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"Fanfare Ritmico" With The Philadelphia Orchestra

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Philadelphia Orchestra. Photo by Chris Lee

At Carnegie Hall on the evening of Tuesday, October 17th, I had the incomparable pleasure to attend a superb concert presented by the outstanding musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra under the brilliant direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

The program began auspiciously with an excellent performance of Jennifer Higdon’s propulsive, impressively orchestrated Fanfare Ritmico from 1999. I include the composer’s comment on the piece here:

Fanfare Ritmico celebrates the rhythm and speed (tempo) of life. Writing this work on the eve of the move into the new millennium, I found myself reflecting on how all things have quickened as time has progressed. Our lives now move at speeds much greater than what I believe anyone would have ever imagined in years past. Everyone follows the beat of their own drummer, and those drummers are beating faster and faster on many different levels. As we move along day to day, rhythm plays an integral part of our lives, from the individual heartbeat to the lightning speed of our computers. This fanfare celebrates that rhythmic motion, of man and machine, and the energy which permeates every moment of our being in the new century.

Also remarkable, and even more memorable, was a masterful realization of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s extraordinary Symphonic Dances, his final work. The first movement, marked Non allegro, is dynamic and rhythmic following a brief, quiet opening—and with a more meditative middle section—but ends softly. The succeeding Andante con moto is charming and playful with some dramatic moments while the finale is exuberant for much of its length but with unusual, lyrical interludes and ends climactically.

Even stronger was the amazing second half of the event, a fabulous account of Rachmaninoff’s magnificent Symphony No. 2—with this composition, musical Romanticism reached its apogee. The Largo introduction to the opening Allegro moderato is subdued and solemn but the movement is leisurely for most of its development but acquires great emotional intensity as it becomes more turbulent. The eccentric ebullience of the ensuing scherzo—its tempo is Allegro molto—is offset by the movement’s song-like second theme and its Trio too is especially exciting. The stellar Adagio is incredibly beautiful in its melodious sumptuousness and features some pastoral echoes while the closing Allegro vivace is affirmative if with somber undercurrents.

The artists deservedly received an enthusiastic ovation.

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