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New York Philharmonic

- Classical and Cultural

Music Performance Reviews

New York Philharmonic
Lorin Maazel, Music Director
Zarin Mehta, Executive Director

David Robertson, Conductor
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Piano

Performed at Avery Fisher Hall
Lincoln Center


Debussy (1862-1918) Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestra (1889-96)
Prokofiev (1891-1958) Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat major, op.10 (1911)
R. Strauss (1864-1949) Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spake Zarathustra), Tone Poem (freely after Friedrich Nietzsche) for Large Orchestra, op. 30 (1895-96)

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 29, 2003

Debussyís "Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestra" was one of two compositions, the other for alto saxophone, that resembles a concerto. His music has been associated through the years with the Impressionism period of art, which began in the mid-1880ís, the concept of which is a lack of detail, but rather impressions of people and landscapes, painted in soft or vibrant colors. The New York Premiere was in 1921, with Walter Damrosch conducting. (Philharmonic Notes).

This piece was performed as a seamless evocation of wistful and capricious music, although structured into four movements. The tiny chimes and kaleidoscopic colors were extremely effective. There were bell-like sonorities, and the piano was interwoven, rather than featured, as this was not a full-fledged concerto. Pierre-Laurent Aimard on piano showed passion and persona, as he provided the warmth and depth to this intoxicating piece.

This work, which was first performed over one year after Debussyís death, is especially configured with suspended cymbal and two harps, as well as the piano. One can only wish to hear the Fantaisie performed again to catch all the lovely and fleeting tonalities and musical temperaments that evolve through this relatively short piece.

Prokofievís "Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat major" was premiered in Sokolniki Park in 1912, with the student composer at the piano, and the New York Philharmonic premiered the work in 1946, with Artur Rodzinsky conducting. The instrumentation calls for timpani and bells. (Philharmonic Notes).

This Piano Concerto happens to be one of my favorite and frequently listened to concertos on CD. I do not recall having heard it performed live, and tonightís concert was a rare pleasure. With swelling and sensational interpretation, David Robertson conducted this piece with the inherent tragedy and depth that it requires. Mr. Aimardís hair fell across his face as his entire body swayed and rose to this virtuosic work.

It appeared that Maestro Robertson and Mr. Aimard chose to create a more melodic than edgy feeling to the striking and dissonant passages, which had contrasting volume and tempo. This is a remarkable work with many layers that build to monumental crescendos, and Mr. Aimard is a master at creating musical drama and dynamism.

R. Straussí "Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spake Zarathustra) Tone Poem" had its World Premiere in Frankfurt in 1896 with Maestro Strauss conducting. The New York Philharmonic Premiere was in 1908. The instrumentation calls for a triangle, an organ, a deep bell in E-flat, a glockenspiel, and piccolos. This piece is based on the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche and his attacks on formal religion.

This was my first experience with this incredible work that relates a story through the poetry of music. The opening bars, the apparent inspiration for Coplandís Fanfare for the Common Man, are much later followed by melodic, waltz-like passages, as well as thunderous, stormy passages. This one movement work is best structured as such, as its seamless contrasts inspire meditation and introspective feelings, which evoke the spiritual philosophy on which the literary reference was based. The heavily percussive and organ-infused background, against glockenspiel and bell, disturb the thoughts and force concentration onto the furious and flaming music.

Most notable were the pregnant pauses between passages, all of which energized and electrified the tension and tenacity of Maestro Robertson. This piece brought out Glenn Dicterow, Concertmaster, and for some time this work could have been a violin concerto, with the lengthy, solo violin passages, expertly mastered by this proud and portly personality, a virtuoso in his own right. Mr. Dicterow created colossal chords with his seasoned bow. Lead cellists were also featured, as well as the organist and numerous percussionists and musicians on bassoons and trombones. I look forward to hearing this R. Strauss work again, perhaps on CD. Kudos to Maestro Robertson and the New York Philharmonic. For many years, my fatherís cousin, Bobby Weinrebe, performed in the viola section of the Philharmonic, and I miss greeting him after the concert. However, two personal friends are superb Philharmonic musicians, Anna Rabinova on violin, and David Finlayson on trombone.

Comments by Anna Rabinova, Violinist, who performed this work as a member of the New York Philharmonic:

I really loved the "Prokofiev Concerto No.1", and I think that the soloist made a big difference. He had not played it like Tschaikovsky or some other big solo pieces, but he made it look like chamber music, in terms of playing soft and even softer, and making all sorts of rubatos. It was a real dialogue between him and the orchestral part, and I had a feeling that we all were making music together. So the whole thing was much more interesting for me to listen to and to follow.

The Debussy piece I was not fond of; it is a very early work and again, in my opinion, only because of the pianist it had so many different colors and was not boring. This particular Strauss is one of my favorites, and I agree with you that Glenn's playing was magnificent! I also think that our orchestra sounds great in Strauss; the brass and woodwind instruments are just fantastic. It doesn't mean that I diminish the strings participation, not at all. To me this piece is a competition in virtuosity between the strings and the rest of the orchestra.

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