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German & Russian Classics On Stage With the MET & Philadelphia Orchestras

Beatrice Rana with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Photo by Caitlin Ochs
A superb season of orchestral music at Carnegie Hall is soon coming to its end but on the evenings of two consecutive Fridays, June 7th and 14th, New Yorkers were fortunate to hear an excellent concert—devoted to music by Russian composers —given by the fine musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra and an outstanding one, featuring works of late German Romanticism, given by the terrific MET Orchestra, both under the sterling direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
The first program, which was preceded by an informative talk given by the musicologist Dr. Elizabeth Bergman, opened with a magnificent account—the Carnegie Hall premiere—of the recently rediscovered and reconstructed extraordinary early orchestral work by Igor Stravinsky, Funeral Song from 1908, written in memory of his teacher, the brilliant composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. This music deserves to enter the standard repertory, alongside such comparable pieces asScherzo fantastiqueandFireworks.
The celebrated virtuoso, Beatrice Rana, then took the stage—wearing a fabulous, bright yellow gown—for an impressive rendition of Sergei Prokofiev’s eccentric Piano Concerto No. 3. The soloist beautifully succeeded in conveying the highly mercurial qualities of the first two movements before executing a thrilling finale. An enthusiastic response from the audience elicited a wonderful encore: Frédéric Chopin’s Étude in A-flat major, Op. 25, No. 1.
The second half of the evening comprised another rediscovered and reconstructed work, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s underrated Symphony No. 1. The beginning movement was appropriately dramatic while the ensuing scherzo was more eccentric. The Larghetto was the most lyrical section, although not without its violent passages. The powerful finale was ultimately affirmative. Again, the musicians garnered an exceedingly appreciative reception.
The first half of the second concert was devoted to a breathtaking performance of Gustav Mahler’s incredible Rückert Lieder, sung by the dazzling mezzo-soprano, Elīna Garanča, who looked simply gorgeous in a stunning, mostly white gown. The artist graciously accepted the audience’s ardent applause.
The second half of the evening consisted of a masterly realization of the marvelous Symphony No. 7 of Anton Bruckner. In the opening movement, the musicians sustained an aura of Wagnerian majesty, which was reinforced by the ensuing Adagio that, for all of its funereal programme, nonetheless achieved a sublime lyricism. The propulsive Scherzo was stirring, effectively contrasting with the mellower Trio section, while the work concluded with an exultant Finale. Again, the players received a tremendous ovation.
I look forward to the return of all these admirable artists in the fall, in what promises to be another memorable season at Carnegie Hall.

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