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New York Philharmonic - Pappano-Labeque

- Classical and Cultural

Music Performance Reviews

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower

New York Philharmonic - Pappano-Labeque
Lorin Maazel, Music Director
Zarin Mehta, Executive Director

Antonio Pappano, Conductor
Katia and Marielle Labèque, Pianos

Performed at Avery Fisher Hall


Haydn (1732-1809) Symphony No. 22 in E-flat major, "Philosopher," Hob. 1:22 (1764):
Adagio, Presto, Menuetto, Finale: Presto

Poulenc (1899-1963) Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1932):
Allegro ma non troppo, Larghetto, Finale: Allegro molto

Shostakovich (1906-75) Symphony No. 10 in E minor, op. 93 (1953):
Moderato, Allegro, Allegretto, Andante-Allegro

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 24, 2004

Haydn's Symphony No. 22 in E-flat major, "Philosopher," was premiered in Eisenstadt in 1764, with the composer conducting, and the New York Philharmonic premiered the work in 1962, with William Steinberg conducting. Included in the instrumentation are two French horns and harpsichord. The Adagio began with the cellos and violas in counter rhythms and tones to the soaring melody of the violins. The Presto included an even, rapid, and pleasant harmony. The Menuetto was danceable in imagery, and at this point Maestro Pappano's charismatic conducting, with no baton, and with his entire body in motion with the pulsating sounds, was emerging. The Finale was brusque and windy, almost all strings.

Poulenc's Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos and Orchestra was premiered in Venice in 1932, with Désiré Defauw conducting the Orchestra of La Scala, Milan, and with Poulenc and Jacques Février at the pianos. The New York Philharmonic premiered the work in 1937, with John Barbirolli conducting and Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson at the pianos. Included in the instrumentation are military drum, tambourine, castanets, and two solo pianos. Katia and Marielle Labèque are striking and stunning to watch, as well as to listen to, and their dual pianos on the Fisher Hall stage against the background of the full Philharmonic, resonated with thundering tension and vibrant velocity. These sisters are two extremely talented pianists.

This work is as busy as a Parisian street with dynamic percussion and blaring horns. The dual pianists sometimes contrasted with and sometimes complemented one another, as one would even add a flashy flourish to end a theme, as the other played the expected finales. This piece began and ended on wildly surprising staccatos, and, in between, the three movements melted together in blazing brilliance. .

Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 in E minor, op. 93 was premiered in Leningrad in 1953, with Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting, and the New York Philharmonic premiered the work in 1954, with Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting. Included in the instrumentation are tuba, cymbals, tam-tam, xylophone, and bass drum. (See other recent Shostakovich reviews). The Moderato began in a blanket of quietude, and the shivering softness of the flutes was evocative of a winter in Russia. Warm violas were followed by muffled drums. The Allegro brought auditory images of gunshots - fast, furious, and frenetic. The Allegretto brought to mind street bands, friendly fiddles, and folklore, followed by pulsating and portentous passages with muffled horns and fluttering flutes. The Andante-Allegro brought forth the piccolos and bassoons against muffled percussion. And, finally, in a dreamlike sequence, the orchestra released heavenly strings and horns amidst potent, percussive passages.

Kudos to Antonio Pappano and to the New York Philharmonic, as well as to Katia and Marielle Labèque for this interesting and inspired concert. It should be noted that the Labèque sisters performed a jazzy encore on dual pianos after the Poulenc Concerto.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at