Philharmonic Enchants with Dvorak, Bartok

By Hailey Nuthals, Highlighter Editor

Attending the New York Philharmonic is a very special occasion, for one can simultaneously know exactly what to expect and not have any idea what the night holds for them. Only the most jaded of modern aristocrats can walk into the David Geffen Hall with absolutely no sense of magic or anticipation.

On February 27th, the Philharmonic was continuing their season with a night of Dvorák and Bartók. To begin, Dvorák’s “Carnival Overture Op. 92” instantly hushed the world outside and filled the room with a warm, almost spring-like sound. The musicians carried out the dynamics so flawlessly that the sound seemed to flow and swell as one sonic beast, a creature of impressive size but friendly nature. The cellos and basses were particularly notable in their performance; they were not invisible, but so expertly woven into the texture of the song that one had to concentrate to hear their parts, and would then consequently realize that they were in fact the foundation of the sound, anchoring the at times chaotic and rocketing upper voices.

After a proud finish, the band welcomed violinist Baiba Skride onstage for her Philharmonic debut as the soloist in Bartók’s “Violin Concerto No. 2.” As the playbill touchingly related, this concerto was one that Skride had dreamed of playing as a child prodigy, but couldn’t, as her instructors said it was “too mature” of a piece for her at such a young age. With incredible turns and double stops galore, at times lacking a discernable time signature in the violin part, it’s not too difficult to see where her instructors were coming from.

Evidently, the waiting paid off. Skride immediately established herself as a force to be reckoned with. The power with which she immediately bowed the first passage was unmistakable. The orchestra behind her did a flawless job of surrounding her with chordal accompaniment, and in the beautiful, atonal method that is so special to Bartók, the audience was swept into a story they might not have understood but definitely felt. The woodwinds in particular had a beautiful, rich tone, and all the potential traps for a large orchestra playing atonal music were sidestepped as easily as a twig on a sidewalk.

The night finished off with Dvorák’s “Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88,” where the woodwinds truly shone, and the melodic beauty of the piece was allowed to grow into a rich, textured soundscape. The clarinet especially stood out, where clarinets so often are relegated to the role of textural fill as opposed to a sound in their own right. In fact, throughout the vast arc of the symphony, instrumental balance was done with particular care to letting every part shine, if only for a measure or two. All that and still no harm was done to the integrity of the orchestra as a whole: in short, a regular, and thus undeniably magical, night at the Philharmonic.

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