Feb 27 2012
The white marble of Lincoln Center reflected the bright sunlight and blue sky above Manhattan on Sunday afternoon as a large crowd of New Yorkers turned out to hear Hilary Hahn play Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto, as well as the New York premiere of Steven Stucky’s Silent Spring, and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony with Music Director Manfred Honeck.
After the short rehearsal, I wandered the backstage area, looking at posters of the many events at the hall amidst the New York Philharmonic and Pittsburgh Symphony instrument cases. There are several busts of former music director Gustav Mahler by Rodin, busts of Beethoven and Paul Robeson. I admired the model of Lincoln Center and its homes of the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Ballet as well as the Juilliard School of Music.
There are terrific displays from the New York Philharmonic archives including a complete case devoted to conductor Bruno Walter with his rehearsal jacket and recordings. It was fun to find Pittsburgh’s operatic treasure Mildred Miller Posvar singing Das Lied von der Erde (The song of the Earth) by Mahler. She is pictured with Walter conducting at the recording session.
There’s an exhibit of the New York Philharmonic in Times of Strife. It tells the story of the music chosen when John F. Kennedy was shot, and the score conducted by Lorin Maazel – John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls – to honor the victims of 9/11. The Policy of Choosing a Conductor explains the controversy surrounding the attempt to hire Wilhelm Furtwängler after his years spent under the Nazi regime in Germany. A retired 48-star flag is in a display case after its moment onstage at the Philharmonic.
I bumped into pianist Gary Graffman, who was backstage talking to violinist Meng Wang of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The President and Executive Director of the New York Philharmonic, Zarin Mehta, said he will bring Manfred Honeck to New York next season to conduct Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. He loved the Pittsburgh concert and has heard the orchestra on many occasions with Lorin Maazel and Mariss Jansons. He laughed off hiring flutist Robert Langevin and clarinetist Mark Nuccio away from Pittsburgh by saying we have stolen some wonderful players from the Montreal Symphony. “That’s the way of the orchestra world,” said the brother of conductor Zubin Mehta.
Hilary Hahn was resplendent in her sparkly red dress by Carolina Herrera which she found on a shopping trip in Los Angeles.
Manfred’s son Joachim said he loved his trip to Pittsburgh last week. He’s on his way back to Vienna to study comparative literature. Don Quixote is among the books he’ll look at carefully.
Manfred Honeck admired the conducting moves of Lorin Maazel captured in photographs in the Green Room adjacent to his dressing room. In Manfred’s room there was a cold bottle of Taittinger champagne as a gift from Lincoln Center with fresh flowers. On the wall is a reproduction of the score of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony with Gustav Mahler’s pencil markings in red and blue from his years as Music Director in New York.
The sky was still crystal clear after dark at the end of the evening. The steps leading up to Lincoln Center are embedded with tiny lights that spell out names of ensembles who are to appear at the hall. Lines of yellow taxi cabs sped by as I walked past Carnegie Hall where a cheerful throng lined up at the stage door after a concert of high school band competition winners from across the country. I scored a ticket to hear the Yale Philharmonia and Chorus in an all Handel program with a Concerto and Coronation anthem that brought conductor William Christie a standing ovation and an encore of the final chorus from the anthem.
Hilary Hahn played a Bach Sarabande in D minor as an encore, and the Pittsburgh Symphony offered Khachaturian’s Galop from The Comedians as their last music. In the middle of the Galop, Principal Clarinet Michael Rusinek plays a solo with a quote from Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, and this time a moment of Leonard Bernstein’s New York New York – “It’s a hell of a town. The people ride in a hole in the ground.” There was a standing ovation before the encore. New Yorkers don’t get out of their seats for a standing ovation as often as other parts of the country. This weekend I heard four concerts and joined in four standing ovations. It was great to be a part of it in old New York. Wonderful Town indeed.