CARNEGIE HALL | Yes to Janáček

Monday, March 9, 2009 at 8 PM
CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, dir. Pierre Boulez

Pre-concert talk by Ara Guzelimian, Provost & Dean, The Juilliard School.

JANÁČEK | Sinfonietta
SZYMANOWSKI | Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 35. Soloist: Frank Peter Zimmermann
STRAVINSKY | Pulcinella (complete). Soloists: Roxana Constantinescu (mezzo-soprano), Nicholas Phan (tenor), Kyle Ketelsen (bass-baritone)

The Janáček work was surprisingly revelatory—a work, one feels, modeled on nothing but its own sense of wonder and exuberance—and a reminder of Boulez’s tremendous contribution to programming. The opening twelve-trumpet fanfare immediately engages, yet so many ideas spring up and develop—entailing some transportingly beautiful spots for strings—before it returns again to close the work. Once in a while one hears for the first time, in concert or on the radio, a work one knows must urgently join one’s own inner repertoire; this piece had that effect. Juilliard Dean Ara Guzelimian’s fluent pre-concert lecture nicely evoked the faintly magical role of Kamila Stösslová—the 25 year-old wife of a small-town antiques dealer, with whom Janáček fell in love at 63 and who became the wellspring of nearly all of his important (i.e., late) output.

For my tastes the Szymanowski concerto suffers a bit from overlong lyricism—and its orchestration suggests more fantasia than concerto—but Zimmermann rendered the work with impressive precision, meeting its demand that the violinist stay strenuously in his instrument’s highest, most wracking range while producing notes of dreamlike delicacy.

A delight as always to hear Pulcinella again, especially so soon after seeing Douglas Dunn’s exhilarating, hilarious choreography.

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