Review: The Philharmonie tries another temporary home

Maybe it was the adrenaline rush that the New York Philharmonic finally felt back to live concerts at Lincoln Center after a year and a...


Maybe it was the adrenaline rush that the New York Philharmonic finally felt back to live concerts at Lincoln Center after a year and a half. Perhaps the reduction in symphonic power for a temporary venue – Alice Tully Hall, with just over a third of the seats in the orchestra’s usual theater across the street – was a work in progress. during the opening night.

Whatever the reason, the tight and loud Philharmonic performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4 last week left me stunned and a headache. From my seat close to the action – maybe that was part of the problem too – the performance seemed in line with the worst impulses of Jaap van Zweden, the orchestra’s musical director, who announced just before the season that he would leave his post in 2024.

This brutal and blatant Beethoven swept away even a normally suave soloist, Daniil Trifonov, who huffed and pounded. That didn’t bode well for the rest of this season, much of which will be held in Tully as the home of the Philharmonic, David Geffen Hall, undergoes renovations.

Not so fast. Thursday – the orchestra’s nerves may have calmed down, and now at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center, another temporary home much smaller than Geffen, but more airy than Tully – another Beethoven piano concerto, the Third, was superb.

Yes, I know: another week, another Beethoven concerto. But it’s a little easier to forgive unimaginative programming when the performance is as fiery and full-bodied as it was with Yefim Bronfman as the soloist.

Loved by this orchestra, especially with this composer, Bronfman imperceptibly builds through the first movement to the size of an organ in its cadence. Then her tone changed to pearly reverie before ending in a shivering trill. Its serene balance at the start of the Largo (recalled later in its recall, Chopin’s Nocturne n ° 8 in D flat) was matched by silky strings. Rondo’s finale had a dash all around it, but Bronfman never seemed to italicize or bold; it was an easy game, in the best sense of the word.

The concerto followed Hannah Kendall’s “Kanashibari” (2013), which has a few ethereal moments before falling into a long strings and brass band a la John Adams, with the odd clap of wood. But the orchestra played it with concentration and polish.

Opening with a contemporary seven or eight minute work that is overwhelmed by Beethoven and Haydn’s next hour, the program was in the classical mode of a deeply cautious ensemble that wants to appear progressive.

A slight complication is that while Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto is a frequent fodder for the Philharmonic Orchestra, Haydn’s Symphony No. 92 in G (“Oxford”) is not. It is a standard repertoire, certainly, but not for this orchestra which, before trying it this summer, had not played it for almost 20 years.

It made you, as performances of his symphonies often do, want to hear them all the time. Especially when they shine like the “Oxfords” on Thursday, the opening sentences are sculpted but not too mastered. Perhaps, in going for sharpness, van Zweden sometimes wandered over to the drought side, and the final movement sometimes rocked by feeling more motivated than witty. But the playing was largely rich and cheerful: balanced and smooth in the second movement, then graceful and patient, and with even a hint of mystery, in the third.

From first impressions, it appears that, of the Philharmonic Orchestra’s two main residences this season, the intimate and spacious Rose Theater could give the orchestra and its sound more space to to breathe.

New York Philharmonic

The program repeats Friday and Saturday at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan; nyphil.org.

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