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A new year of orchestral music in New York opened splendidly with its first significant concert of the year, the much awaited return—on the afternoon of Sunday, January 14th, to David Geffen Hall—of the incomparable Budapest Festival Orchestra under the brilliant direction of Iván Fischer, presented as part of the Great Performers series of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The house was surprisingly full with few empty seats in the orchestra, despite the bitterly cold weather, attesting perhaps to the reverence with which these musicians are held.The somewhat heterogeneous program began wonderfully with a sterling account of Johann Sebastian Bach's popular and marvelous Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, played here by a small ensemble on period instruments with the maestro conducting from the keyboard and featuring Gabriella Pivon on the transverse flute—it would nonetheless have been exciting to hear this work as transcribed for the entire orchestra.The impressive soloist Dénes Várjon then took the stage for what may be the finest rendition I have yet heard in the concert hall of Ludwig van Beethoven’s equally celebrated Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, with the artist playing the composer’s cadenzas. An enthusiastic ovation elicited a terrific encore: the beautiful Three Hungarian Folksongs from Csik by Béla Bartók.The second half of the program was even more memorable, devoted to an extraordinary realization of the magnificent Symphony No. 2 of Sergei Rachmaninoff. Spirited applause was answered by Fischer, always generous with encores, with a delightful surprise: an arrangement for orchestra and voices of the famous and lovely Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14, by the same composer. I look forward to the next appearance of this glorious ensemble.
Salvatore Di Vittorio
The outstanding musicians of the Chamber Orchestra of New York—composed of remarkably accomplished young professionals—returned to Weill Recital Hall—on the evening of Saturday, December 9th—for a superb concert devoted to music for strings, under the sterling direction of Salvatore Di Vittorio.The program opened splendidly with a lucid account of Edvard Grieg’s lovely Holberg Suite of 1884, a work of neoclassicism—or more properly, neo-Baroque—avant la lettre and a precursor to modern works like Maurice Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin.The conductor then led the musicians in the world premiere of his own composition, the excellent Preludio Sentimentale, mostly derived from the first movement of his Sinfonia No. 1 for strings from 1999, described as his “first mature, published orchestral work.”
The first half of the concert closed with another crystalline reading, here of the mesmerizing Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis of 1910 by Ralph Vaughan Williams.The evening concluded with its most impressive work, an astonishing realization of the magnificent, dazzling Metamorphosen of Richard Strauss from 1945. I look forward to seeing these wonderful artists again in coming appearances.
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