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L’Elisir de la gioventù

New York
Carnegie Hall
12/06/2002 -  
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Overture and Ballet Music from Idomeneo
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto # 3
Johannes Brahms: Symphony # 1

Chenxin Xu (piano)
Juilliard Orchestra
Sir Roger Norrington (conductor)

Just when one tires of listening to quotidian performances of the classics from uninspired adults, the Juilliard School presents a fresh-faced and exciting version of warhorses champing at the bit to charge into the next campaign. Their special concert at Carnegie Hall gave these enthusiastic aspirants a chance to shine and communicate their spirit to a normally jaded audience. Although I have serious reservations about conductor Roger Norrington, it was hard to fault either his showmanship or élan on this particularly joyous occasion.

Pianist Chenxin Xu confidently tore into the Beethoven 3, impressing especially with her ability to totally separate right and left hand phrasemaking and capturing much of the boisterousness of the astounding cadenza which vaulted the composer into the ranks of the immortals. Ms. Xu was also well aware of the differing styles of the three distinct movements, her playful rondo particularly pleasing.

The Brahms 1 was a highly invested rendition, marred only by Norrington’s insistence on a very rapid tempo (he couldn’t totally shed his period instrument skin) and some of these amateurs’ less than riveted attention to their leader. For example, Sir Roger expressed with somewhat exaggerated hand gestures the need for more volume from his fine horn soloist in the “voices ascending towards heaven” section of the Andante, however the student, rapt in her own performance, was paying him no visual heed. Some of the poetic substance of the piece suffered from the alacrity of its execution, but overall this was fine music making, begging the question, as these things usually do, of what happens to these kids once they become mature orchestral members. If only they could preserve their original esprit de corps through years of frustration, rejection and labor-management alienation.

Frederick L. Kirshnit



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