Philadelphia Orchestra plays Carnegie Hall

BERNSTEIN Symphony No. 1, "Jeremiah"

MOZART Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491

SCHUMANN Symphony No. 2

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Music Director and Conductor

Sasha Cooke, Mezzo-Soprano

Radu Lupu, Piano

May 9, 2017 Carnegie Hall, NYC -- It's been a long time since I've heard a concert from the Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage in Carnegie Hall. My visit to New York City for our annual #audiophiliacamp [report forthcoming - Ed] was timely in the fact that I'd get to hear one of the world's great orchestras in one of the world's great concert halls. 

New York City is lucky enough to experience annual visits from the A List of orchestras and many choose Carnegie to show off their wares. There really is no better place to attend a concert. What ever percentage the 1986 renovation robbed Carnegie of its lustrous acoustics, is easily made up by the sense of 'occasion' Carnegie Hall bestows on its visitors and audiences. 

It was no less tonight when Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducted an esoteric but masterful program for his New York audience. I'm not sure of the central reasoning of Nézet-Séguin's programming, either composer or repertoire -- there did not seem to be a unifying musical message other than performance excellence. 

Photo by Steve J. Sherman

Photo by Steve J. Sherman

The concert began with Leonard Bernstein's Symphony No. 1 subtitled 'Jeremiah' with Texas-born, Juilliard-trained mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke as the vocal soloist. Cooke made a name for herself at the Metropolitan Opera, although she is equally at home in both opera and lieder. 

Photo of Sasha Cooke by Dario Acosta.

Photo of Sasha Cooke by Dario Acosta.

Photo of Radu Lupu by Klaus Rudolph.

Photo of Radu Lupu by Klaus Rudolph.

The orchestra's refulgence was beautifully enhanced by the hall. The corporate sound in the three movements of the Bernstein was thrilling and the security of the performance was incredible. Massed strings sounded as one, brass punctuations were executed perfectly, woodwinds excelled in many beautiful solos and the percussion added to the wow factor. After two superb instrumental movements, Cooke's voice or Bernstein's writing for it in the third movement could have been anti climactic. No worries, tonight. Cooke easily matched the orchestra in power to weight ratio -- hers is a rich, creamy, and superbly controlled mezzo. And so musical. Soloist and orchestra were inspired by the dynamic direction of Nézet-Séguin. 

Radu Lupu is known for his pianistic touch, tone and masterful interpretations. All three were exhibited tonight as he was accompanied beautifully by The Philadelphia Orchestra. 

I prefer my late Mozart a little more dramatic. Lupu was far from soporific, but his relaxed style and effortless technique suggested a casual manner rather than a long, deep association with the score. No encore was offered to the adoring crowd, even to the man snoring loudly next to me. 

It seems Lupu was the big draw as many in the audience left after his performance. A shame, for they missed a meaty and big-boned Schumann performance. 

Schumann's classic architecture was both dreamy and dramatic highlighted by superior playing and the conductor's total immersion in the score. A magnificent achievement to which the audience responded warmly and with enthusiasm.