BWW Reviews: Penderecki 'Concerto Grosso for Three Cellos' Makes Philharmonic Debut
The brilliant Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki seems to be enjoying something of a renaissance - especially in New York this month! His works were performed in at least three concert halls over the last month and the composer himself made appearances at several of the performances. While hardly a household name, Penderecki has emassed a sizable fan base (if the packed house of rabid fans at Avery Fisher Hall was any indicator). Ever since his "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima" hit the scene in 1961, he had the new music crowd's attention. And he always delivered the goods - loud, noisy, bombastic, iconoclastic explosions of sound that often hinted at form but never long enough to be noticeable. It would be practically impossible to try to describe Penderecki's music in mere words.
Last week the New York Philharmonic delivered its premier performance of Penderecki's 2000 opus, The Concerto Grosso for Three Cellos, with no less than the legendary Charles Dutoit at the podium.
The Concerto Grosso for Three Cellos is densely layered at times and shockingly austere at others, with a multitude of short solos on a variety of instruments supporting the principle soloists of the piece - the cellists. And what cellists! Alternately playing alone, in pairs and in trio, the evening's three soloist were nothing short of remarkable. Each played with stunning virtuosity, but what was much more interesting was the amount of personal style and individual expressiveness that each brought to their playing. There was never any mistaking when Alisa Weilerstein, or Daniel Müller-Schott or Philharmonic Principle Cellist Carter Brey were playing, such was their individual expressiveness. The three dove fearlessly into the hard, harsh and at times, horrifying music. Mister Daniel Müller-Schott impressively performed the entire piece without so much as glancing at the score. The passion of the interplay between the soloists seemed to create an electrifying mini-show within the show.
The piece itself runs just over a half hour in length and is divided into six movements played without any breaks. It has moments of astonishingly beautiful, interweaving of melodic lines and moments that border on complete cacophony. It was never boring, but not always exciting either. The intermittent solos and duets never seemed to move or build to anything, rather they seems like casual conversation between cellos (perhaps that was the composer's aim) and ultimately the listener is left feeling that they have heard and observed something incredible, but not necessarily something that they particularly enjoyed.