Saturday, October 17, 2015

We Got Rihmed

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s October 15th season opening celebration featured much undifferentiated playing. The program was intelligently designed to showcase the New York premiere of Wolfgang Rihm’s Duo Concerto, written for a married duo, cellist Jan Vogler and violinist Mira Wang. It is difficult to assess their undoubtedly noble efforts past an orchestration thicker than caulk. Mr. Vogler played on a large podium stage center, but this did not aid to his projection as it did to the visibility of his physical gesticulations and the serious commitment of his hair to the performance.

The comely Ms. Wang managed more audibly to struggle through the contrapuntal tonalische miasmas, written in a harmonic language by the preĆ«minent post-modernist German composer that could be simplistically called valedictory, like the late works of Alban Berg. This uninspired work punishingly asked the soloists to compete against colorless clotted textures; indeed, a concert companion aptly described it as “morose hysteria”.
Perhaps this work would be better scored as a string septet. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Pollini at Carnegie

 Maurizio Pollini again honored the stage of Carnegie Hall nearly 50 years after his debut, on a brilliant temperate October Sunday afternoon. An elegant, dignified and stooped man of 73, his program featuring Schumann and Chopin demonstrated exactly these qualities. If he performed as if a generation older, there were nevertheless remarkable attributes.

      The opening and better half began with Schumann's B minor Allegro op.8, and, if the mood for the program was established as phlegmatic, it was also intriguing, often sublimely textured and limpidly phrased. Mr. Pollini's trademark structural clarity balanced well a muted tonal reticence, as his grand melodic narrations contrasted with rhythmically approximate supporting material. Schumann’s C major Fantasie, at times divine in harmonic depth, might at this point be better in the recording studio than the concert hall, but there was so much that was strikingly arresting and noble, especially in the outer movements, that readers must accept my courtesy not to elaborate further.