Conductor: Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Barber: Adagio for Strings, Op. 11
Bartok: Violin Concerto No. 1 - Lisa Batiashvili
Sometimes even the best laid plans just spin out of control and adjustments, including sacrifices, have to be made to stay afloat. That's why a Friday night at Carnegie Hall with my friend Linden to hear The Philadelphia Orchestra perform Barber, Bartok and Bruckner turned into a Friday night at Carnegie Hall with my friend Amy to hear The Philadelphia Orchestra perform Barber and Bartok. Still not a bad deal at all.
I try hard not to miss any appearance by The Philadelphia Orchestra and its dynamic music director and conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin as I consider them a guarantee for an evening of adventurous, vibrant and engaging music making. In this case, Barber's "Adagio for Strings" remains a must-hear for the string lover in me, and Bartok always manages to keep me entertained in a challenging sort of way. So even if the voice of reason was making me skip Bruckner, with whom I've never felt a special connection anyway, I knew that my reduced playlist would still be worth the trip to W. 57th Street.
Barber's "Adagio for Strings" has remained one of the most beloved works in the classical music world and beyond, and on Friday night Yannick Nézet-Séguin and his wonderful string players reminded us all why in a performance that was as subtle as it was powerful. With long, expertly shaped lines and an inconspicuous overtone of haunting sadness, those were truly eight minutes of heavenly music. No matter what would happen or not happen subsequently, our evening had just been made.
The first movement of Bartok's short Violin Concerto No. 1, written when he was still a youngster in his mid-twenties, was also a feast of lush violin playing, after an opening by the soloist alone, a part that was masterfully filled by a bold and thoughtful Lisa Batiashvili. The mood became much more energetic and playful in the second movement, with strong hints of Eastern European folk dance tunes. Those pleasant twenty minutes went by quickly, and then it was regretfully time to leave while making a mental note of making up to the musicians from the City of Brotherly Love for this abridged attendance as soon as possible.