Per week in the past, the Vienna Philharmonic’s three-night cease at Carnegie Corridor, which started Friday, was outstanding principally for signifying a significant step within the gradual return of worldwide orchestras to New York. Then Russia invaded Ukraine.
The Viennese had been set to be carried out by Valery Gergiev, a frequent magnet for protests at Carnegie Corridor over his shut ties with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Each Carnegie and the Philharmonic had beforehand been outspoken about separating Gergiev’s politics and his artistry, though his artistry is inseparable from the federal government.
Come Thursday, when phrases like “the entire world has modified” began to floor, Gergiev’s relationship with Putin turned “untenable,” as Clive Gillinson, Carnegie’s government and creative director, told The New York Times. Gergiev was dropped from Philharmonic concerts; so was Denis Matsuev, the deliberate soloist in Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, who had publicly endorsed Putin’s insurance policies prior to now.
Gergiev has not commented on the invasion, at the same time as many classical musicians who didn’t have to have. (Till Saturday, the star soprano Anna Netrebko, one other Putin supporter, was additionally silent earlier than she posted a face-saving statement to Instagram saying she was “against this conflict,” with a defiant coda that “forcing artists, or any public determine, to voice their political views in public and to denounce their homeland will not be proper.”) If Gergiev doesn’t converse out, he faces extra cancellations: from the Teatro alla Scala in Milan; the Munich Philharmonic, the place he’s the chief conductor; and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, which had been planning a competition in his honor.
However again to the Vienna Philharmonic.
With the information of Gergiev’s departure got here the announcement that Yannick Nézet-Séguin, neither a stranger to the Philharmonic nor a lot of a daily, would step in — bringing his whole variety of appearances at Carnegie this season to greater than a dozen. He had just led the Philadelphia Orchestra, of which he’s the music director, there on Monday, and was making ready to open a brand new manufacturing of Verdi’s “Don Carlos” on Feb. 28 on the Metropolitan Opera, the place he’s additionally the music director. All of a sudden, he was conducting three Vienna live shows, with three totally different applications, in between. (As if that weren’t sufficient, he opens a revival of “Tosca” on the Met on Wednesday; when trip comes, will probably be nicely earned.)
Then a pianist wanted to be discovered. Seong-Jin Cho, who lives in Berlin, agreed round midnight his time on Friday, and was on a aircraft to New York inside about seven hours. He hadn’t performed the Rachmaninoff concerto since 2019, and had by no means labored with the Philharmonic; for extra strain, this was going to be his orchestral debut at Carnegie.
As a result of Nézet-Séguin was spending a lot of Friday within the ultimate gown rehearsal for “Don Carlos,” the Vienna live performance wasn’t rehearsed till 6 p.m. — and even then, for less than 75 minutes forward of the beginning time at 8. By no means thoughts that this system, of the concerto and Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, contained over 90 minutes of music.
But somebody residing underneath a rock may have walked into this live performance, understanding none of its context, and been completely blissful. Certainly, Friday’s efficiency was in all probability higher than it will have been underneath the baton of Gergiev — who, politics apart, is simply too usually an unreliable conductor — and with Matsuev, who tends to barrel insensitively via conflict horses just like the Rachmaninoff.
Nézet-Séguin didn’t merely maintain time or maintain the Philharmonic collectively; he led them with ardour and decisive interpretation. And Cho didn’t merely get via the concerto; he performed it from reminiscence, with moments of elegant delicacy. This was professional music-making, notable for taking place in any respect and miraculous in its execution.
Perceive Russia’s Assault on Ukraine
What’s on the root of this invasion? Russia considers Ukraine inside its natural sphere of influence, and it has grown unnerved at Ukraine’s closeness with the West and the prospect that the nation would possibly be part of NATO or the European Union. Whereas Ukraine is a part of neither, it receives monetary and navy support from the USA and Europe.
There definitely have been finer accounts of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, however few underneath Friday’s circumstances. So you possibly can forgive Cho’s contact, a bit of gentle for the work’s uphill battle of stability with the large orchestration. His sound, although, was intriguingly much less an outpouring of emotion or virtuosity, and extra a flowing sequence of seemingly spontaneous ideas, with a gently gliding accompaniment underneath brightly articulated melodies in the suitable hand. Nézet-Séguin and the Philharmonic equally approached the rating phrase by phrase, every set off with clear contours of quantity and expression. Within the truest signal that this night was extra skillful than haphazard, the finale’s fugue, a flash of Bach, was satisfyingly exact — Cho and the violins aligned even of their fleet supply.
Because the viewers applauded afterward, Nézet-Séguin and Cho gave one another an extended hug. And when Cho returned to the bench for an encore, a wistful and masterly voiced “October: Autumn Music” from Tchaikovsky’s “The Seasons,” the conductor sat within the again row of the strings, listening with an attentive but serene look on his face.
However the live performance wasn’t over. Nézet-Séguin nonetheless had the Second Symphony, on this studying continuously elevated and passionate on the extent of Wagner. Right here was the Philharmonic in its signature lushness, but later lithe within the scherzo-esque second motion. The expressive Adagio, after opening with a young clarinet solo, was not merely emotional however tense and teeming because it constructed towards a radiant climax and launch. And the finale’s ultimate bars have been so rousing, the viewers started to cheer earlier than Nézet-Séguin had even lowered his baton.
Standing ovations are one thing of a default response in New York. However you too can inform once they’re extra fast, extra spirited — extra honest. That was the case on Friday, and it didn’t really feel in any respect like an overreaction.
By means of Sunday at Carnegie Corridor, Manhattan; carnegiehall.org.