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Subject: Ax fights (and wins over) the Gruber Piano Concerto
From: janosG <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:janosG <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 13 Jan 2017 12:03:25 -0800

text/plain (65 lines)

Financial Times / Jan. 13, 12017 / Arts
New York Philharmonic / Gilbert
Geffen Hall, New York

Philharmonic concerts are seldom notable for wit or whimsy. But this concert
at Lincoln Center on Thursday, beautifully played by the ever-attentive
orchestra as led by the ever-enterprising Alan Gilbert, turned out to be
nearly jocular.

	The qualifier is required because the evening closed with Schubert's
Second Symphony (1815), last heard here in 1994 under Kurt Masur. This score
offers no obvious bundle of chuckles. Still, it does harbour its share of
beguiling, progressive surprises - melodic, rhythmic and harmonic.

	Gilbert, who seemed to be having an exceptionally good time on his
soon to be sadly abandoned podium, made the most of the giggly sonic satire.
In the process, he mustered a persuasive case for musical pressure under
physical grace.

	An appreciative non-capacity audience applauded at every disruptive
opportunity, sometimes to the maestro's possible annoyance. It was one of
those nights.

	The festivities began with some jaunty satire via eight
mini-selections from Kurt Weill's historic "Dreigroschenoper" (1929). The
resident wind-ensemble, flaunting gently brash brass, made it wry, dry and
ultimately irresistible.

	Although the "Threepenny" bits were obvious fun, primary attention
had to be monopolized by the world premiere of a rambling, rumbling piano
concerto by Heinz Karl (a.k.a. HK) Gruber. Completed last year when the
Viennese composer was 73 years young, it toys knowingly with jazz, swing,
pop, serialism and even a touch of old-fashioned romanticism.

	The demanding piece, which spans only 20 hectic minutes, was
ambitiously commissioned by New York in conjunction with Stockholm, Berlin
(the Philharmonic) and Zurich. The super-strenuous non-stop solo part,
basically more percussive than lyrical, was dispatched with benign
dedication, also enduring and endearing strength, by Emanuel Ax. He thumped,
bumped, rippled, crashed and splashed his way through the oddly zig-zagging
chords with infectious aplomb supported by calm energy.

	The composer, clearly touched by his interpreter's faithful bravura
and bravado, rewarded him during wildly applauded curtain calls with much
deserved hugs. This, of course, stimulated increased ovations. For once the
crescendo of approval was well deserved.

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