About us / Contact

The Classical Music Network

New York

Europe : Paris, Londn, Zurich, Geneva, Strasbourg, Bruxelles, Gent
America : New York, San Francisco, Montreal                       WORLD

Your email :



Summery Executions

New York
Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center
06/28/2011 -  & June 29, 30, 2011
Aram Khachaturian: Masquerade: Waltz
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Opus 23
Alexander Glazunov: Valse de concert No. 2, Opus 51
Alexander Borodin: Prince Igor: Polovtsian Dances

Kirill Gerstein (Piano)
New York Philharmonic, Bramwell Tovey (Conductor)

B. Tovey (© Philippe Hurlin)

Summer is evidently a-comin’ in at the Phil. The orchestra is all dolled up in their white summer suits, the audience seem to be out-of-towners, not averse to applauding between movements (to nobody’s embarrassment), lights on the stage for the concerto were a garish chartreuse-and aquamarine (to nobody’s revulsion).

The conductor this summer is the showy, amiable, extremely competent Bramwell Tovey, and everybody is conversant with the selections. Mr. Tovey, well known in Canada as composer and conductor of the Vancouver Symphony, conducts the way summer conductors should conduct. Not too flamboyant, but with movements which resemble an actor playing music director in a 1940’s movie. (One expects him to rehearse with “Please, gentlemen, play with more feeling!!”)

But last night, he gave all the right vigor to the New York Philharmonic with a bouncy waltz from Khachaturian’s Masquerade, along with a vigorous ersatz-primitive Polovtsian Dances, to which the audience happily hummed along.

K. Gerstein (© Courtesy of the artist)

The major reason–and perhaps a minor mistake–was the performance of the brilliant young Russian pianist Kirill Gerstein. (The mistake is that his debut performance with the New York Philharmonic should have been during The Season, not the summer.) Those of us fortunate enough to hear him a Le Poisson Rouge two nights ago were astounded by his comprehension of Brahms, Liszt and Knussen. The question was how he would handle the oh-so popular Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto.

It was a most unexpected performance. One anticipates a young muscular Russian to play with thunderous sonorities, thundering chords. But Mr. Gerstein played this powerful concerto with a sunny, breezy, almost, happy delight. Those initial chords were not foreboding, they were an introduction to the delights of a folk song joyfully sung on the piano with all Tchaikovsky’s careful off-beat accents cheerfully accented. No matter what the sinister orchestral tunes, Mr. Gerstein’s cascade of double octaves were played with such fluidity that they put the orchestra into the shadows. The big cadenza made no attempt at profundity, but had the improvisational transparency of a Mozart cadenza.

Mr. Gerstein played the second movement with whimsy, fantasy (another folk song in the middle section) and youthful delight. And of course he had no problem with that joyous finale, virtually a plaything nnder Mr. Gerstein’s hands.

Perchance a more serious audience would have objected to hearing “Tchaikovsky without tears”. But Kirill Gerstein knew exactly what he needed to do. He wanted to eschew the usual style of an old heavy concerto. The composer was young when he wrote it, and Kirill Gerstein performed it with all the youth, wit and freshness it deserved.

Harry Rolnick



Copyright ©ConcertoNet.com