Saturday night was the first concert on my New York Philharmonic subscription series. Riccardo Muti was at the podium, and the first piece was Schumann's Piano Concerto with Radu Lupu. I'm not that familiar with this work except for the last movement, but I enjoyed watching Lupu interact with the other musicians and take cues from them. For example, the oboist would play a melody and Lupu would listen to how the oboist played it, then he would follow the same style a few measures later when the piano solo had the same melody. The orchestra for the Schumann was smaller than usual, with many of the Philharmonic's principal players missing. I don't know much about how a world-class orchestra operates, but it made sense to me that the assistant principals would lead their sections for the smaller concerto and then the heavyweights would come onstage after intermission to play the second half of the concert.
The major work on the program was Bruckner's Symphony No. 6. I don't know this piece that well either, but it is one of Bruckner's lesser-known symphonies, and undeservedly so. It's a beautiful work, with majestic fanfares for brass and sweeping melodies for the strings. I particularly enjoyed principal horn Philip Myers' solos in the Bruckner. I heard Myers play Strauss's Horn Concerto No. 1 with the Philharmonic three years ago, and I noticed the same quality of tone and vibrato in his orchestral playing as in his solo performance. There's also a huge difference between watching the NY Philharmonic on a big screen and with a professional sound system out in Lincoln Center Plaza (as we did back in September) and hearing them inside Avery Fisher Hall. The strings have a richer color and the brass resonate to the point that you can almost feel the sound. In short, it was glorious. I'm looking forward to my next concert in March, and I'm already excited about the Philharmonic's 2008-2009 season, when they will send Lorin Maazel off with a series of performances of Mahler's Symphony No. 8, his largest work. I will not miss that unless I'm dead, and even if that happens I'll find a way to haunt Lincoln Center.
One more thing: our programs had an insert with a list of people who had been subscribers for three or more years and were in the audience that night. I've never seen something like that before, but it was an innovative way to honor long-time listeners. And I recognized several of the names on the list as local musicians and minor celebrities. This is my first year as a subscriber, but it won't be the last. Maybe in a few years I'll see my name on that list.
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