Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New York Philharmonic Opening Night Concert 2010-11

I had fun live-blogging Live From Lincoln Center last year for the opening night performance by the New York Philharmonic, so I thought I'd do it again this year.  They're coming to you live(-ish) from Avery Fisher Hall, and I'm coming to you from Five Guys Productions HQ in Brooklyn.  So tune into PBS (check your local listings) and enjoy the Philharmonic with me!

Updates will be at the bottom, since I don't do fancy top-posting blogging around here.

8:58 PM: We have a problem already: the Philharmonic's website is throwing up an error when I try to click on tonight's concert.  The program includes Strauss's Don Juan, Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphoses on a Theme of Weber, and a new work by Wynton Marsalis.  I think there's one more piece but we'll just have to wait and see.

9:02 PM: Alec Baldwin is back as the host.  He sounds a little raspier than usual tonight.

9:03 PM: Alan Gilbert in the white tie and tails tonight.  The orchestra begins with "The Star-Spangled Banner" as they do every opening night.

9:04 PM: Everyone stands up but the cellos.  Why do you hate America, cello section?

9:05 PM: The first work is the American premiere of Wynton Marsalis' Swing Symphony.  And there he is in the trumpet section!

9:08 PM: The orchestra seems at home with the jazzy style of this piece.  It reminds me a little of Gershwin.

9:09 PM: They squeezed the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra on stage too.  Things look cramped up there.

9:12 PM:  I'm sure my first exposure to Wynton Marsalis was a jazz performance on TV many years ago.  But my father had this album of Marsalis playing Baroque trumpet concerti with the English Chamber Orchestra, and I must have listened to it dozens of times.  All of the works on that album called for multiple trumpets, and Marsalis played all the parts himself.  It was a recording engineer's dream (or nightmare).

9:15 PM: We've got car horns and whistles in the percussion section.  Like I said, I hear lots of Gershwin in this piece.  That's not a bad thing.

9:18 PM: I don't listen to much jazz, but if I did, this is the kind of jazz I'd like.

9:22 PM: I love the barker-hat mutes the jazz band trumpeters just used.  Alan Gilbert looks like he's having a great time conducting this piece.

9:26 PM: The jazz band musicians are calling out to each other during their solos.  But the audience isn't applauding after each one like in a standard jazz concert.  Is that because it's a classical music audience that in 2010 doesn't applaud in the middle of a movement of a symphony?  Loosen up!  It's jazz!

9:31 PM: This last part just opened up like "Sing Sing Sing" with Gene Krupa.

9:33 PM: I want a hat mute for my viola for rehearsal tomorrow night.  I don't know how I'll use it.  I'll figure that out.  Someone hook a blogger up!

9:36 PM: I like the fade-out ending of that movement.  And the next movement (are there four? Without a program I have no idea) takes off like a rocket.

9:38 PM: Marsalis takes a solo turn.  This guy can still bring it.

9:41 PM: It's about time the bassist gets a solo.

9:46 PM: There's more?  This is one long symphony.  Not that I'm complaining.

9:51 PM: I'm going to take a minute here and talk about some of the concerts on my Philharmonic schedule this season.  I'm going to hear Mahler's Symphony No. 6 next Wednesday evening.  The Philharmonic is performing Mendelssohn's oratorio "Elijah" in November.  I'm going back for more Mahler in April, for his Symphony No. 5.  And at the end of June the Philharmonic will stage Janacek's opera The Cunning Little Vixen.  If it's anything like the way they staged Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre last year, it should be a great performance.

9:55 PM: The symphony fades to a close, and Gilbert steps off the podium to congratulate composer and performer Marsalis.  The narrator notes that it's odd for a composer of a symphonic work to perform with an orchestra, but in jazz it's common.

9:57 PM: Intermission.  Rex Ryan says "let's go get a goddamn snack."

10:04 PM: Alec Baldwin talks to Wynton Marsalis at intermission.  Marsalis says he no longer plays classical music because it's too difficult to make the switch from one style to another.  Baldwin asks him about the different styles in the work, and wonders if Marsalis was trying to provide a history of jazz.  Marsalis responds that it's the history of swing music, from ragtime to the present, and I think he said that they didn't play all of the movements of the piece.  So there's more?

10:09 PM: Baldwin and Music Director Alan Gilbert talk about Strauss.  Gilbert says that Don Juan is a challenge for the entire orchestra.  There's a reason why excerpts from the piece show up on auditions everywhere.  And Gilbert says that Hindemith's Metamorphoses are a chance for the orchestra to shine.

10:11 PM: We're into Don Juan. This is some meat for the orchestra.  It's not my favorite of Strauss's tone poems (that would be An Alpine Symphony) but it's right up there near the top.

10:15 PM: It amazes me that Richard Strauss was 26 when he composed this piece.  It's such complex music for such a young man.  (Boy, do I feel old now.)

10: 17 PM: I love principal flutist Robert Langevin's mustache.  I don't know how he plays the flute with all that hair in the way.

10:21 PM:  Listening to Strauss makes me want to be a French horn player.

10:25 PM: I played Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks with NYRO a few years ago and it was so much fun to learn.  I fear that Don Juan is out of reach, though.

10:30 PM: The last piece on the program is Paul Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphoses on a Theme of Carl Maria von Weber.  I played this work with NYRO three years ago and it turned out to be one of my favorite pieces we played all year.

10:32 PM: Gilbert launches into the Symphonic Metamorphoses before the narrator can finish his introduction of the piece.  Awesome.

10:36 PM: I may or may not be whistling along with the flute solos.  For anyone actually reading this live, this movement has a percussion fugue in it.  It's the kind of thing you don't hear too often.

10:40 PM: Outstanding work from the Philharmonic's brass section, as usual.

10:44 PM: I don't think you can say enough about the job Mark Nuccio has done in replacing Stanley Drucker as principal clarinet.  Drucker was a Philharmonic institution for six decades.  No one wants to try to replace a legend, and Nuccio has been stellar in the role.  Note: my mother is a clarinetist, so I may have a bias.

10:47 PM:  Langevin is just killing this flute solo.

10:48 PM:  I love the last movement of this piece.  I walked around with this piece in my head for a month and I couldn't get enough of it.

10:52 PM:  Have I said before how much I love a slam-bang ending?

That's it for tonight.  Enjoy the post-concert reception in the lobby, don't forget to tip your cabdriver, and I'll see you back here for next year's opening night.  Of course, if you like concert reviews (and who doesn't?) I'll post something about each New York Philharmonic concert I attend this season, and any other orchestras I might hear.  I think I'm going to see the Cleveland Orchestra at some point, and possibly the Pittsburgh Symphony again.  Because that's how I roll.

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