Last night was the latest installment in my season ticket with the
National SO. This was the first program of the year in which I had not
heard any of the music before. On the program was Diamond, Romeo and
Juliet suite; Mozart, Piano Concerto 24; and Elgar, Symphony No. 2.
Don't ask me how I've managed to miss the latter two; I'm at a loss to
explain it. The NSO was guest-conducted by David Zinman.
For the umpteenth consecutive time, a modern work has failed to be as
intimidating as I thought it would be. Diamond's R&J was wonderful:
tonal, accessible with a slight edge, interesting orchestration. If a
concert was being given that comprised the three main contemporary works
I've heard this year -- Diamond's R&J, Glass's Symphony No. 7, and the
Corigliano Piano Concerto -- I would not hesitate to recommend it...or
to see these works performed again.
Peter Serkin played Mozart's PC 24 in place of Radu Lupu, who had to
cancel due to surgery. I was jittery about this: A couple of years ago
on the Mahler-List, Serkin got hammered for apparently murdering a Brahms
concerto in New York. Last night he was flawless, in great tone, and
in perfect ensemble with the NSO. Not being familiar with the piece, I
still thought Zinman took it a little slower than others might; on the
other hand, any faster and nobody could keep those glissandos in tempo.
It was a really good rendition of what the program notes called the most
symphonic of Mozart's piano concertos.
The Elgar was fantastic. Premiered six days after the death of Mahler,
the symphony shares some characteristics with the 9th: a tremendous
climax, at least in the second movement, some passages veering into
atonality, and a very spooky third movement that ends in a frenzy. I
really enjoyed the first movement. It starts out so recognizably Elgarian
-- I thought I was listening to Enigma -- but then evolves into something
that, in places, sounded more modern than the Diamond. I'm definitely
going to illuminate this black hole of mine by getting to know these
Next up, the highlight of the season: Mahler 9.