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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Great Concert Performances: Spring 2018

Here's the best of the best from the second half of the season.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

Another spring season has rolled to a close and Superconductor is here to look back at terrific symphony concerts and some scintillating and caffeinated reviews. Here's the honor roll of the best of 2018 (so far, anyway.)

New York Philharmonic with Susanna Mälkki at David Geffen Hall
"Susan Mälkki took a bold, forceful approach to the opening movement, using careful control of meter to force the waves of sound to dance to her baton. This was a faster than usual tour of the three movements, sacrificing some lyricism on the altar of structure and musical efficiency. That said, it was exciting, with the Jeux de Vagues a particular standout."

Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Riccardo Muti at Carnegie Hall
"This concert featured one of a number of concertos written by Ms. Higdon for unusual soloists. This single movement cast in four parts displayed the ability of the three trombonists and tuba to do much more than just the usual heavy lifting in support of the horns."

Boston Symphony Orchestra with Andris Nelsons at Carnegie Hall
"Andris Nelsons, who is currently recording a complete cycle of the fifteen Shostakovich symphonies for DG, showed his fearlessness and expertise. He demanded everything from his players in the exhausting first movement, a screeching, jolting fun-house ride that has enough thematic ideas for six other symphonies."

Philadelphia Orchestra with Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Carnegie Hall
"The vibrant energy of the Philly streets filled the air of Carnegie Hall, with the work incorporating samples and interviews from the people of that great city: from the grill man at Pat's Philly Cheesesteaks (complete with the sound of sizzling meat and onions) to the enthusiastic input of ordinary citizens interviewed and sampled in a journalistic style, to the cry of triumph as the Philadelphia Eagles (at long last) won their first Super Bowl championship."

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra with Mariss Jansons at Carnegie Hall
"Against the first muffled strokes of the bass drum and muttering in the newly elevated basses, the tenor horn uttered its mournful cry, a dour challenge answered by the bright surge of the strings and woodwinds. This is a complicated opening movement, shifting constantly in key and meter and keeping the maestro on his toes. Mr. Jansons navigated it deftly, creating a sublime climax in the pastoral development section with its bird calls and fanfares: hints of a brighter day to come."

New York Philharmonic with Semyon Bychkov at David Geffen Hall
" With the Philharmonic players giving their utmost effort, Semyon Bychkov made this massive work cohere around a central, continuous melodic line as if the whole piece played in one breath lasting three-quarters of an hour. From the gloomy figurations of Night through the first, surging expression of the main themes, Mr. Bychkov piled thematic idea on thematic idea, seeming to find room for all of Strauss' eccentric twists and turns as the orchestra progressed upward."

The MET Orchestra with Michael Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall
"Michael Tilson Thomas brought that pointillist skill to the first movement, which careens between repeated, mysterious sleigh-bells and a scattering of seven different orchestral ideas that seem to tumble over each other in a rush. The joyous climactic moments were played with an innocence needed to make this music work, and small detailed like the transition from a solo bass clarinet to a cello at one point simply glowed."

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