beloved violin concerto. Christian Tetzlaff treated us to a riveting performance, solidly backed by the orchestra in great form. In the acoustically perfect hall, the notes were rising and soaring, clear and distinct, emphasizing the swooping romantic passages and the more gentle currents. Even the woman behind me, who seemed to wait for the quieter moments to clear her throat, did not manage to break the spell.

Our loud and lingering approbation of his performance earned us an encore, a beautiful Gavotte from Bach's Third Partita. It was the perfect way to put a temporary stop to my outings in the US as I’m heading off to Berlin, and later France, in a few hours. But I shall return.

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