18 November, 2008

Concert Review: NYPO/Lang Lang/Eschenbach

November 7th, 2008
New York Philharmonic/Lang Lang/Eschenbach
Avery Fisher Hall

I went primarily for the Bruckner 9th, but was glad to have caught Lang Lang, my first time.

The Beethoven 1st was similar to the DG recording, though with more spontaneity. A few mannerism notwithstanding, I was impressed by Lang Lang's crisp and powerful playing, kept mostly along classical lines. The second version of the cadenza was a little too long for my taste. The New York Times review pretty much said it all.

Even more impressive was the tight accompaniment Eschenbach produced out of a moderately reduced orchestra. The two men obviously had great rapport together. The applause was thundering and there was a standing ovation (rather common these days, surprisingly). Unlike the previous day, Lang Lang did not give an encore.

I had a rather different response to Bruckner's 9th. It was marvellously played and architecturally sound. The first movement took a while to warm up but was grand by the time the coda arrived. The Scherzo was just too manic for my taste. The adagio was well anchored but two of the things I prize most in this music were glaringly missing. There was not much of a sense of struggle, usually conveyed by the dissonance, which were smoothed over by the playing. After the tumultuous music, what followed also lacked contrasting repose, not to say silver lining. Hence the performance truly felt unfinished, and not satisfying.

Sitting next to me was quite a music fan, who went on at length about how he would like to hear whatever fourth movement Bruckner did manage to complete (recorded by Harnoncourt, at least). He too was not too thrilled.

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