Saturday, November 23, 2013

Orchestra of St. Luke's - Weiner, Schumann, Bartok & Mozart - 11/21/13

Conductor: Ivan Fischer
Weiner: Serenade for Small Orchestra, Op. 3
Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54 - Jonathan Biss
Bartok: Hungarian Sketches (An Evening at the Village - Bear Dance - Melody - A Bit Tipsy - Dance of the Urog Swineherds)
Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551, "Jupiter"

The mighty creative vibes of New York City routinely go up one more notch when Ivan Fischer brings his tremendous talent to town, and when his task consists in conducting the remarkable Orchestra of St. Luke's in Mozart's magnificent "Jupiter" at Carnegie Hall, there's not much else to say but get a ticket and go with a couple of like-minded friends. Moreover, the program also included Schumann, whose Piano Concerto in A Minor would be interpreted by thoughtful pianist Jonathan Biss, and works by Hungarian composers Weiner and Bartok, which would no doubt benefit from the informed touch of their fellow countryman maestro Fischer.

Although Leo Weiner is by no means a household name, his Serenade for Small Orchestra displayed all the engaging melodic power that, in some other times, would have made him world famous. Under Ivan Fischer's precise and relaxed leadership, the orchestra made the music come out fresh, sweet and lively.
A brashly assertive opening followed by the first instance of a lovely dialog between oboe and piano confirmed that we were in for a real treat with Schumann's popular Piano Concerto. Seamlessly alternating between explosive outbursts and pensive passages, soloist and orchestra made beautiful music together and delivered a deeply heartfelt rendition of the quintessential Romantic work. Although Jonathan Biss' impeccable technique made him equally comfortable with the composition's many twists and turns, his talent really shone when delicately highlighting the pearly exquisiteness of the quieter moments.
Bartok took us back to Hungary with five very short sketches that dwelt deeply into his rich native culture. Unequivocally simple and spontaneously engaging in all of their many moods, these folk tunes brilliantly conjured up snapshots of everyday country life in Magyar land for a fun and fascinating interlude.
There are few symphonies in the entire classical repertoire as fully accomplished as the "Jupiter", and its stunning perfection can only make us wonder what Mozart would have come up with if he had lived on. On Thursday night, the eloquently contrasting opening immediately gave way to an energetic yet gracious performance of it. The piece's countless textures were highly detailed, but that did not keep Ivan Fischer and the orchestra from getting deep into Mozart's groove and fly with it for an outstanding home run. There were no encores, but then again, I can't imagine what one could dare play after the "Jupiter".

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