Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: The New York Philharmonic at Prospect Park, Brooklyn NY 7/15/09

In the program notes, Maestro Bramwell Tovey is quoted on the difference between summer and winter audiences: “A concert in the ‘regular’ season is a bit like a dinner party: people only come if they blend with one another.” [emphasis ours]

Pianist Vladimir Feltsman, on summer crowds: “It’s definitely more of a mixed crowd, more cosmopolitan and laid-back.”

In a word: wow. Sounds like the NY Philharmonic is in open rebellion against the Jersey and Westchester hedge fund contingent, huh? The crowd at Wednesday’s outdoor show at Prospect Park was everything Feltsman said it would be, an almost defiant display of seemingly every culture and ethnicity that Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Marty Markowitz and their out-of-town developer cronies are doing their best to evict en masse. If anyone needs further proof of classical music’s power to transcend boundaries and bring people together, this was it. And the atmosphere couldn’t have been more the opposite of the oppressive feel that you get at the free shows in Central Park – there was no antagonistic jockeying for position, vastly more open space and the wine flowed freely. The anticipated posse of undercover cops out to make their quota of cheap arrests never arrived. Maybe they were simply wrapped up in the music like everybody else. And what a beautiful night – to think that there could have been such a pleasant, cool evening in the dead of summer, 2009 seems to defy the laws of physics. Or else, somewhere far north of here, we have a body of water that was once an iceberg to thank for this.

About the concert: Alan Gilbert is taking over as conductor fulltime this fall, a healthy shot of adrenaline. Despite (relatively) unfamiliar surroundings and the spectre of sonic issues, he and the orchestra brought their A-game. Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony, No. 41 was first on the bill. The composer whipped this one out over the span of a couple of months in the summer of 1788, robust, catchy and utterly predictable (at least in the sense that you know that the big riffs are going to work their way through the various sections of the ensemble – how far they’re actually going is the only question here). It was as if Gilbert had put up a big sign on the back of the orchestra tent saying “PLAY LOUD.” Dynamics took a back seat to volley after volley of call-and-response. But it worked. There’s no real depth to this piece – it’s drinking music for classical fans, a blast from the past when drunks would get together at the music hall and shout over the orchestra. Gilbert made sure they couldn’t do that here.

Yet he didn’t do that with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Even as a handful of voices across the lawn were encouraging them to “play louder” – no joke – Gilbert worked the dynamics just as if they were at Lincoln Center, sensitively and intensely, bringing out all the longing and joy in a piece so frequently overplayed and underdone. If those furthest from the stage missed out on the nuances, that’s how Beethoven wrote it.  As predicted, the PA came undone with a big squawk during the first movement’s warm, matter-of-fact counterpoint, but the orchestra soldiered through it. The program notes credited the piece for foreshadowing Wagner: more pleasantly, it also foreshadows Jeff Lynne, particularly in the brighly apprehensive, minor-key theme and its permutations in the second movement. The encore was chosen by text message, and was apparently a tie (two people responded, maybe?). Happily, a memorably ebullient Mendelssohn scherzo won out over Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. Several in the crowd agreed that this was the best piece of the night. Mark your 2010 calendar to check the listings – here of course 🙂 – for free NY Phil concerts at Prospect Park and in other public places in (hopefully) June and July of next year.

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July 19, 2009 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , ,

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