BWW Reviews: The New York Philharmonic Takes to the Stars!
'SUMMERTIME CLASSICS', the New York Philharmonic, Gustav Holst, 'THE PLANETS', NASA
The iconic first movement, "Mars the Bringer of War," has spawned so many Hollywood composer sound-alikes that it is hardly worth mentioning them ("Star Wars," "Star Trek," "The Omen," "Close Encounters," etc.). Maestro Tovey brought forth a level of volume in the final part of this movement that was both thrilling and frightening (in fact, severAl Small children sitting in front of me burst out crying at that moment).
After the bombast of "Mars," the quiet "Venus, the Bringer of Peace" is often just a chance to rest and catch your breath, but Maestro Tovey elicited such ravishingly delicate playing that it was a highlight of evening. "Mercury" was reminiscent of the Adams' piece in the first half both in terms of its tempo and its brevity.
"Jupiter" is probably the best known section of the suite, with its famous center section melody providing the musical bed to the popular post-WWI English hymn: "I Vow to Thee My Country." Tovey took a particularly brisk pace with this movement, which worked well in the more lively sections, but robbed the slower bits of some of their splendor. The brass of the Philharmonic gets special notice for their performance in this movement; playing with exceptional tenderness and majesty in the hymn-like center, then playing positively explosively during the final section.
"Uranus" and "Neptune" are the most mysterious and enigmatic movements of the suite and are aptly named "The Magician" and "The Mystic." The female voices of the MSM Chamber Chorus and Oratorio Society of New York joined the Philharmonic for the finale, as off-stage choir. They provided the eerily distant and evocative effect at the end of the piece as the universe drifts away into silence.
The sold-out house burst into wild applause at the end of the performance, and Maestro and Orchestra answered with a rare encore. In keeping with the theme of the evening they gave a spirited rendition of John William's "The Imperial March" (Darth Vadar's Theme) from Star Wars. The piece felt like a flimsy throw-away after the Holst material preceding it, but the audience went wild for it.
These multi-media performances are cropping up all around the country these days and appear to be, at least on the surface, a successful outreach to a more popular audience (all three performances this week were complete sell-outs). There can be no question that the images projected at the HD Odyssey Concert were stunning and powerful. It can also be said that they certainly benefited greatly from the ravishing musical accompaniment provided for them. However, one wonders if the music actually gained anything from the visual accompaniment? Or did it simply distract from it? It seems to me that music this magical played with the power and the passion of the New York Philharmonic at the height of its powers needs no further decoration.
BWW Classical Music