Wednesday. January 24, 2023

Neidorff-Karpati Hall, Manhattan School of Music, New York City

Having, on the Sunday afternoon just gone, completed a triptych of jazz-related concerts with the St. Louis Symphony (the final one scheduled for broadcast this Saturday on SL Public Radio), Leonard Slatkin then travelled to New York City for his latest visit to the Manhattan School of Music, this culminating concert (also sporting members of the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, David Chan, concertmaster of the latter ensemble, leading) opening with Roberto Sierra’s Fandangos, of which Slatkin gave the UK premiere during the First Night of BBC Proms 2002, an enjoyably slinky piece that dances into the listener’s affections while keeping us guessing as to how the music will proceed – which is with colourfully scored incident, a touch of drama, and rhythmic vitality, fandango-ing to the end. (Fandangos has recently been recorded by the Liverpool Philharmonic for Onyx.) Stravinsky’s The Firebird was given in Suite form, the 1919 text, a slightly cautious performance that anyway brought forth the enchanted fairy-tale enshrined in the music, itself reminding that the composer had received tutelage from Rimsky-Korsakov; if the ‘Infernal Dance’ lacked for menace, then the pealing final bars, magically approached (fine horn solo), were resounding. A high level of expertise also informed Elgar’s Enigma Variations, full of the conductor’s seasoned insights, freshly distilled, journeying, via a punchy Presto ‘Troyte’ (with dynamic timpani), to a noble ‘Nimrod’, begun on the cusp of audibility, and then – with portraits of Dan the dog, a love lost to a sea voyage, and a swaggering self-portrait prior – to a glorious, heartfelt apotheosis.