I should have known it would be a great night with the New York Philharmonic. They usually play well for Manfred Honeck (music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra) and it was a stellar program of Johann Strauss, Mozart, and Brahms. The orchestra gave a spirited reading of the overture to Die Fledermaus, full of the melodies and dances that make the opera so popular. Then violinist Augustin Hadelich joined them for Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 and captivated the audience for a half hour. Hadelich's cadenzas were particularly impressive for being his own compositions and yet well suited to the concerto. I have rarely had the pleasure of hearing an artist at the beginning of his career with such control and artistry. I also enjoyed the enthusiasm of the basses and celli in the “Turkish” section of the last movement. The audience applause at the end of the concerto called for an encore. Mr. Hadelich delivered, with Paganini's Caprice No. 5 which he played with what seemed like incredible ease. His fingers flew up and down the fingerboard so fast that I could have sworn I saw wisps of smoke. I am certain that if he wanted to keep playing all night, we'd all still be there listening.
Brahms' symphony no. 4 was the second half of the concert. Honeck led the orchestra through a dark, energetic and dramatic performance. The strings and winds sang in the second movement, and the third movement was lively and almost raucous. The passacaglia in the fourth movement brought the work to a stormy conclusion and the audience brought Honeck back out for several ovations. It was a truly impressive evening and a great end to my subscription for the season. Next up: Concerts in the Parks!