New York Philharmonic on German island: first review

New York Philharmonic on German island: first review


norman lebrecht

May 23, 2022

by Shirley Apthorp, special to Slipped Disc:

For its first post-Covid tour, the New York Philharmonic has landed at the unlikely town of Peenemünde. At the westernmost tip of the Baltic Sea island of Usedom, Peenemünde was home to the infamous Nazi rocket testing facility, home to rocket scientist Werner von Braun, and also home to over 10,000 concentration camp and labour camp victims; they made the first V2 rockets there. The visit, says the Usedom Music Festival’s Executive Director Thomas Hummel, sets an example for peace, freedom and diversity.

In the imposing hall of the former rocket facility power plant, under the baton of outgoing chief conductor Jaap van Zweden, together with soloists Jan Lisiecki (pictured), Anne-Sophie Mutter and Thomas Hampson, the New York Philharmonic performed three sold-out concerts last weekend, with chamber music events continuing this week.

There’s no doubting either the prestige or the quirkiness of the event. Outside, amongst twisted industrial ruins of British bombings, an old test rocket stands tall. Inside, the New York Philharmonic plays Nina Shekhar’s +Lumina+, a recent work characterised by sibilant glissandi and great washes of sound.

For this opening concert, the New York Philharmonic is joined by members of the young Baltic Sea Philharmonic, sitting next to their transatlantic peers desk-to-desk. That makes it hard to comment on the New Yorkers’ sound, which in any case is hard to pinpoint in the industrial hall’s boomy acoustic. With such vast forces, Jaap van Zweden may have deliberately chosen a Karajan-style approach to Beethoven’s punchy score, filled with brutally heavy attacks, hammering out all beats of each bar with equal force. Lisiecki’s playing is adroit and refined, but never really takes flight; this is an +Emperor+ concerto that crash-lands, like the crumpled point of a test rocket that greets visitors to the adjacent museum.

It is now two decades since Rostropovich conducted Britten’s War Requiem in the same hall for this same festival; Mikhail Gorbachov was present. Needless to say, Putin is not present for this May’s concerts; but the chill cast by his shadow is palpable.

The main exhibition of the rocket museum is organised around the idea of a parabola. At one end, the science that created the rockets; at the other, the destruction caused by their impact; in between, the flight curve of Nazi propaganda that made this possible. There is a completeness to this concept that has not aged a day since Gorbachov’s visit; perhaps it has grown younger.

Shostakovich’s 9th symphony, with its embittered commentary on the Russian “victory” of 1945, should send chills down everyone’s spines. Van Zweden conducts with precision, drawing taut and disciplined ensemble from his strings; all the notes are in the right place, and there’s no doubting the commitment of his double orchestra. But the whole falls flat; it is as if van Zweden is reading a foreign language phonetically, sapping all the meaning from the words despite correct pronunciation. He has the charisma of a metronome. Yet the audience leaps to its feet with enthusiasm at the end.

The following evening brings further standing ovation for Andre Previn’s violin concerto ‘Anne-Sophie’, played by its namesake – a dreadful, saccharine work that has as its sole redeeming feature quotations of a melancholic German children’s song. Mutter plays with her trademark spun-gold smoothness, all vowels and no consonants, which must be how Previn wanted it.

Joan Tower’s 1920/2019, which opened the concert, seems a work of genius by comparison – certainly it is a solid, driven piece, part of the orchestra’s Project 19, for which 19 women composers are commissioned in honour of the centennial of the 19th Amendment.

In Bela Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, we finally hear what van Zweden and his orchestra can do best – attack an iconic 20th-century score with verve, teeth and claws. This is an orchestra in technically fine form, with lightning-quick reflexes and truck-loads of character. It is also an ensemble whose relationship with its chief has audibly curdled. Does this set an example for peace, freedom and diversity? Perhaps, for all the artistic compromises, it does. If former enemy lands can come together to make plough-shares out of swords, at a time when Adolf Hitler’s “wonder weapons” seem to foreshadow Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats in the most uncomfortable way imaginable, perhaps there is reason to hope.


The Usedom Music Festival continues in late summer with a focus on Estonia.



  • Fenway says:

    Sounds like a accurate review. Jaap, to put it nicely, sucks. I like the metronome reference. Spot on.

  • Helene Kamioner says:

    A miracle of history in the making

  • chet says:

    “It is also an ensemble whose relationship with its chief has audibly curdled.”

    Meaning? The reviewer gives no example and does not elaborate. The NY Phil was never known for a warm sound, so…

  • Tamino says:

    This reviewer is out of her mind. To favour Joan Tower’s boring minimalism “inspired” student like work over Previn’s late and intimate oeuvre is like favouring a Big Mac which was sitting for hours in a cardboard box over a refined freshly made Steak Tartare. But to each their own. Opinionated highly subjective trivia which don’t help anyone who didn’t attend to gain actual insights.

  • msc says:

    This is not fair to Previn’s Violin Concerto: the first movement is fun pseudo-Korngold, the second dark and very moving, the third powerful with a strangely tragic ending.

  • Helene Kamioner says:

    The orchestra’s CEO and president Deborah Borda said, ‘It was so wonderful – in fact, we should have come here long ago. I have rarely seen the musicians as happy as they were here.’ And Jaap van Zweden was extremely enthusiastic about the enthusiastic audience on Usedom and the concert venue: ‘We have rarely experienced such an enthusiastic audience. But being here also brings back a lot of sad memories. But I’m very happy to see that this place with this crushing history has been transformed into a place where we can make music, and music heals many wounds.’

  • Gustavo says:

    Wasn’t Nord Stream/Gazprom the major sponsor of this festival, with it’s excellent youth orchestra and Kurt Mazur (former chief conductor of NYP, some may recollect) as the ambassador?

    In the current situation, I find it inappropriate to exhibit such cultural artillery at a former weapons production site, while Germany is once again entangled in arms deliveries from the nation’s blast furnaces which are constantly destroying the Earth’s climate, bringing disaster to humanity – which is a fact, not a lie.

    There’s a bitter aftertaste to banding together and celebrating old principles in our decadent western society that has failed all along (above all in diplomacy).

  • JohnB says:

    The question is:

    (Why) do we need this guest performance? Even the classical music business has to deal more and more with the question of sustainability, so it sometimes seems a bit strange to fly in a large orchestra from New York, when Usedom is just 200 km north of Berlin. There are three orchestras in Berlin, and certainly more than ten in the whole of Germany, that the New York Philharmonic cannot even begin to hold a candle to. This guest performance is another example from the series “Concerts for Stupid People”, where a musically rather uneducated audience gladly pays ticket prices of more than 400 € just to have been there when “the famous orchestra from America” performs. People want to be there to be able to tell that they were there and ignore the fact that they don’t have to travel very far to hear better concerts. Simply because it’s not spectacular.

  • Whatever says:

    Putting victory in brackets when referring to Russian contribution in WWII is at the very least disingenuous. It’s like putting freedom of speech in brackets when referring to some of the countries in the West. Oh wait…

  • John Dalkas says:

    Such great you-are-there writing. What a pleasure to read: intelligent, articulate, refreshing. Thank you Ms. Apthorp. I hope SD publishes more of your reviews.

  • Manuela Hoelterhoffrhoff says:

    What an irresponsible trip. Nothing connects the NYPhil to this place of murder and remembrance. There must be dozens of European orchestras within train distance. Why jet over about 125 people – musicians, staffers, technicians, cargo slaves— in a time of COVID and a wilting environment? Years ago at Bloomberg News we costed out such adventures in PR for wandering orchestras at about $250,000 for travel and per diem. I trust board members enjoyed the beaches.

    • Helene Kamioner says:

      Wish you could have been there. For those of us who live with walking distance of Lincoln Center, and have the opportunity to hear the incomparable programs and music making of The New York Philharmonic, such concerts are one of many. It’s a different story when you live on PinkleStrasse in some remote international village…yes I said International because that’s what the audience was….and all your global musical experience comes from a phonograph or radio. As far as your comment regarding the concept that the NYPHIL has nothing to do with the history of Peenemuende, need I remind you this history belongs to the world. Chapeau to alle beteiligten who got on a plane, maskless for the first time in 2 years, schlepped their instruments and baggage to perform for a grateful, appreciative international audience who happened to enoy some good weather and fish together. Jim Oestreich did it 20 years ago, not so with today’s big gun New York newspapers…schandevoll. And yet Carnegie is filled to the rafters when the Wiener’s and Berliner’s and Leipziger’s grace that stoired stage. Why, I am asking YOU why? What is the difference?

    • Brian Bell says:

      Greetings Manuela, and I sincerely miss your insightful writing that was wonderfully acerbic when it needed to be. I see that Ms. Kamioner is picking a bone with you, but my thoughts are taking a different turn. I will not quibble with the New York Philharmonic playing in the Baltic sea, but when was the last time the Philharmonic enriched audiences slightly closer to home? I won’t begrudge them a trip to London or Vienna, but when was the last time they visited Utica, New York? Well, their database says they have been there a total of 6 times, the first with Mahler in 1910, the last with Mitropoulos in 1957. Schenectady? 4 times, last in 1957.
      Syracuse, which doesn’t have a resident orchestra these days? 15 times, first by Mahler (1910) most recently by Tennstedt.
      Even Rochester, New York, which does have a wonderful music school and a decent orchestra, was last visited by the Philharmonic back in 1973.
      Much has been written recently how American orchestras are losing their relevance to the nation at large. I can see why, when the ensembles don’t bother to perform in their own back yards.

      • Helene Kamioner says:

        Can the cities you just named pay the NYPHIL fee?

      • Helene Kamioner says:

        Mr. Bell, another point worth looking at is the fact that in the USA classical music concerts need an audience because playing to empty seats is a real downer. Actually, the USA is not alone in weak classical music ticket sales…I hear Vienna and Munich aren’t sold out either. But in general, European audiences, even in comparable cities to Utica are simply more cultivated. So if you want the NYPHIL, first begin with your Board of Ed and reinstate classical music education, and get yourself a good fundraiser

        • guest says:

          Other commenters have quibbled with various issues in this thread. I will quibble just with ‘European audiences, even in comparable cities to Utica are simply more cultivated.’ I don’t see how this could be true. European audiences might be more inclined to attend performances (for various reasons from virtue signaling to genuine love for music), but it doesn’t follow they are more cultivated. I don’t mean to say American audiences are more cultivated, I mean to say audiences are uncultivated _everywhere_ . The festival audiences wouldn’t have recognized the NYPHIL on their own merits. To them it was the NYPHIL because the presenter said so. Any other orchestra would have done equally well. Had the NYPHIL not been able to make it for whatever reasons, had the festival hired a replacement, and had the presenter kept mum about the substitution, the audiences wouldn’t have known (I am by no means implying the festival management would consider duping the audiences.) Same to the pieces performed. The pieces were Shostakovich, etc., because the presenter said so, because the information was in the brochure. Replace them with something else and very few would have known.

        • Brian Bell says:

          Ms. Kamioner,
          Citing the New York Philharmonic’s performance fee pretty much proves my point. Classical music has a big problem, and presenting it to those who might not come across it is a good place to start. When I performed in a regional orchestra in the mid-west, we would play portions of the upcoming season in a shopping mall. Many of us players would meet and greet the audience and more than a few tickets were sold.
          You and I grew up when American symphony orchestras were an important part of the society’s fabric. More than one conductor would appear on the cover of Time magazine.
          This is not the case today. Classical music is now bordering on irrelevance in the USA.
          A good way to thwart this is to look at how classical music was firmly established in the first place. A great deal of credit goes to one who was Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. But before that, he crisscrossed the USA with his namesake orchestra, playing Beethoven, Schumann, Strauss and Wagner to Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Saint Louis. I’m sure the Theodore Thomas Orchestra didn’t have a performance fee!
          Finally, my best to you in your health challenges. That you show so much passion for great music is something all should admire.

          • Helene Kamioner says:

            Allow me to share with you that I don’t believe student debt should be wiped out. That said, let me thank you for proving a pet peeve of my mind. Arts workers, arists, musicians et al who spent a fortune on their education, lesson etc. should earn as much as any professional, especially in New York where the cost of living is probably higher than any of the cities you mention. Keep US musicians from becoming expats in Germany in order to earn a reasonable living.

      • J says:

        Fabulous reply to the magnificent Manuela. And you’re exactly right. (Thanks for the research, too!)

      • Manuela Hoelterhoff says:

        Thanks for your note Brian.
        Helen is a dear and I am glad this hideously expensive excursion has made her happy.
        She is correct that Carnegie hall is often full for visiting orchestras but that is because NYC only has one major residential symphony orchestra led by an unpopular conductor. Berlin has five. And in Rostock, not even two hours away, there’s a fine ensemble capable of NYP’s program.

        • Helene Kamioner says:

          Gruess Dich Manuela…the Usedom Music Festival will present Juedische Musik Woche the last week in November and we invite you to celebrate another joyous occasion with us. For me the Usedom Music Festival represents an important ongoing reconcilliation and understanding process. It’s not about the expense, but the message that keeps me going, even with colon cancer.

        • Tamino says:

          Berlin has seven.
          -Deutsche Oper
          -Komische Oper

          And Berlin is stil eager to buy tickets for visiting orchestras any time.

          Rostock has a fine ensemble, but they are not in the same league as NY Phil. Really not.

          I don’t understand, why anyone could be against orchestras going on tour. Culturally it is so enriching for both sides. And not a competition to the locals, ever.
          The only argument is the bad effect on climate.

        • Brian Bell says:

          You’re very welcome, and please keep writing!
          Let me submit to you that if the “residential symphony orchestra” was taken over by a very popular conductor, Carnegie Hall would continue to have healthy houses.
          My concern remains with classical music’s relevance outside of the major metropolitan centers. Carnegie Hall is not that canary in this coal mine!

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Given that listeners can pretty much judge for themselves these days, it seems that ‘reviewers’ simply construct a long string of subjective babble, tying together past and current events into how a Beethoven symphony has been conducted and phrased – all with the profound intention of guiding humanity on to the right runway. Why can’t we just have a more objective attempt to describe what happened musically, and leave things at that. It doesn’t matter if, as claimed here, van Zweden “has the charm of a metronome”. What matters are the musical results. Period.

    • Helene Kamioner says:

      Dear Julius Rudel used to say “Man tut was man kann” One does what one can do

    • guest says:

      ‘Negativity sell[s]’
      Au contraire. You can hardly read a critical review these days, all is roses and sunshine, beautiful, wonderful, awesome, terrific, and of course all performers are geniuses, all presenters are ‘excited’ to make their announcements, and the performers are equally ‘excited’ to be there. Consulting a lexicon might help with diversity. There’s diversity everywhere these days, just not in writing.

  • Dietmar says:

    I share Georg Kreisler’s opinion of the Musikkritiker! Negativity sell. I thinks these concerts are an amazing event and to have them and share the music in this time and this place is a great accomplishment.

  • Helene Kamioner says:

    Mutter Message:

    “What a spectacular ending of a long tour!
    After many wonderful concerts with the fab Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko.
    I flew to Peenemünde to play here with the legendary New York Philharmonic.
    It was the first trip of an American Orchestra to Germany after Covid!
    JaapvanZweden was a dream to work with – and playing André Previn’s Concerto a deeply moving experience for all of us.
    Making music together and playing for unity of people, an open dialogue and freedom for all is more pressing then ever. We must fight with all our passion for a life in democracy and freedom!
    I have always felt that music can be a form of love. It most certainly is a language we all share and deeply connect to. Let us all try to live in respect and curiosity towards each other!
    I will connect to my inner lazy self for a few days before heading to the states with my quartet.
    Tour impressions from my fav spots – the Elphi back stage inside and outside spectacular and me at the beach of Heringsdorf …”

    • Gustavo says:

      Still disappointed that the BSO didn’t make it to Europe!

      • Tamino says:

        Question of funding. NY Phil’s trip was fully paid by the Germans. Boston’s trip was mostly to be paid by the Bostonians themselves AFAIK.

    • guest says:

      This is hardly proof of anything, Helene, no more than your previous post about the orchestra’s CEO. These people are all interested parties who would hardly bite the hand that feeds them. Shouldn’t opinions be reserved to the audience? Artists make offerings, live audiences attend and are opinionated. And pay for the offering.

      • Helene Kamioner says:

        My father was not what I would call a “cultivated” man in terms of the classics…especially music, but he could tell the difference between first class, world renowned and not so first class, just as he could tell the difference between real gold and imitation, same goes for diamonds. Not so sure about wines, on the other hand.

        • guest says:

          I am glad for him but how does this relate to what I wrote? It looks like the right reply to the wrong comment?

          • Helene Kamioner says:

            Allow me to clarify: It doesn’t always take a connoisseur to recognize the difference between level A Plus and for the sake of argument say a level B orchestra.

          • guest says:

            Thanks for the clarification, I understand what you mean, but now I am puzzled how does this contradict my first comment in this thread?

            My first comment was about audiences forming their opinion directly by listening to the performers’ offering, not indirectly from the same performers’ enthusiastic messages to the population (Quoting myself: ‘Shouldn’t opinions be reserved to the audience? Artists make offerings, live audiences attend and are opinionated. ‘).

            I think your father would have approved of my view on the matter, if he was able to tell the difference between level A and level B himself. I guess he didn’t need anyone to _tell_ him whether a performance was good or ‘deeply moving’. Either he was moved himself by the performance, or he wasn’t, no amount of messages from vested parties would have changed that. I wrote a second reply to your other comment too – please scroll down.

      • Helene Kamioner says:

        News flash re: “These people are all interested parties who would hardly bite the hand that feeds them.” ‘these people are way beyond worrying about so called feeding hands, because those hands depend on those people to do what they cannot, and can recognize quality.

        • guest says:

          ‘these people are way beyond worrying about so called feeding hands, because those hands depend on those people to do what they cannot’

          I propose we should agree to disagree on this one. The classical music business is overpopulated with ‘quality’, so the ‘feeding hands’ have a large pool to chose from. Even the ‘quality’ has to tread carefully these days, and as a rule they do. There’s hardly a famous opera singer who dares to voice disapproval at the current productions littering opera houses. Unless you believe they are all genuinely convinced about the ‘artistic merits’ of such productions, you’ll have to agree they tread carefully. Well paid tours for orchestra, at least partially financed from taxpayer money, aren’t just for the asking either. Treading carefully doesn’t apply to recital concerts. Artists fortunate enough to be able to sell recital concerts have the upper hand in those concerts, but still have to tread carefully when making an appearance in joint ventures.

          So it’s the quality kissing the feeding hand most of the time, and the feeding hand kissing the quality hand in return, to show we are all civilized people. No quibble with this as long as all this polite hand kissing isn’t being circulated as _proof_ of excellency for the ‘benefit’ of those incapable of forming opinions themselves, or for those who like to live vicariously through other people’s opinions. But I will give it to you, in both cases it’s more the susceptible people who are at fault, than those doing the kissing or those publishing the kissing report. Don’t get me wrong, Helene, the festival might have been excellent for all I know, but you shouldn’t expect people to believe you just because you quote Mutter and the orchestra CEO discreetly touting their collective horn.

          My best wishes to you.

          • Helene Kamioner says:

            Without treading carefully, like those who can I too propose we should agree to disagree on this one; Let’s leave it to the experts

          • Helene Kamioner says:

            Enjoy insulting honorable people much?

          • guest says:

            I am genuinely surprised. No, I don’t enjoy insulting anyone, least of all honorable people. I enjoy critical thinking and common sense. But in the brave new world of indiscriminate praise and unchecked hyperbole, it is possible that critical thinking comes across as insult. I don’t mean to say _you_ are guilty of indiscriminate praise, I mean generally, our society apparently can’t suffer the slightest critique anymore.

            All I said in my first comment in this thread, is that people should form opinions by themselves, not by borrowing other people’s opinions, particularly not from parties with a vested interest. The latter doesn’t mean you, it means the performers, whose messages you reproduced here. How could my comment be interpreted as insult beats me. Where’s the insult? I can see just common sense.

            The ‘quality’ debate wasn’t intended, it just happened. You took my ‘interested parties’ and put the ‘quality’ spin on it, and I took up from there. But originally my ‘interested parties’ was just that, interested parties, or parties with a vested interest in the performance if you prefer – people who work together, performers and presenter, toward a common goal. Such people hardly ever criticize each other or the result of their joint effort. Of course they all say it was wonderful, what else? It doesn’t follow we must take it for gospel truth. I’m not saying the messages you reproduced here are untruthful, or that the performers are hypocritical, no such thing, I am just saying it’s common sense for the ‘public’ to take everything with a grain of salt these days. Don’t be so touchy. It’s common sense in a world in which we are bombarded 24/7 with ads overflowing with superlatives and name dropping.

            My best wishes to you.

          • Helene Kamioner says:

            @guest, unlike you, I do trust many in the biz who make the decisions about the menu served to the audience.

            all best to you too

  • Paul Sekhri says:

    Perhaps the audience jumped to their feet at the end of Shostakovich 9 because they were thrilled by a great performance. Isn’t that a possibility?

    • Gustavo says:

      No, they jumped to their feet because Shostakovich wrote his 9th in this circus style to fool Stalin.

  • James H. Schutmaa says:

    I definitely believe that music critics” of this type are members of a useless (and many times harmful) profession, if you could call it so. The experience of hearing music, played from the heart, in whatever manner, and enjoyed by others is a God-given blessing, and something to be treasured, not “picked apart”, analyzed and spoiled by some supposedly ” educated” remarks. Critics like this would do us a favor if they found something else more useful to do. Join a choir!

    • Gustavo says:

      Understand, this is the new reality post COVID!

      The masses are dying for culture with a woke message.

      Nobody needs plain music in fine acoustics.

      It’s all about historic symbolism.

      Location, location, location!

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    In this slowly emerging post-Covid era, history will mark the visit by the New York Philharmonic as a venture forward to join people together from one part of the world to the other. True, history may fade what was performed and who performed, but the physical presence will be documented as the world tries to move forward out of a global catastrophe. We must move onward as best possible.

    • Gustavo says:

      Isn’t it one world, and doesn’t the music that was performed matter most?

      • Tamino says:

        The music should have mattered most, but it probably didn’t. It was only a vehicle for:
        -NY Phil having a fully paid European tour
        -The soloists had another very well paying gig
        -the agents and managers got their prestige project with nice percentages
        -the local provincial politics and ticket buying gullible audience got their exclusive event

        In other words: business as usual. Great music might have happened too. But who cares?

    • Helene Kamioner says:

      “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” TS Elliott

  • Helene Kamioner says:


    Peenemünde (dpa / mv) – About 5400 people attended the concerts of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on Usedom. The organizer announced on Wednesday that three of the five performances were sold out. From Friday to Tuesday, around 110 musicians played in Peenemünde, Heringsdorf and Wolgast under the direction of Jaap van Zweden. The soloists Anne-Sophie Mutter, Thomas Hampson and Jan Lisiecki also performed.
    He was “very grateful and overjoyed” that it was possible to set a sign for peace and understanding, said the director of the Usedom Music Festival Thomas Hummel, according to the announcement. It was the orchestra’s first trip abroad since the Corona pandemic and part of the Usedom Music Festival taking place in autumn. Those who missed the concerts can watch the performance with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter on 3SAT on May 28th.

    25. Mai 2022, 10:56 Uhr Direkt aus dem dpa-Newskanal
    Peenemünde (dpa/mv) – Etwa 5400 Menschen haben die Konzerte des New York Philharmonic Orchesters auf Usedom besucht. Drei der fünf Vorstellungen seien ausverkauft gewesen, teilte der Veranstalter am Mittwoch mit. Von Freitag bis Dienstag spielten die etwa 110 Musikerinnen und Musiker unter der Leitung von Jaap van Zweden in Peenemünde, Heringsdorf und Wolgast. Zudem traten die Solisten Anne-Sophie Mutter, Thomas Hampson und Jan Lisiecki auf.
    Er sei “sehr dankbar und überglücklich”, dass es gelungen sei, ein Zeichen für Frieden und Verständigung zu setzen, sagte der Intendant des Usedomer Musikfestivals Thomas Hummel laut Mitteilung. Es war die erste Auslandsreise des Orchesters seit der Corona-Pandemie und Teil des im Herbst stattfindenden Usedomer Musikfestivals. Wer die Konzerte verpasst hat, kann am 28. Mai die Vorstellung mit Violinistin Anne-Sophie Mutter auf 3SAT nachschauen.
    © dpa-infocom, dpa:220525-99-425258/3

  • Victor says:

    Jan Lisiecki is the most overrated pianist/musician of his generation.

  • Larry W says:

    1/21/22- Houston Symphony, Christoph Eschenbach.
    …. Next, pianist Jan Lisiecki performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. Lisiecki entered the stage with a steady gait, arms at his side, and bowed with a studied formality. He sat erect at the piano and rarely smiled. While his piano playing was technically impeccable, during chords head motions were borderline stiff, as if a tight cord was being plucked. Tonally, his sound had great dynamic contrast, but with an underlying digital quality. He was best at maintaining the pulse as the piano alternates with the orchestra, but any rubati (tempo fluctuations) felt planned rather than natural or organic. Also less convincing was the second movement, where Beethoven writes with a form of baroque duality between orchestra and soloist. Forte and firmly rhythmic orchestral subjects are contrasted with soft piano passages pleading to be heard. This voice in the wilderness can and should elicit tears, but my eyes remained dry. The third movement started attacca (immediately). Soloist, conductor and orchestra were unified in a brilliant performance.
    It will be interesting to watch Lisiecki’s career unfold. He has already achieved extraordinary recognition, having been signed by Deutsche Grammophon at age 15, and solo appearances all over the world. While this is a sign of supreme success, it can also become a yoke, with a fear of change and experimentation lest one’s perfection is lost. Yes, take me to your lieder, but just once get down with the Ebene String Quartet, or Joshua Bell, or Patricia Kopatchinskaia.

  • M McGrath says:

    I appreciate the review very much. Two comments.

    What a wonderful description of the Mutter style of playing – all vowels, no consonants. Like Joan Sutherland used to sing!

    Also, I like the reference to the audience regularly giving a standing ovation, .. I thought I was alone in wondering if audiences have become rather indiscriminate in this regard. Jumping up and frolicking seems to be almost standard behavior – no matter what is served on the stage (for the discriminating ear). But, hey, as long as classical music in its many forms has an audience, I guess I should be grateful.

  • Helene Kamioner says:

    Mutter on Previn

    (for non=German speakers, please google the translation)

    Ich bin André Previn unendlich dankbar für viele großartige Kompositionen, die er mir in den letzen 19 Jahren gewidmet hat. Aber sein Violinkonzert „Anne-Sophie“ hat einen ganz besonderen Platz in meinem Herzen. In dem dreisätzigen Werk entfalten sich Hochromantik neben Zwölftontechnik, große Orchestertutti mit herrlichen Bläsersoli, aberwitzige Rhythmen: ein Meisterwerk.Es ist besonders der letzte Satz, der zu Herzen geht: „Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär.” Das Thema – kunstvoll variiert – entlässt das Werk zu einem berührenden Entschweben auf dem höchsten G.Andre musste mit nur 9 Jahren aus Berlin in die USA fliehen. Seine verlorene Kindheit und der traumatische Verlust der Heimat wird hier aufs innigste vertont.Meine phänomenalen Kollegen des New York Philharmonic unter JaapvanZweden spielen dieses Werk unvergleichlich. Ausnahmsweise bin ich sehr glücklich dass es von dieser Sternstunde eine Aufnahme gibt!

  • Helene Kamioner says:

    At Nazi weapons development site, renowned musicians bring works of oppressed Jews to life

  • Helene Kamioner says:

    Who didn’t have the opportunity to be there: Anne-Sophie Mutter with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Jaap van Zweden on Saturday, 8 p.m. on 3SAT – a Peenemünde concert of the Usedom Music Festival on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the concert series.…/anne-sophie-mutter-ny…

    Wer keine Gelegenheit hatte dabei zu sein: Anne-Sophie Mutter mit dem New York Philharmonic unter der Leitung von Jaap van Zweden am Samstag, 20 Uhr auf 3SAT – ein Peenemünder Konzert des Usedomer Musikfestivals anlässlich des 20-jährigen Jubiläums der Konzertreihe.…/anne-sophie-mutter-ny…