Friday, October 1, 2021

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

Let’s start here, a couple of weeks ago:

Let’s now re-list Brahmsiana, Leonard Slatkin’s orchestrations of selected Brahms pieces:

  1. Capriccio in D Minor, Op. 116, No. 1 for Orchestra
  2. Intermezzo in E-flat Major, Op. 117, No. 1 for Wind Ensemble
  3. Vineta, Op. 42, No. 2 for String Orchestra
  4. Theme and Variations, Op. 18b for Wind Ensemble and Harp
  5. Andante from Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 60 for Orchestra
  6. Rhapsody in E-flat Major, Op. 119, No. 4 for Orchestra
  7. Wiegenlied (Lullaby), Op. 49, No. 4 for Orchestra

Let’s update: Slatkin has now arranged – adding as 4a (my numbering), to offer fleetness between two slow movements – ‘Der bucklichte Fiedler’, from Brahms’s Opus 93, Sechs Lieder und Romanzen, a collection of a cappella settings.

I was pleased to hear Brahmsiana again and had the impression that the selected pieces had blossomed for Slatkin, had attracted greater judicious flow (thirty-six minutes in total as opposed to the previous near-on forty, and the shorter timespan includes ‘4a’), and also enjoyed playing of greater character and security than when performed at the premiere. The additional piece, the jolly and folksy ‘humpbacked fiddler’, worked a treat as it scurried along wearing new colours.

The concert opened with A Short Piece for Small Orchestra by Julia Perry (1924-79, born Kentucky, died Ohio), the ensemble larger than “small” (including piano, harp and percussion) if certainly “short” at six minutes, a distinctive piece alternating fast and slow sections that occasionally links arms with Malcolm Arnold and William Walton, or so my English ears alerted me.

Following the interval the big guns were out for Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony (Opus 100). Slatkin, the MSM’s “Distinguished Visiting Artist in Conducting and Orchestral Studies”, led an expansive first movement sure of direction and arrival points, the music’s epic quality brought out. The Scherzo was well-drilled and incisive, plenty of fizz given to the closing measures. The slow movement was spacious, its pent-up emotions unleashed during an intense climax, and the Finale, once through a musing opening passage, was balletic (including a cheeky clarinet turn, naughty but nice) until the mechanistic coda (an effective trombone gliss in the mix), which ended the Symphony coruscatingly. For the most part it was easy to forget that this was a student ensemble playing.