Conductor: Paavo Järvi
Dvorak: Cello Concerto
Gautier Capuçon: Cello
Sibelius: Lemminkainen and the Maidens of the Island
Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2
After wrapping up my musical year with a reasonably satisfying Traviata at the Met on Saturday night, I was back at Lincoln Center on Thursday night to start my new musical year at David Geffen Hall with the New York Philharmonic and their special guest, who also was my main reason for being there in the first place, French cellist Gautier Capuçon. Of course, the fact that he would be playing Dvorak’s hyper-popular cello concerto did not hurt either.
Additionally, this concert would have been a good opportunity to support one of the very few female conductors in the business, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, in her New York Philharmonic debut, but this was ultimately not meant to be as she had to postpone her engagement due to maternity leave. Fortunately for us, eminent conductor Paavo Järvi gentlemanly stepped in for what seemed to be a promising kick-off of 2019 at the Philharmonic.
One of the most dashing young musicians on today’s classical music scene, especially when he shows up in his signature tailcoat outfit, Gautier Capuçon is also a serious and talented, and seriously talented, artist whose pristine reputation has been earning him prestigious engagements worldwide. As it should, after an appearance at Carnegie Hall last season, he was gracing the stage of David Geffen Hall with the New York Philharmonic last Thursday evening for Dvorak’s magnificent cello concerto.
I may not be one of the biggest fans of Dvorak’s œuvre, but I have to admit that his cello concerto and his ninth symphony totally deserve the adoration they have been enjoying all these years. Written in New York City after lots of misgivings on the part of the composer, the grandly Romantic, superbly lyrical the cello concerto adroitly combines classical elegance and folk music rowdiness. In the virtuosic hands of Capuçon, it unfolded with force and panache, solidifying my view of the cello as one of the sexiest instruments around.
The ovation was long and enthusiastic, and earned us an exciting encore in a fun little march by Prokofiev. Quite a drastic departure from the lushness of Dvorak, and a masterfully executed one too.
It is rare that the second half of a program is less of a crowd-pleaser than the first half, but it did not seem to bother anybody, and the almost capacity audience gamely stayed put. That was a smart move because the four tone poems making up Sibelius’ Lemminkainen and the Maidens of the Island turned out to be a not-to-be-missed component of the composer’s œuvre, of which I am one of the biggest fans. Dark colors and supple rhythms clearly and beautifully unfolded, bringing the mermaids and the landscape to vivid life.
Sibelius’ deeply atmospheric 15-minute Finnish work was quickly followed by Ravel’s deeply atmospheric 15-minute French work Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2, which consists of the last three movements of the superbly impressionistic ballet score by the same name that drew inspiration from a drama from the Greek poet Longus to describe the incomparable joys of nature and love. Even though it was regrettably performed sans the optional chorus, the appealing set was another undisputed success as the audience indulged as much as possible for as long as it lasted in Ravel’s voluptuous world. And that was very good indeed.