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Daniele Rustioni conducts MET Orchestra. Photo by Chris Lee.
At Carnegie Hall on the evening of Saturday, February 11th, I was inordinately fortunate to attend a superb concert presented by the MET Orchestra under the exceptional direction of Daniele Rustioni in his debut at this venue.
The program opened magnificently with a sterling account of Béla Bartók’s astonishing Concerto for Orchestra. The Introduzione begins ominously and eerily with unsettling dissonances; the music then takes on an impassioned if disquieting urgency, although with more placid—even lyrical—interludes before ending abruptly and excitingly. The sprightlier Giuoco delle coppie that follows is ludic and humorous if not without enigmatic moments and concludes quietly while the ensuing Elegia is inward, mysterious and somber but with intense passages and also closes softly. The enthralling Intermezzo is magical and stirring if overtly comic and satirical and the powerful Finale is propulsive, quirky and cheerful and ultimately thrilling.
For the beginning of the remarkable second half of the event, the impressive bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green joined the musicians for a compelling performance of Modest Mussorgsky’s haunting, too seldom heard Songs and Dances of Death, brilliantly orchestrated by Dmitri Shostakovich. The evening’s pinnacle, however, was a masterly version of Igor Stravinsky’s extraordinary Suite from The Firebird (1919 version). The Introduction and Dance of the Firebird is ingenious and as bewitching as the subsequent Rondo: The Princesses’ Khorovod is evocative. The Infernal Dance of King Kashchei is exhilarating, and is succeeded by the Berceuse which is the most glorious part of the score—and also the unforgettable soundtrack for Lewis Klahr’s amazing film, Altair—while the Finale builds to an ecstatic close. The artists were enthusiastically applauded.
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