NY Philharmonic

2012 Gala Opening

September 27, 2012

This was the gala opening of the NY Philharmonic Orchestra’s 171st season!  Tuxedos sprouted like black orchids in a pasture full of spring flowers.

How fitting that world renowned violinist Izchak Perlman should be the soloist.  The program was simulcast on PBS, but no matter your home sound system, live in Avery Fisher Hall is better.

Opening number a most stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.  What made it so was the brilliant horn section, trombones and trumpets played by world class musicians surrounded by a million piece orchestra.  OK, I didn’t count them.

The five solo numbers were sandwiched between a couple of Respighi works, conglomerate impressionistic pieces which were effective in translating the sounds of our world into music.  Unfortunately the world of humans has car horns, so while the orchestra faithfully conveyed busy traffic and honking horns, they were as annoying as those I hear every day so why bother recreating those sounds?  Wonderful musicians turning their instruments of beauty into instruments of ugly. I didn’t know you could get violins to screech like that!

Some peaceful passages;  some vaguely pleasant music;  but not to put too fine a point on it, it was dysphonic and an assault to the ear.  Discursive melodies with meaningless segues defined these bookends. 

Between the two Repighis, though, was Izchak Perlman.  Some of the notes Mr. Perlman squeezes from his violin are impossibly sublime.  

The last and highest note of Massenet’s Meditation from Thais hit a sweetness I have never before heard drawn from an instrument of any kind.  There was a folksy Tchaikovsky short, rousing and lyrical, and John Williams Theme from Schindler’s List.  To watch Perlman’s face as he played, especially in the Schindler, was to watch a man who was inseparable from his violin.  The man was no longer there.  He was the violin.  Wonderful to watch, sublime to hear.  [It was composer John Williams’s request that Mr. Perlman play for the soundtrack;  it was dedicated it to him as well.  Quite touching for the Israeli born Perlman.]

It was in the final solo selection, a tarantella by Pablo de Sarasate, that the maestro’s virtuosity shone.  Birds chirped and flew off his fingerboard, shooed audience-ward by inhuman fingers.  No human muscle-nerve combination could possibly perform, virtually flawlessly, at that speed.