May 1, 2019, Carnegie Hall
New World Symphony - Michael Tilson Thomas - Yuja Wang
Michael Tilson Thomas has never thrilled me on records. Although he majors in romantic repertoire, unlike his mentor Leonard Bernstein he never seems to let his hair down. As a composer, he has excellent analytical power but again, unlike Bernstein, more often than not, something is missing, despite all the critical accolades.
The second-half's Berlioz Symphony Fantastique was fastidiously laid out by the conductor, architecturally superb, and very well played. The brass and percussion sections were particularly formidable. I enjoyed the playing very much, but ultimately the shade of coolness did not achieve the goal of Fantastique. Still, a very good performance.
The Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 5 featured the indefatigable Yuja Wang, half naked in a shimmering green dress, which actually mirrors her solo part, played with aplomb. However, MTT's conducting left much to be desired. He is not a Prokofiev conductor - much more punctuation and rhythmic pointing were needed. The strings in particular sounded emaciated, sometimes loud but without body, other times just vapid. As an encore, Yuja played a jazz-infused composition of MTT, which was just lovely.
Concert opened with Julia Wolfe's Fountain of Youth, an eclectic mix of motoric minimalism and the composer's "avant-garde" anything-goes Bang on a Can ensemble, extremely well played and enjoyable.