So while waiting for the concert to start I thought that it might be quite boring to blog about concerts in New York, given that I expected most to be pretty perfect. Wrong!
Tonight it was Kurt Masur (in a grey silk smock, later exchanged for a brown one), the orchestra with Cynthia Phelps and Rebecca Young as viola soloists. To be fair, Masur was a little under the weather – we had received an email before the concert that he could not conduct the middle (contemporary) piece on account of an eye infection and being unable to see the score. He seems to be well-loved in New York as the former music director of the NY Phil and now its Conductor Emeritus, though, with his arrival on the stage being greeted by cheers from the audience.
The concert started with Liszt's Preludes, which I thought I might have played in Hungary, but had not in fact. I did know them very well, though, though I might never have thought that they are by Liszt. There did not seem to be a drop of Hungarian blood in them, or at least in this interpretation. They sounded rather teutonic, in fact. They were nice, of course, but did not set the heather alight.
They were followed by Cynthia Phelps (in a turquoise shoulder-less outfit a la Mutter), and Young (in a single-shouldered outfit, in dark lilac) in Gubaidulina's 'Two Paths – a dedication to Mary and Martha'. This was a very slow, and very contemplative piece, conducted by the young assistant conductor of the NY Phil, with great precision and vigor. The piece was not particularly vigorous, however, more of a meditation/contemplation. Young, who seemed to be fixed to the C-string, produced a wonderful sound – Phelps was more in nosebleed country. It was an interesting, but slow and non-virtuosic piece (apart from those high harmonics) and I noticed watches being looked at by the people around me. The applause was 'endenwollend' (willing itself to end), as they might say in Germany
Finally it was Brahms' first symphony, conducted again by Masur. I love this piece – but oy vey, the interpretation. Where was the tension of those opening bars? Then I contemplated leaving, but the second movement put the hat on it. It was like watching paint dry – so excruciatingly slow. I did wonder if it was the distance from the stage that left me so cold – quite apart from the draft hitting my neck. I left, as did someone else who said 'the Brahms was shit'. He shall remain nameless.....