Conductor: André Prévin
Prévin: The Giraffes Go to Hamburg, for Soprano, Alto Flute and Piano - Renée Fleming, Elizabeth Mann and André Prévin
Prévin: Concerto for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra - Anne-Sophie Mutter and Yuri Bashmet
Prévin: Arias from A Streetcar Named Desire ("I Want Magic" and I Can Smell the Sea Air") - Renée Fleming
Prévin: Violin Concerto ("Anne-Sophie") - Anne-Sophie Mutter
2009 is not only Mendelssohn's bicentennial, but André Prévin happens to celebrate his 80th birthday as well. After a special performance at the Kennedy Center a couple of months ago, yesterday it was the Orchestra of St. Luke's, with a little help from Anne-Sophie Mutter again, Renée Fleming and a few others, who was throwing a salute concert for him at Carnegie Hall. So it was as good a reason as any to get back on the 95 and the New Jersey Turnpike (Can't say I had missed them, but they're still my main means to my worthy end) and head off for the Big Apple again after a three-week hiatus.
The program was an attractive medley of Prévin's highly eclectic career and started with The Giraffes Go to Hamburg, which had been inspired by Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa, and vividly evoked the state of minds of these gracious animals as they were going to be put in captivity. Sitting at the piano, the birthday composer was aptly seconded by melancholy flutist Elizabeth Mann and a revved-up Renée Fleming.
Composed in 2006 for Anne-Sophie Mutter and Yuri Bashmet, his Concerto for Violin, Viola and Orchestra was a world premiere, and the two musicians got sporadic chances to project their graceful styles, even if the score itself was not particularly challenging. Their conversation was harmoniously performed and made the most of what remained a fairly inconspicuous piece.
After the intermission, Renée Fleming was back for two arias from A Streetcar Named Desire, and seemed to totally relish singing a part for which she was Prévin's first and obvious choice. She clearly immersed herself in the role, even for just a few minutes, and let her voice soaringly convey Blanche's hyper-sensitivity and erratic emotional state.
The last piece was the violin Concerto Anne-Sophie, which he wrote in 2001 for his at the time soon-to-be wife. It is a wonderfully Romantic work, where the violinist got to display her impressive skills at lush lyricism and soaring eeriness, with a few deeply passionate outbursts. A beautiful piece for a beautiful musician.
The Orchestra of St. Luke's is always such a pleasure to listen to that it is very easy to take their remarkable musicianship for granted, and yesterdays' concert was another proof of their incredible versatility and fail-proof excellence. Constantly present but never over-shadowing the soloists, they remained the indispensable element to make it all happen, and enabled us to fully enjoy a very rewarding concert.
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