The last time I heard a concert in Avery Fisher Hall was in 1998 when principal percussionist Christopher Lamb played the premier performance of Tan Dun’s Water Concerto, a work commissioned for him by the New York Philharmonic. The hall is a cold, extremely oversized rectangle with dubious eye-appeal , ambiguous acoustics and the home of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
This Thursday evening we were to hear the great violinist Leonidas Kavakos play Alban Berg’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1935). We had first heard him via the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall. He is a binder of spells. The program started with Im Sommerwind (1904) by Anton Webern and after intermission Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony. All the works were conducted by Bernard Haitink.
The Webern and Berg sounded as if they’d just been touched in rehearsal. Haitink never got his head out of the scores and everything was uninterestingly pedantic. I felt sorry for Kavakos. My goodness what a waste. I hope his hotel accomodations were posh and he had access to a great Greek restaurant that delivered.
Of course everyone on stage knew Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony and it was given a not to be forgotten performance. Everything was shaped beautifully and passages had ample space in which to breath. None of Toscanini’s inexorable rushess to the finish line in this performance. Those exciting and difficult 3rd movement section solos for horns were played with a brassy exhuberance. My goodness they were exciting and the horns received a very well deserved solo bow.
That’s about all that can be said for the concert. Except for Chris Lamb’s cymbal playing in the Webern and most particularly, near the end, two exquisitly soft triangle notes. Both absolutely breathtaking.