Review: New York Philharmonic Journeys From Ocean to Desert

Ostensibly, the New York Philharmonic’s last two programs of the season were about Earth. But they did more to illustrate the challenges composers face in translating the climate crisis into music.

Last week at David Geffen Hall, Julia Woolf’s new multimedia oratorio “unEarth” took a decidedly activist stance, condemning environmental violence and presenting a path to recovery. On Thursday, John Luther Adams’ Be the Desert new york premiere.

Which approach you prefer can be a matter of taste. I think observation is more persuasive. Here you go this week. As the smoke from the wildfires in Canada drifted into New York, the city’s air quality was among the worst it’s ever been. Become. My eyes and throat felt like they were burning, and an unrecognizable landscape unfolded before me. Streets and parks covered in orange haze.

That’s the difference between “unEarth” and “Beyond Desert”, the difference between declaring a state of emergency and lifting it. Interestingly, Wolfe and Adams worked in both modes. Her early oratorios tended to be poetic, and his Blessed Earth Evening, which premiered in April, had the outspoken rhetoric of a sign of protest. Both of them are among the greatest composers of our time and have each won a Pulitzer Prize. But they are still figuring out how to respond to the climate crisis without making artistic mistakes.

And the composer is not alone. The Philharmonic Orchestra also enjoyed mixed success with its “Earth” concert conducted by Jaap van Zweden. Woolf’s work, for some reason, shared a fee with the seemingly unrehearsed work of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto. Thursday’s program was an improved one, following a more deliberate route from sea to desert.

Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from ‘Peter Grimes’ expresses the sea, a short movement that serves the dual role of a poetic depiction of water and an expression of the opera’s underlying drama. play. On Thursday, they largely exemplify the acoustics of the refurbished Geffen Hall, rewarding the sinuous angularity of “Sunday Morning” with a bright, dry atmosphere and chastising the violent chaos of “Storm.”

Between the climactic “Interlude” ending and the monumental “Become Desert”, there is a short rendition of Toru Takemitsu’s “I Can Hear a Dream of Water” featuring Philharmonic Orchestra principal flutist Robert Langevin. A little Debussian beauty was often overlooked. soloist. He had a warm, muted tone, but like Sibelius’ concertmaster Frank Huang last week, he played with a selfless stage presence that felt more like a section leader than an assertive star.

“Become Desert” is the third installment in the trilogy that began with 2010’s “Become River,” in which pieces of ice harmony drip into the stream, becoming grander and deeper, as if “Become Desert.” It is a work that seems to be directly connected to Ocean” (2013). ), which won the Pulitzer Prize. A masterpiece of scale and form, it draws the listener into a world that moves unpredictably with epic swells and pulls. 2018’s “Desert” continues that enveloping flow, a musical, repetitive, ground-mounted camera witnessing vast landscapes that rise, set, and return. You can get a glimpse of the ever-changing environment while being a target. The Earth appears wonderful in every sense of the word in all three of his points.

Seattle Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ludwig Morlot Recorded all trilogy. This description reveals Adams’ respect for the subject matter expressed in three-dimensional clarity. A texture that moves like a shadow. Areas that appear stagnant evolve organically, requiring patience and distance to truly perceive. The score is marked by a constant pace of life, ticking at a tempo of 45 beats per minute, described by Adams as “timeless”. In the opening, percussion thumps with each beat, but it’s dispersed, with faint sustained overtones dissolving the downbeat feel.

But at Geffen Hall, Van Zweden’s baton cut through the air faster, shaving off the score’s typical length by a few minutes, wiping out all that magic and subtlety along the way. The 4/4 time signature was all too obvious, and the music felt less immersive than propulsive.

It was a disappointing introduction in New York to one of Adams’ most original and respectful works. As written, the slowly evaporating final section is reminiscent of the poignantly melting strings at the end of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. But on Thursday it felt like a march to the finish line intrusively drawn on the earth.

new york philharmonic

The program repeats through Saturday at David Geffen Hall in Manhattan. Naifir.org.

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