Mahler: Symphony No 10 in F-sharp Major - Adagio
Mozart: Piano Concerto No 23 in A Major, K. 488
Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30
Yesterday I was back at Strathmore for the much distinguished and respected London Philharmonic Orchestra that boasted of two very special guests: Leon Fleischer at the piano and Vladimir Jurowski on the podium. With an incredible triumph-over-adversity personal story and some just as incredible talent to spare, Leon Fleisher is one of the most beloved musicians on the music scene today. The young Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski has been slowly but surely making a name for himself with prestigious engagements and highly praised performances, and he has proved over and over that he is definitely here to stay.
The program started with the beautifully moving Adagio from Mahler’s unfinished 10th Symphony. The only completed movement before he died, it more than stand on its own. While it is mostly hushed and introspective moments, it also contains splashy passages, and was a wonderful way to start the concert.
Leon Fleischer gave sparkling life to Mozart’s enchanting piano concerto No 23. The second movement was minimalist and limpid, and the third full of joyful exuberance. Not requiring showy technical prouesses, the concerto allowed the pianist to gently and effortlessly blend with the orchestra and the end result was quite lovely.
After these two traditional musical works, Ligeti’s Atmosphères opened new horizons. With no melodies or rhythms, the lingering sounds emanating from the instruments created an enclosed universe where the music stood still for unusual long periods of time. It was very, well, atmospheric and eventually transitioned surprisingly and seamlessly into Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra.
Universally famous thanks to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which the Ligeti happened to be included as well, Zarathustra is much more that just the sum of its first few and spectacularly attention-grabbing minutes. Indeed, Strauss' grand tone poem has a lot going for it, especially some glorious passages for strings. Inspired by Nietzche's treaty of the same name, it somewhat differently but just as powerfully philosophizes on man and nature, with the Übermensch appearing near the end as a Viennese waltz played by a solo violin. Maestro Jurowski kept the energy level up with the economical precision and ethereal grace of a young Slavic prince and helped the orchestra deliver a finely calibrated performance.
Last but not least, the evening concluded with a rousing interpretation of what in all likelihood was Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier Suite. There was no announcement and I couldn't really place it, but it did sound like Strauss. It has been reported that at their concert at the Avery Fisher Hall a couple of days later they did play Der Rosenkavalier Suite as the encore, and since neither the WPAS nor the orchestra has replied to my inquiries, I am left with my borderline-certainty assumption.