Overview: Gustavo Dudamel Leads His New York Philharmonic

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Gustavo Dudamel started his reign on the New York Philharmonic on Friday with an ending.

Greeted with a roar from the viewers as he appeared with the orchestra at David Geffen Corridor for the primary time since being named its subsequent music director, this celebrity maestro performed Mahler’s ninth and ultimate accomplished symphony, one of many repertory’s nice evocations of farewell. Few works survey the span of a life — its highs and lows — extra completely and unsparingly, from the pastoral to the hysterical, from raucous existence to pianississimo loss of life.

This system was deliberate lengthy earlier than Dudamel’s appointment, but it surely turned out to be splendid for this second. Practically an hour and a half lengthy, Mahler’s Ninth fills a live performance by itself. No overture; no soloist; no intermission.

On Friday it offered a protracted, centered communion between a conductor and the gamers he’ll be main within the years to come back. (Dudamel’s predecessor, Jaap van Zweden, finishes subsequent season and, due to classical music’s ludicrously sluggish planning cycles, Dudamel, presently on the Los Angeles Philharmonic, gained’t formally begin his five-year contract till 2026.)

The Ninth was splendid for the second, too, as a result of this orchestra has a selected declare on Mahler, who briefly however indelibly served as its chief conductor across the time he was ending the symphony, simply earlier than his loss of life in 1911. Whereas hardly a rarity, the Ninth is a bit that the Philharmonic has largely entrusted to its music administrators — together with Bruno Walter and Leonard Bernstein, two of the twentieth century’s most influential Mahlerians.

With the load of this historical past palpable, Dudamel achieved on this sprawling, advanced and bracing rating a sort of casualness. He gave a way of this as simply one other piece.

This Ninth wasn’t a hothouse flower or a spiritual ceremony. Main with simple move and, particularly within the nice Adagio fourth motion, a bent towards briskness, Dudamel had little interest in the self-seriousness that may simply bend this symphony towards exaggerated solemnity. The objective appeared to be vivid freshness greater than autumnal glow.

Conducting with no rating in entrance of him or a podium railing behind — there are, he appeared to be saying, no obstacles between me, the gamers and the viewers — Dudamel persuasively and naturally guided the rating’s many slight, necessary shifts of tempo. The deceleration to the top of the primary motion was clever, and the difficult transitions on the shut of the third had been lucid. The music by no means felt bullied, manipulated or artificially inflated.

At first of the finale, the strings that interrupt a funeral dirge within the bassoon weren’t a slap within the face, however a swift tidal inundation. These strings had earlier performed with mossy darkness within the first motion’s passionately unusual “Leidenschaftlich” passage.

All through the symphony, the trumpets had the proper coppery chew. The principal harp, Nancy Allen, introduced the easy, barely unearthly resonance of temple bells to her music. Ryan Roberts, on English horn, performed along with his typical flawless poetry in small but significant solos, particularly close to the top. Cynthia Phelps, the principal viola, supplied each tenderness and tanginess.

And but lacking from the night was a sure diploma of character and depth.

If the start of the primary motion was clear and simple, it additionally lacked thriller and poignancy — an institution of temper past mere accuracy. The murky, brooding music later in that motion, a nod to Wagner’s depiction of the magical, shapeshifting Tarnhelm in his “Ring,” handed with out phosphorescent eeriness.

Whereas there was understandably a way of celebration within the sold-out corridor on Friday, which bled into the efficiency, it’s not clear that love-fest is the proper temper for a lot of Mahler’s Ninth. Within the second motion, bouncing up and down on the knees and making smiling cues with a flared left hand, Dudamel led a ländler dance that was extra sweetly rustic than ominously tough. And there was a breezy, circuslike really feel to the waltz it transforms into, moderately than something sinister. This was not a rendition of the Mahler who prefigured Shostakovich.

Some restraint in that second motion — even some sunniness — may make sense in order to depart someplace to go within the unquestionably extra explosive third. However on Friday, that Rondo-Burleske third motion wasn’t actually intense, both.

Whereas the primary measures had been sumptuously grand, there was no sense of grotesquerie, self-mockery or greater than slight pepperiness in what adopted, so the sudden slowing into the consoling, contrasting theme — like a roof opening to disclose the complete expanse of the starry evening sky — didn’t have the mandatory influence. Dudamel hadn’t introduced us to a spot from which we would have liked to be consoled.

This wasn’t significantly light-textured enjoying, however the feeling was nonetheless virtually ethereal, with a reticence within the decrease strings. Eighty minutes appeared to go rapidly — maybe an excessive amount of so.

With the orchestra’s principal horn place presently vacant, Stefan Dohr, who fills that function for the Berlin Philharmonic, was a visitor, to uneven impact. In his essential half right here, Dohr was regular, however the mellow solidity of his tone, shading into leadenness, didn’t appear fairly in the identical sound world as his colleagues. The passing round of solos by the winds within the fourth motion supplied a sense of humanity however, like this efficiency as a complete, felt a bit stranded: neither elegant nor uncooked.

The Philharmonic nonetheless tends to gesture towards super-soft enjoying moderately than actually reaching it, not to mention relishing it. And with an edgy thinness to the orchestra’s sound at full cry, moderately than rounded, blended heat, I felt a revival of my issues from the autumn opening of the renovated Geffen Corridor in regards to the house’s clear however stark acoustics.

Below Dudamel’s baton, the symphony’s ultimate minutes, because the strings steadily dim to nothingness, had been as wise as I’ve ever heard them. This was a pleasantly even-keeled lullaby moderately than a radical or wrenching depiction of life draining away. The enjoying was poised, but it surely left a methods to go in profundity.

It was an ending. However for this conductor and this orchestra, it felt like a spot to start out.

New York Philharmonic

This program continues by Sunday at David Geffen Corridor, Manhattan; nyphil.org.

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