Culture Magazine

Concert Review: The North Remembers

By Superconductor @ppelkonen
John Storgårds debuts with the New York Philharmonic.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

Concert Review: The North Remembers

Flying Finn: The conductor John Storgårds takes aim.
Photo © 2016 by Heiki Tuuli.

Dec. 8, 2015 marked the 150th birthday of  Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Since orchestral concert schedules do not always match up with the vagaries of the calendar, the New York Philharmonic has chosen the Spring of 2016 to celebrate the life and works of this important 20th century symphonist. This week, the celebration wrapped up with three performances of the composer's Symphony No. 2 along with an overture by Robert Schumann and a set of Wunderhorn songs by Gustav Mahler.
On Wednesday night, the podium of David Geffen Hall belonged to another Finn: the conductor and violinist John Storgårds in his Philharmonic debut.. He laid his cards out in the opening work, a bold interpretation of Schumann' Overture to the little-heard opera Genoveva. The orchestra responded enthusiastically, demonstrating how Schumann's singular achievement was a key support of the bridge between the styles of Mozart and Wagner: classical structure stretched and pushed by Romantic yearning, with the chromaticism of Tristan und Isolde on the not-too-distant horizon.
This season at the Philharmonic has featured bass-baritone Eric Owens as Artist-in-Residence, giving a series of concerts with the orchestra throughout the year. However, Mr. Owens withdrew from this week's concerts due to illness. Taking his place was mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, the Princess Eboli to his King Philip in last year's Opera Philadelphia production of Don Carlo. The program was unchanged.
Mahler's book of songs based on The Boy's Magic Horn may be sung by a man or a woman. But most of the songs chosen here and presented in a curated order (presumably chosen by Mr. Owens) are military in nature and sung from a male perspective. It was fascinating to hear Ms. DeYoung's rich mezzo-soprano with its dark, contralto-like coloring push into the lower reaches for big moments, and a reflection on the fact that in this modern century, the military life is no longer exclusively a male provenance.
The set opened with "Revelge", one of last two Wunderhorn songs. Here, they offered a grim account of life in uniform, with stark orchestration and a sense of impending doom that would later show up in Mahler's Sixth Symphony. "Trost im Unglück" ("Solace in Misfortune") and the grim “Lied des Verfolgten im Turm”  captured the plight of a man about to be executed. A brief, false dawn was offered with "Des Antonius von Padua Fisch predigt," an account of St. Anthony's attempt to spread the Gospel to the fish in the oceans, before the final "Die Tambourg'sell" restored the oppressive army atmosphere.
The Symphony No. 2 in D Major is a watershed work, both for Sibelius as a creator of symphonies and for the Finnish people, who hearkened to its use of folk melodies and a woodwind theme that resembles the kantele, the plucked string instrument that is at the heart of Karelian folk music. In the first movement, that capering woodwind theme is juxtaposed with a shuddering theme in the low strings and a noble brass fanfare that hints at the work's triumphant conclusion.
Mr. Storgårds proved his abilities the tricky second movement, maintaining not just the correct note values but also the rests, their silence all-important in the music drama developing across the movement. Hints of Russian folk song (one passage of notes in the bass resembles the "Pimen" theme from Boris Godunove) mar the horizon before the work coheres in a Scherzo that draws from both folk music and Sibelius' own formidable powers of invention. The finale, eventually dominated by an upward-thrusting theme in the strings and a blaze of brass, brought the work to a glowing close.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • A Week with Foodie Explorers 15th July 2018

    Week with Foodie Explorers 15th July 2018

    24 total views, 24 views today A relatively quiet week for us Glasgow foodies.  Monday was spent chillin out enjoying the weather.  Tuesday we wandered along... Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Emma
  • Virginia to Vegas at the 2018 Calgary Stampede

    Virginia to Vegas... to Calgary. The Toronto-based indie/pop star came to the Coca-Cola Stage at the 2018 Calgary Stampede to open for Lights on a Friday... Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Phjoshua
  • Jivana Heyman Interviewed by Shelly Prosko

    Jivana Heyman Interviewed Shelly Prosko

    Have you noticed that even though our blog is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, in California, many of our contributors live in different places throughout... Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Ninazolotow
  • Guest Blogger: Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.: Killer Pen Pals

    Guest Blogger: Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.: Killer Pals

    Killer Pen Pals Whenever I give talks about my work, people sometimes ask how they can be pen pals with a serial killer. They've gotten hooked on true crime... Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Dplylemd
  • Cessna 525B CitationJet CJ3

    Cessna 525B CitationJet

    @ General William J. Fox Airfield, Lancaster, CA March 2018 Captured during the rehearsal for the Los Angeles County Airshow, this CitiationJet taxis in after... Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Htam
  • Prehistoric Environmentalists Kept the Mammoth Alive

    A few thousand years ago, the world was a very different place. An ice age was raging, and with it came all sorts of weird and wonderful animals; like the... Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Reprieve
  • Then and Now: Sailing Baja Nine Years Later

    Then Now: Sailing Baja Nine Years Later

    What’s your favorite place? We’ve heard this question a lot lately. Jamie’s current answer to the “best place” question is that he has 100 top ten favorites. Read more

    The 17 July 2018 by   Behan Gifford