Conductor: Alan Gilbert
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
As a long-time classical music lover and a relatively new New Yorker, attending one of the “Concerts in the Parks” by the New York Philharmonic was a compulsory rite of passage that I was very much looking forward to. A smart combination of community outreach and PR savviness, those events have been a New York tradition for the past 47 years (although they did not take place last year due to other commitments from the orchestra) and are obviously as popular as ever. After catching a lovely “Prélude à l’aprés-midi d’un faune” on Tuesday evening courtesy of The Knights at the Naumburg Bandshell, I was more than ready to start the weekend with a full live music experience in the Park again.
A crowd-pleasing line-up of Tchaikovsky and Respighi sounded just about right for my first time and on Friday night I happily quickened my steps to the Great Lawn, which had become a seemingly endless ocean of blankets, food, drinks and people. I guess being a full-time working girl does not help when it comes to attending a gigantic get-together ignited by the presence of an illustrious New York cultural institution and no admission fee, but I eventually found a spot far from the stage and the expansive reserved area, and patiently waited for the festivities to begin.
After a couple of speeches, we quickly went down to business with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4, and I just as quickly realized that my enjoyment of the by all accounts vigorous performance would be marred by the facts that the sound did not carry well to my somewhat remote outpost and that the non-music lovers around me were more interested in keeping on discussing their own lives than in exploring the Russian composer’s first deeply personal work. The intermittent garbled sounds coming from the walkie talkie of a policeman who had suddenly decided to plant himself next to me was not welcome either. Moving helped, but only to a point. So when the omnipresent Fate theme came around, it erupted loud and clear every time, and it was definitely a thrill to hear the sporadic whiffs of those forceful, untamable few notes in such a setting. But the more introspective moments were simply not coming through the significant distance and the general brouhaha.
Respighi’s beautifully expressive but not particularly loud symphonic poems Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome were next, and just as I was pondering my next move, I felt a few raindrops, which comforted me in my decision to join the mass exodus and go home. Finally seeing the New York Philharmonic in the Park was good, being able to fully hear them would have been better.