Thursday, November 10, 2011

I [heart] New York: Day 1 Part 1 - The New York Philharmonic

This morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 6 AM (after finally retiring to bed around midnight, not because I was tired but because I wanted to be well-rested for today. Rachel was supposed to arrive just before 4... but thanks to American Airlines, that's changed to just before 6).

While I was getting my bearings on what might sound interesting I had noticed that the New York Philharmonic was offering an open rehearsal at 9:45 AM for, if I recall correctly, $19. While I've wanted to hear the NY Philharmonic, if for no other reason than to compare it to my Cleveland Orchestra, I didn't really want to dedicate an entire evening to the endeavor, much less an entire evening while Rachel was in town -- the open rehearsal sounded like a splendid way to make this work. Plus at closed rehearsals I've been invited to I've been thrilled by the artistic finesse and fine tuning that occurs between orchestra and conductor.

The concert being rehearsed consisted of two pieces (Strauss: Don Quixote, Op. 35, Cynthia Phelps, viola; Carter Brey, cello; Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 ("Pastoral"), Bernard Haitink, conductor), however I elected to leave during the rehearsal break as I was becoming hungry, and a bit restless -- not a good combination for 11:24 in the morning.

To put it simply, though, the Cleveland Orchestra is in no danger of loosing my musical heart. While Don Quixote was initially played through delightfully and without pause, it was no more musically satisfying than listening to something on my iPod. The precise reason why I don't listen to classical music on my iPod. I'm not sure if it's the orchestra or the acoustics of the visually uninspiring Avery Fisher Hall [It isn't far removed in size shape or decoration from an airplane hanger with seats and a stage left over from the dark days of design: The 70s] or even something particular to my seat (LL107) but there was no texture or emotion. I'm used to hearing classical music with nuances and individual character -- that is to say, a work that breathes with the collective breath of the musicians. I didn't get that, and had I paid much more than $19, I would have been remarkably disappointed. While the music was lively, the subject matter is after all Don Quixote, the delivery seemed mechanical. That said, both soloists, were captivating, particularly Ms. Phelps viola.

After the piece was played through in its entirety, specific passages were revisited, and reworked -- this is normally my favorite part, as it gives you a clear idea of what the conductor feels is most important about a piece,  however, as I was unable to hear a word Mr. Haitink was saying from the podium (as, of course, the comments were primarily if not exclusively intended for the benefit of the musicians) this provided no benefit to the audience.

The program notes and format were quite helpful on the other hand. I've long been a fan of the detail and organization of the Cleveland Orchestra's program books (the one addition I would suggest if given the opportunity is adding the approximate running times of movements, ala the Minnesota Orchestra) but the Philharmonic might win by a nose here of for nothing else than the sheer amount of well organized detail.

[Side note: The New York Philharmonic's Music Director, Alan Gilbert, is conducting this week's Cleveland Orchestra concerts -- it will be interesting to hear the Cleveland Orchestra under his baton on Saturday (if I make it back early enough) or Sunday (otherwise).

The NYC Ballet isn't presenting anything at the moment (slightly disappointing as I haven't found a more convenient source of ballet, namely one in Cleveland) and I absolutely cannot build any enthusiasm whatsoever for the Metropolitan Opera... so it seems unlikely that I'll return to Lincoln Center on this trip.

On my way back I went hunting for food and stumbled into a random deli and ordered a random sandwich. It was good.

Now I'm off to do some more exploring before picking up Rachel...


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