Sunday, December 7, 2008

NSO - Bach, Mozart & Tchaikovsky - 12/06/08

Conductor: Itzhak Perlman
Bach: Concerto No 1 in A Minor for Violin and String Orchestra, BWV 1041 - Itzhak Perlman
Mozart: Symphony No 35 in D Major, K. 385, "Haffner"
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 6 in B Minor, Op. 74, "Pathétique"

How lucky can a girl get? After hearing the Pathétique a couple of weeks ago at Strathmore while the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra was visiting (and his Symphony No 4 back in October played by the New York Philharmonic at the Kennedy Center), I was back at the Kennedy Center last night for another performance of Tchaikovksy's achingly beautiful swan song, this time courtesy of the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by a very special guest, Itzhak Perlman. The rest of the program consisted of two oldies but goodies, namely a violin concerto by Bach and Mozart's short but always reliable Haffner. Going against my instinctive aversion to Saturday night (a.k.a. Amateur night) outings, I was not going to let this opportunity pass and did not hesitate to join the masses for a sold-out but well worth the effort concert.

Things got started nice and easy with the fluid and lively Bach concerto, which was clearly reminiscent of the famed Brandenburg concertos. The abundance of strings naturally overjoyed me and was a more than nice compensation for the presence of harpsichord, whose sound I've never really cared for. As a no more than passing fan of Baroque music, I still found this piece a real pleasure to listen to, the solo violin effortlessly fitting in with the other instruments while occasionally rising above the fray for a short solo venture.
Itzhak Perlman came back for baton duty only, and led a generously melodic performance of Mozart's Haffner. Originally requested by his father in honor of the ennoblement of one of his boyhood friends, who was also the son of the Salzburg Burgomaster, the original serenade was reshaped a few months later to become his Symphony N0 35. It is a finely crafted piece of work, and our guest conductor made sure the orchestra played it with all the necessary cohesion and elegance.
After intermission came the pièce de resistance, and that was yet another Pathétique performance to remember. I am fully aware that my sentimental attachment to this symphony makes it hard, if not impossible, for me to analyze it objectively. (What is objectivity anyway? But I disgress...) Hearing it live is such a priceless treat that I just get totally caught up in it and happily let it bowl me over. Last night was no exception, and listening to it felt like walking down a familiar path on a new journey. All the well-known elements were there: the long, agitated first movement, the limping waltz, unable to find itself, the unabashedly triumphant military march, and finally the heart-breaking, unconditional capitulation. However, since each live performance is by definition unique, we all found ourselves embarked on the same very special flight piloted by Captain Perlman and his eager-to-please crew straight to Tchaikovsky's heaven, and that was a hell of a way to spend a Saturday night. No paraphernalia needed and a 45-minute high garanteed!

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