by Michael Caruso
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s last “virtual” concert of its 2020-21 regular season delivered one of its most compelling schedules since the suspension of “in-person” performances at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown. Led by Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the music list opened with the Overture from Mozart’s opera, “The Magic Flute,” followed by the US premiere of “Undistant” by Mason Bates and s’ is completed with Beethoven’s Second Symphony.
Before performing his job, Bates explained that he designed “Undistant” at the start of the pandemic lockdown, when he began to realize that life was going to be very different over the next few months, at all. less. “Social distancing” meant that it was no longer possible to hear great music performances “in person” and audiences around the world would have to get used to a “distanced” form of audience involvement.
Philadelphia-born Bates’ Undistant is firmly rooted in the tradition of the best film music. Predecessors like Alex North (born in Chester and educated in Philadelphia at Settlement Music School and the Curtis Institute of Music) and Nino Rota (another Curtis alumnus) would recognize Bates’ approach to tone and orchestration.
“Undistant” is composed for a complete instrumental ensemble of strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion as well as digital electronic sounds conducted from a laptop computer. The acoustic instruments play on the artificially produced electronic sounds, creating an atmosphere of slight instability but in which the narrative direction of the music is both compelling and compelling. Musical moments build one after another in a natural flow to a powerful structural climax, subsequent gentle resolution, and a final dramatic exclamation. It was played evocatively.
The Philadelphians’ reading of the Overture to “The Magic Flute” was particularly noteworthy for the many woodwind and brass solos which stood out from the ensemble with their brilliant profiles but still blended into it as part of the ensemble. a coherent whole. Principal trombonist Nitzan Heroz, oboist Peter Smith, clarinetist Samuel Caviezel and flutist Jeffrey Khaner all captured Mozart’s lyrical style as well as the fantastic character of the opera.
Beethoven’s beautiful Second Symphony did not receive such a convincing performance, although the playing was just as exemplary. Solo oboist Philippe Tondre, solo clarinetist Ricardo Morales and flautist Patrick Williams offered exquisite solo lines.
The accents of the slow opening of the first movement seemed overly applied, but the faster part of the movement lacked the sense of urgency required under the shallow sizzle. The interpretation of the second lyrical movement showed the appropriate feeling of expansion in the open air, but the quality of the third movement Scherzo was more leaden and heavy than humorous as the title suggests, and the closing movement was simply strong in dynamic rather than broad in substance.
The Orchestra will present a free concert on June 25 at 7:00 pm titled “Let Freedom Ring” at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing. Then, from July 8 to 15, Yannick Nezet-Seguin will conduct a “virtual” summer concert from July 8 to 15 with “Le Tombeau de Couperin” and Ravel’s “Mother Goose” Suite as well as Bizet’s Symphony No. 1.
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