400 days later, New York Philharmonic returns

The middle section of Sibelius’s “Rakastava” is a quiet, charming dance of joy. It is not untouched. There is inconsistency; The celebration is silent, reticent, almost incognito. It lasts two minutes or so, then disappears into the night air before you know it.

But it is delightful, yet. And I was the most affected part of the concert I heard after walking into a building for the New York Philharmonic on Wednesday evening.

Yes, that’s right: New York Philharmonic, inside. Exactly 400 days later, the orchestra returned when it was last gathered inside the house to play in front of an audience. As part of the series “With a listener,” In the shed’s cavernous McCourt space, about two dozen of the Philharmonic’s string musicians performed under a roof in front of a small, deformed, masked, vaccinated or tested crowd.

Such a simple task was very important for the underprivileged for the last 13 months, and we would gladly compromise to move them into the past. McCourt is not a classic concert hall; Some amplification requires penetrating acoustic instruments which are essentially a huge box. And although assuring these days that ventilation is working overtime, the space’s HVAC system was a very audible accompaniment.

But it’s been more than a year, when I was hit by the vibrations of a large group of musicians sitting in front of me, and the sensation was sweet. I was feeling grateful and almost demoralized, as I felt last summer When I first heard a string quartet Outside after months of coming from my computer and earbuds. (The Philharmonic also went out for chamber music last year, giving pop-up performances A rental pickup truck Expect to return to the road as the weather warms up.)

On Wednesday, the first of a two-night stand in the shed, the orchestra lacked distinct sound glands. There were no Mahlerian trumpet blasts, no blistering accidents. But after so long, the impact was arrested in a single violin’s pluck in the viola line emerging a few feet behind the cello in space-hearing hearing aids. Feather shadows that open up Caroline Shaw’s “Entract”; The Velvet Bass anchors “Rakastava” (“Lover”); “Metamorphocene,” Richard Strauss’s counterpoint and mahogany’s consensus flowing with lengthy twinkles in the final months of World War II: There was little emphasis on this silent, frugal dance of a concert, but every detail felt etched in the air and ears. did .

On stage for the milestone was not the Philharmonic’s music director, Jaap van Zweden, a previous commitment overseas after a stint in New York, a few weeks before the taping show for NYPhil + Subscription streaming service. The conductor, rather, was Esca-Pekka Salonen, a longtime friend of the orchestra, who hoped that a few years earlier he would become the leader of the less creative, less attractive Van Zweden, rather than the punchier. (San Francisco Symphony Salonan Found Instead.)

It felt a little strange, because a lot happens in life during this spring season and rises again. “What’s the time?” Sara Lyle Asked abundantly In the New York Times earlier this month. “What day is it today? What did we do in October? Why are we standing in front of the refrigerator in an old clove of garlic?”

Performing arts institutions are no different. They are rusting, and, like us, standing in front of the fridge wondering what they are doing. Salonan spoke from the stage of “Three acts chosen to play tonight.” But it highlights the fact that the Shed program, initially announced, combined Sibelius and Strauss’s work with Arvo Pärt as an extraordinary, if self-casual, mournful “fratress.”

Someone clearly felt that it was no good for the Philharmonic to return to us later that year – the rebellion for racial justice, especially the intensity of victims in New York City, an increased sense of awareness of our local communities – With three pieces by white European men, two of them died since the mid-20th century and the other turned 86 in September.

So Pärt was out, and Shaw, a 38-year-old white New Yorker, it was a mixture of emotions inside me that make a lot of these institutional gestures toward diversity: the Philharmonic’s desire for the back is going in the right direction ; A year later he had some surprise to think about it, imagining that initial show at first; The guilt that I had not noticed the symmetry until it was adjusted; Some more incredulity is that even after adding Shaw’s piece, the Philharmonic will return to a city that is only one-third white without black or Latino players and stages any music by musicians of color.

Since “Fratres” and “Entract” are roughly the same length – 11 minutes – the situation was also a sort of joke about the stale traditions of orchestral programming. A piece of those proportions is the standard concert opener, often leading to a long concert before the intermission and, after this, a soulful symphony.

Work by living creators – and therefore by most women and artists of color – is usually re-charged for brief entertaining-butch status. What diversity there is in programming, then people will at least notice; Cannon marches with an 11-minute bit of dressing room.

The Philharmonic should consider this in view of Wednesday’s quiet, poignant performance. Not on commissioning a set of small pieces that fit the old model, but how the basic structures of its season, its music and its personnel must change to reflect its values ​​- if diversity, in all senses, really Is among its central values.

Perhaps ancillarily, the slate would be clearer for this orchestra than many cultural organizations: it is Found a silver lining To stop implementing its theater through what was originally planned as a stop-and-go renovation. When the ensemble returns to David Geffen Hall in 2022, it will be completely transformed. A converted Philharmonic can fill it.

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