In the March 22 issue of The New Yorker, Alex Ross writes, “In the space of thirty-one days, from the end of January to the beginning of March, Carnegie Hall held an unofficial orchestral Olympics, presenting thirteen concerts by symphonic ensembles from six states and three foreign countries. … In attendance were the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Boston, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh; the Minnesota Orchestra; the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig; the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam; the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra of St. Petersburg; and, representing the home town, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and the New York Philharmonic. … The events I saw during Carnegie’s informal tournament—I missed St. Luke’s and the Pittsburgh—achieved a striking consistency. … You had the impression of a cultural industry operating in peak condition. Yet I couldn’t help thinking back to Furtwängler’s complaints about orchestral playing—his critique of overrehearsed performances, of ‘evenly accomplished perfection in all the details of a piece.’ … What I missed most was novelty in the programming. Of thirty-two works, only five were written after 1945. Perhaps, in this cost-conscious time, it makes economic sense to stick with the warhorses, yet one of the loudest ovations of the month went to the New York Philharmonic, when it presented the American première of Magnus Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto.” Discussing several of the recent concerts in some depth, Ross comments that the Minnesota Orchestra “delivered a performance of uncanny, wrenching power, the kind you hear once or twice a decade.”

Posted March 16, 2010