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The Munich Philharmonic Plays Tchaikovsky & Beethoven at Carnegie Hall

Behzod Abduraimov with the Munich Philharmonic, photo © 2019 Chris Lee.
A promising new season at Carnegie Hall continued with two excellent concerts on the evenings of Friday and Saturday, October 25th and 26th, given by the superb musicians of the Munich Philharmonic under the sterling direction of Valery Gergiev.
The first program opened excitingly with a confident account of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s perennially popular Piano Concerto No. 1, featuring the celebrated soloist, Behzod Abduraimov. The galvanic first movement was intensely Romantic while more lyrical, except during the more dynamic passages, was the ensuing, often Mozartean Andantino. The rousing finale was enthralling and earned a rapturous ovation which was reciprocated by an impressive encore: the Tchaikovsky Lullaby, Op. 16, No. 1, arranged by Sergei Rachmaninoff.
The second half of the evening was devoted to an admirably controlled performance—possibly the finest that I’ve heard in a concert hall—of Anton Bruckner’s magnificent Symphony No. 7. The musicians sustained the requisite gravitas of the opening movement, which they brought to a thrilling conclusion. Even more exalted was the elegiac Adagio which again climaxed majestically. The outer sections of the Scherzo were more propulsive, beautifully contrasting with the more subdued Trio. Most dramatic of all was the extraordinary Finale, which again moved the audience to ardent applause.
The second program was also outstanding, beginning enjoyably with contemporary composer Jörg Widmann’s Con brio, an arresting homage to Ludwig von Beethoven, with quotations from his Seventh and Eighth symphonies. The esteemed virtuoso Leonidas Kavakos then took the stage for a superior version of the Violin Concerto of Johannes Brahms. In the opening movement, the artists adeptly oscillated between the tragic and the affirmative, while the following Adagio was song-like but not without agitation, with the robust finale most ebullient of all. An enthusiastic reception again elicited a compelling encore: Georges Enescu’s "Ménétrier" (Minstrel) from Impressions d’enfance, Op. 28, No. 1.
The remainder of the concert consisted in a stunning rendition of Dmitri Shostakovich’s brilliant Symphony No. 5. The initial movement was somber yet spirited with the second the most playful. The introspective Largo was succeeded by the exultant Finale, earning the musicians more avid applause. The return of this ensemble to this stage will be highly anticipated.

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