The Juilliard School
(Juilliard Orchestra Web Page)
Itzhak Perlman, Conductor
Edvard Pogossian, Cello
At David Geffen Hall
Media Relations: Gloria Gottschalk
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 14, 2015
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893, Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasie (1870)
P. Tchaikovsky, Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 33 (1877)
P. Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 (“Pathétique”) (1893)
Read about the Tchaikovsky ballets, alluded to in this article.
What a joy to see Itzhak Perlman onstage again, this time warmly and ebulliently conducting the Juilliard Orchestra at Geffen Hall. Mr. Perlman is an international star violinist, performing onstage with top orchestras, chamber ensembles, and piano-violin duos around the globe. Mr. Perlman is also hailed for his music education programs, his Grammy and Emmy Awards, and his Kennedy Center Honor. Tonight’s program was all Tchaikovsky, and each piece was chosen and showcased for its complex challenges or sumptuous, spellbinding themes. Throughout tonight’s concert, the Juilliard students appeared proud and inspired. The first piece on the program was Tchaikovsky’s 1886 “Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasie”. The heartrending theme swept through the Hall, evoking a dramatic, filmatic score with a poignant, romantic storyline. Although the Romeo and Juliet ballet is danced to Prokofiev, one could imagine Romeo and Juliet’s balcony meeting, lush lifts and ravishing embraces. In fact, this music was so sophisticated in its aura, that it was hard to believe that this was a student orchestra; such was Maestro Perlman’s success. The music was moody and foreboding, at times, leading to crashing timpani. An early violin theme, passed to violas then harp, was intoxicating.
The second work, Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra”, brought out a young cello virtuoso, Edvard Pogossian. The cellist, a Juilliard sophomore, has won international prizes and performs with renowned orchestras and chamber ensembles. The piece opens with “Moderato quasi Andante”, before introducing the “Thema: Moderato semplice”. Mr. Pogossian’s brilliant-beyond-his-years accompaniment, as well as significantly accomplished solo, would have made the composer proud, as well as the cellist, Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, who debuted the work in 1877 and re-worked many of the cello sections when the piece was later published. Mr. Pogossian played the highest and deepest tones within the range of a cello, that I have ever heard. The theme moves to a pace, more and more rapid, and, at times, with the accent on different notes, on each of the seven Variations and Coda. After two Variations in the same tempo as the theme, the work requires three total Andante Variations and two Allegro Variations. There were hints of Tchaikovsky’s ballet score for Swan Lake (lakeside scenes), composed just a year earlier, within the orchestral string phrases. As Mr. Perlman conducted this fine orchestral ensemble, he used his hands to signal greater dynamic or a shift to quietude, with prominent gestures.
The final work, the orchestral pièce de résistance of the evening, was Tchaikovsky’s 1893, Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 (“Pathétique”). This magnificent symphony was so magnetically enthralling, that many in the audience, concert aficionados all, applauded after the third “Allegro molto vivace” movement, forgetting about the fourth and final “Adagio lamentoso-Andante” movement. Every moment of this monumental work was mesmerizing. The first, “Adagio-Allegro non troppo-Andante-Allegro vivo-Andante come prima-Andante mosso”, movement was eclectic with both mournful and tempestuous passages. Soulful andante morphs to stormy allegro. The bassoons and woodwinds were prominent early on, with hints of Tchaikovsky’s ballet score for The Sleeping Beauty (vision scene), composed in 1889. The second, “Allegro con grazia” movement had waltz-like passages, evocative of a ballroom. This movement was refined and regal. A full, sweeping string section enveloped the symphony in poignant melancholy.
The Pathétique’s third movement opened with an aural image of floating fireflies in windy, spinning refrains, followed by a marching then dancing flute motif, evocative of Tchaikovsky’s ballet score for The Nutcracker (mouse king and tea scenes), composed in 1891, two years before he composed this symphony. The final, fourth movement was worth the applause disruption, with its gripping and swelling introduction of despair and grief. According to program notes, Tchaikovsky died just nine days after the Pathétique premiered. .
Kudos to Maestro Itzhak Perlman, kudos to Juilliard Orchestra and Edvard Pogossian, cellist, and kudos to Tchaikovsky.