BWW Review: How to Do Beethoven and Mahler, Compliments of NY Philharmonic under Honeck and Soloist Barnatan

BWW Review: How to Do Beethoven and Mahler, Compliments of NY Philharmonic under Honeck and Soloist Barnatan
Pianist Inon Barnatan and the NY Philharmonic
led by Manfred Honeck. Photo: Chris Lee

Audiences at the New York Philharmonic have been known to come for the soloists and then slip out for the symphony. There didn't seem to be a lot of that at last Thursday's performance led by maestro Manfred Honeck, which began with a wonderful Beethoven Piano Concerto #1 in C Major from Inon Barnatan and kept growing from there to a brilliant Mahler's Symphony #1.

In fact, for a cold night in February, things were pretty hot in David Geffen Hall, both in the Philharmonic's performance--and in the audience's reception. Not only did the crowd cheer Barnatan's interpretation of the Beethoven, which flew from his fingers, but they were almost rowdy in their appreciation of the orchestra and Honeck, Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony, after a masterly Mahler.

Barnatan is in his third and final season as the Philharmonic's first Artist-in-Association, which gives young artists like him a chance to show off the breadth of their talents and, not coincidentally, bring them to a broader audiences. At Geffen Hall on Thursday, the young pianist's performance of Beethoven's concerto (written second but published first) let us hear the Mozart influence on Beethoven, then showed Mr. B becoming his own man--maybe not yet the composer of the Emperor, but unmistakably a voice to be reckoned with.

Barnatan isn't one of those soloists who lets the angst hang out to show how hard he's been working, but an artist who makes his performance look easy. He flew through the early part of the concerto's first movement, in a totally non-showy way and with a thorough sense of enjoyment, but also had the gravitas to pull off the big moments--particularly in the long cadenza also composed by Beethoven. He was a fount of energy when called upon in the Rondo: Allegro that finished the piece in a superb performance. After several curtain calls, Barnatan played the finale from a Beethoven sonata for good measure. And good it was.


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Richard Sasanow Richard Sasanow is a long-time writer on art, music, food, travel and international business for publications including The New York Times, The Guardian (UK), Town & Country and Travel & Leisure, among many others. He also interviewed some of the great singers of the 20th century for the programs at the San Francisco Opera and San Diego Opera and worked on US tours of the Orchestre National de France and Vienna State Opera, conducted by Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta and Leonard Bernstein.