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A Classical Evening With Bernard Labadie at Carnegie Hall

Bernard Labadie conducts the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Photo by Chris Lee

At Carnegie Hall on the evening of Thursday, February 9th, I was fortunate to be able to attend a splendid concert featuring the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, under the distinguished direction of Bernard Labadie.

The program began promisingly with a very accomplished account of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s impressive Piano Concerto No. 18, beautifully played by the eminent soloist, Emmanuel Ax. The initial movement—one of pure elegance and ultimately intricate in construction—opens charmingly and proceeds ebulliently. The slow movement, which is more serious in character as it starts but is more variegated in tone as a whole, reaches a pinnacle in a brief, fugue-like section, while the finale is jubilant and exciting but not without its weightier moments. Enthusiastic applause elicited a fabulous encore from the pianist: Franz Liszt’s "Ständchen," S. 560, No. 7 (after Franz Schubert's Schwanengesang, D. 957, No. 4).
The second half of the event was even stronger, consisting in a solid interpretation of Schubert’s imposing, marvelous “Great” Symphony in C Major. The stirring first movement, which has an enchanting introduction, seems distinctively Mendelssohnian—it recalls the“Italian” Symphony, which is maybe a musical example of what the incomparable literary critic, Harold Bloom, called “transumption,” whereby a later work seems to be the earlier one—even though Felix Mendelssohn had led the work’s world premiere in 1839 with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. With the ensuing Andante con moto—which is remarkably dramatic at times—the influence of Ludwig van Beethoven is paramount but there are also passages redolent of the Baroque. Beethoven is also an unmistakable progenitor of the appropriately playful Scherzo, even in the elevated Trio, while the finale was exhilarating. The artists deservedly received a standing ovation.

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