Tag Archives: Yannick Nezet-Seguin

Yannick, Yaja, Jen Higdon

  • Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, cond., Yaja Wang, piano
  • Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center
  • Dec. 8-11, 2011, Review of Dec. 8 on WRTI, 90.1 fm

The program that music-director -in-waiting Yannick Nezet-Seguin chose this week was energy from the get-go. Jen Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra opened, its five movements challenging the Philadelphians and its audience to attention. Higdon’s exciting work was more rambunctious than I remember in  Nezet-Seguin’s reading; more extrovert than even the extrovert composer herself but the orchestra’s centennial commission  remains  a score of glow and substance.  Higdon tailored the concerto to the Philadelphians’ many gifts, the second movement highlights strings; the third, woodwinds; during Thursday night’s performance, I was partial to the  jam session for keyed percussion created by the final movements.   Piano, celesta, wood blocks, xlyophone, vibraphone – and more – are mysteriously evoked in this slowly escalating chiming music.

When Yaja Wang came out, her red dress warmed us. The 24- year- old pianist has warmed considerably on stage. She smiles now, looks friendlier than she did onstage a season ago. The virtuosity is unquestioned! Thursday night Wang lit into the Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.  The ivories glittered.  Rachmaninoff’s chords thundered. There were elastic pauses.  The Curtis graduate, from Beijing plays like she’s hungry – for the keys.  When she’d gobbled the variations – except the popular slow theme –  the house roared its approval.

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 2 in C Minor, Opus 17 was the second half. The “Little Russian.” It opens with the brass proving wonderfully stalwart. The strings take things down a notch or two for a gentle march. There’s a graciousness to the young work. And optimism. As they had during the Higdon,  the families of the orchestra showed their prowess. When it was over, the house was electric. After the bows, Yannick led a bit of The Nutcracker. Perfect.

Jurowski’s Leningrad

Philadelphia Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski, cond., Shostakovich Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op. 60 (Leningrad), Nov. 17-19, 2011, Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Review of Nov. 20 on WRTI, 90. 1 FM.

Conducting the Shostakovich Seventh (Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op. 60), the so-called “Leningrad,” is like steering an oil rig across enemy waters. It’s unwieldy. It will blow up, sometimes well before it should. Saturday night at Verizon Hall,  Vladimir Jurowski was a splendor of restraint as well as triumph in the 1941 behemoth dedicated to the seige of Leningrad. The Philadelphia Orchestra – enlarged with subs and retirees – stretched across the stage for the mammoth symphony that fills a program. Strings were divided European fashion as the Russian maestro summoned the most elegant music- making heard since the season opened and the playing has been at an extremely high level since the season began.

The quality of treble to the violins, rising higher, higher; the sonorities matching the woodwinds,  these Philadelphia sounds we recognize and their beauty has no rival.

Twelve times the recurring pastiche popularly called the invasion theme was arresting as it fell in and out, Bolero-style, the sticks upon the snare drum snapping. By the time the march had subsided, Daniel Matsukawa’s bassoon arrived to haunt us. It was only the long first movement!

Succeeding movements did not let up for beauty or excitement. Associate David Cramer taking principal flute proved magical, Dick Woodhams’s oboe as ever never let us down. By the final movement’s last stretch those 21 brass had their explosions, the kind of exit the planet should have when it goes out. As for the young, intense, much favored Jurowski: let him return again and often. His  refinement, balance,  his gravity ignites the Philadelphia Orchestra. His gifts and  designate Yannick Nezet-Seguin’s are powerful complements.

Yannick: It’s easier

Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, music director designate, cond., Matthias Goerne, baritone, Dorothea Roeschmann, soprano, Westminster Symphonic Choir, Joe Miller, director, Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Review of  Nov. 4 m

L.A. has the Dude. Philadelphia has Yannick. “It’s easier to say” than Maestro Nezet –Seguin, a man in Verizon told his wife, unsurprised when Allison Vulgamore told the audience to be sure to return for the “talk back” with Yannick after the orchestra’s performance of the Brahms requiem. It was Friday afternoon and the players, the Westminster Symphonic Choir and soloists Matthias Goerne and Dorothea Roeschmann were clearing the stage. When the orchestra president settled into the Verizon Hall chat with Yannick, one puzzle was explained. Why the wonderful soprano had sung from high in the choral loft. The perch did not do her solo justice.

Yannick said the fifth movement has both ”ethereal and maternal qualities” since it evokes Brahms’ late mother. The baritone role is earth-bound, prophetic. Goerne stood close to the podium where he was entirely compelling.

As they did after last season’s Mozart Requiem, the president and the maestro sallied back and forth about A German Requiem, Op. 45. They took questions. No one mentioned the orchestra’s dire straits. Curioser and curiouser were the questions fielded as Yannick said he looks forward to more recordings and plans hard to conjure in the current fiscal crisis. Thank goodness the Philadelphians’ playing unlike the money continues to flow is full of bite and nuance. Joe Miller’s Westminster Choir is not yet Joe Flummerfelt’s tremendous instrument. The whispered seligs were blessed at their quietest but an underlying thinness kept the orchestra the master when these forces should be equal. Goerne’s vocals were the ones to savor, emotive bursts of wisdom and consolation. The gem of Roeschmann’s soprano needs a better setting.

Mozart’s great Symphony in G Minor, No 40, K. 550 opened with its engaging lulls and repetitions. On Thursday we have Yannick’s The Pines of Rome. A tough act to follow after Maestro Muti’s.