New York Philharmonic presents a night of Russian classics in Vail Friday
July 25, 2014
VAIL — Tonight's Bravo! Vail concert really should come with a bottle of vodka or a big bowl of borscht.
Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky.
What? No Prokofiev?
Sorry, when I think Russian music, I get the image of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in "Love and Death" with Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kije Suite" in the background.
Seriously, this will be a rousing concert. Joyce Yang joins the Philharmonic for Rachmaninoff's First Piano Concerto. Also on the program are Shostakovich's "Festive Overture," Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain," Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise," and Tchaikovsky's "Waltz of the Flowers from 'The Nutcracker'" and "Marche Slave."
Bramwell Tovey will be conducting, and he has a wicked sense of humor. Any conductor who can work in an Anthony Weiner joke into a talk from the orchestral stage, as he did last year, is good in my book.
While this is the last symphonic concert of the season, there are still more chamber concerts next week, including the Silver Oak and Twomey Series at Donovan Pavilion. Having attended a chamber concert there earlier this month, Donovan Pavilion is a wonderfully intimate setting for a concert. There's also the chamber finale on Aug. 2 at the Vilar Performing Arts Center. Do check them out.
In other news and notes from the festival:
• The New York Philharmonic started its residency with a touching tribute to its former music director Lorin Maazel on Friday. That was the orchestra's first concert since his passing earlier in the week. Maazel's successor and current Philharmonic musical director Alan Gilbert said from the stage that Maazel often said that the show must go on.
And then Gilbert led the orchestra in Barber's "Adagio for Strings," an elegant elegy played with no applause, at the maestro's request, at the end of the piece. As an encore, the Philharmonic played Brahms' "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5," one of Maazel's favorites.
Here's a fun anecdote about Maazel from The New York Times. At the ripe age of 11, Maazel, a conducting prodigy, was invited to lead the NBC Symphony in a national broadcast.
"The orchestra, outraged at the idea of being led by a child, greeted him at the first rehearsal with lollipops in their mouths," the Gray Lady reported in Maazel's obituary earlier this month. "He won their respect the first time he stopped the rehearsal to point out a wrong note."
And that would be that. I bet whoever played that errant note had a red face.
• Speaking of conducting, I enjoy watching the variety of styles of those at the baton during the festival. After all, I avidly have conducted my record player, tape deck, CD player and iPod — I am dating myself here.
Gilbert gets it — the music and/or the soloist is the show, not himself. Maybe, exuberance is the trend of the day a la Gustavo Dudamel of Los Angeles or The Philadelphia Orchestra's Yannick Nezet-Seguin, whom we see every year.
Gilbert is steady, cuing the members of the New York Philharmonic and making adjustments as necessary, but he doesn't seem to be on the verge of falling off his podium in doing so. Sure, he can play to the audience, when appropriate, as he did during the aforementioned Brahms encore, but his restraint is refreshing, and reflected in New York Philharmonic's play.
• Pianist Yefim Bronfman put on a virtuoso performance between Friday's and Saturday's concerts, playing Beethoven's Third, First and Fifth piano concerti in that order. For an encore on Saturday, he and the Philharmonic played the final movement of the Second.
There is a magical relationship, which, upon further review is not exactly magic, between Bronfman and the New York Philharmonic. You can see how well they work together given their extensive partnership throughout the years. The two have appeared together for five different sets of concerts since the beginning of 2014 alone before Bravo! Vail.
The respect Bronfman, Gilbert and the Philharmonic have for each other was evident at the end of Saturday's concert. Gilbert was ceding center stage to Bronfman during standing ovations, only to have Bronfman playfully wrestle Gilbert to join him.
Where was Bronfman on Sunday? I was really getting used to him as Bravo! Vail's exclusive soloist.
• Kudos to Bravo! Vail for its programming this year. Tonight's concert isn't the only one with a theme. It's been a common component throughout the season. Also, kudos to Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott for including more American music as well and we saw that with Wednesday's New York Philharmonic concert, "American Favorites," as well as the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's performance last month with Bernstein, Barber and Copland.
• OK, things I want to do at Bravo!. I still want to be the guy using the hammer during Mahler's Sixth Symphony in the fourth movement. I would also like a violin bow. Fear not, I will not attempt to play the violin — I have no clue there. I just love how the violinists wave their bows regally after a performance to salute the soloist.
I'd love to be able to do that not only at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, but elsewhere. If I'm watching my San Francisco Giants and catcher Buster Posey homers, I will have my bow to wave at my TV. I make a big putt on the golf course? I want to see people waving a bow in approval.
I will use said bow to impale people who clap between movements of works. People, we had been doing so well on this count earlier this season. Yep, the New York Philharmonic is in town and that brings out people who, perhaps, are not familiar with classical music. The silence between movements is part of the work. Please observe it.
Staff writer Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.