Panic and solace at the New York Philharmonic’s return

Panic and solace at the New York Philharmonic’s return


norman lebrecht

April 15, 2021

From Justin Davidson’s review:

Before the conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen gave the signal for the New York Philharmonic’s first live public sounds in over a year, he told the audience what he had come to understand: that music fully exists only in the comity and rituals of live performance. I agree. During all these silent months, faced with a cornucopia of livestreams and the constant availability of nearly all recordings ever made, I let my musical diet wither to almost nothing. I don’t know why I rejected what was available and pined for what was not, but I did. So when it finally came time to file into a concert hall and sit down before a few dozen tuning musicians, it was like rediscovering a strange, forgotten rite. Then the orchestra plunged into the first tremulous chords of Caroline Shaw’s Entr’acte, and I felt an unfamiliar mixture of panic and solace….

Read on here.

And this is New York Classical Review.


  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    A very well-written review. Justin Davidson is somebody to watch out for.

    • A Pianist says:

      He’s been writing for at least a decade hasn’t he? Not a bad review but I’d say the NYCR one was a bit more informative.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Shaw’s piece, which was played on that programme, is a strong one, although there is not much continuity – I bet that is on purpose to avoid ‘tradition’:

    The Strauss Metamorphosen inspired some striking florishes from the critic:

    “This time, though, I heard glimmers of restless energy, perhaps because I sensed the orchestra’s joy at finally doing what it exists to do: play! It now seemed to me that Strauss had surveyed the rubble and gotten to work, fashioning a single, perfect brick for all who might one day need to rebuild. Here, the slow strings murmur: This is how you begin.”

    The last line could also refer to new music as such.

  • Couperin says:

    The very first piece after returning to public performances was Caroline Shaw’s Entr’acte?? No wonder this concert sounds so depressing and lame. That’s an awfully empty piece.

  • Someone Who Was There says:

    Not a single Black composer on the program, not a single Black player on stage, not a single Black person in the audience.


    What a difference a year of Covid, BLM did not make.

    • almaviva says:

      Philip Ewell, is that you?

    • John Borstlap says:

      There is a story that 5 members of the audience had been asked to apply blackface and wear dresses to make the occasion more up-to-date but they refused. Which shows how conservative classical music audiences still are.

    • Saxon says:

      How do you know that no-one there self-identified as black?