Tonight, after a decent Southwestern-cuisine meal at Sante Fe's new location (try to get a table by the bar. Note: though there is some resemblance, Southwestern is not Mexican. If you want great Mexican food on the Upper West Side, go to Café Frida), we walked down to Avery Fisher Hall for a regular subscription concert by the New York Philharmonic--a violinist I'd never heard of, playing a concerto I'd never heard, by a composer I'd barely heard of. At least they bracketed it with a couple of familiar works. I settled into my seat with a pocketful of coughdrops to combat this little cold I've had the last couple of days.
This concert was a tough sell for the Philharmonic. Lots of radio ads on WQXR, plus offers of discounted tickets for our friends mailed both e- and snail. Somehow, though, they did manage to pretty much fill up the house.
Philharmonic Music Director Lorin Maazel conducted, and started with Richard Wagner's Overture to Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman). The rousing nautical themes are well-known, and it's an audience favorite. Der fliegende Holländer was Wagner's earliest opera that has withstood the test of time, and he composed it long before his more esoteric Ring Cycle. I thought we might be in for a bad evening at the start--one of the horns hit a sour hote in the exuberent opening bars, but nothing of the sort happened again. Save for that one note the orchestra was fine.
Next on the program was the big question mark: James Ehnes playing Sir William Walton's Violin Concerto. This was commissioned by Jascha Heifetz, who premiered it with the Cleveland Orchestra in 1939. While it isn't quite a virtuoso piece, designed just to show off the player's skill, it certainly takes a very skilled violinist to play it. Ehnes got through it just fine, but it did not move me in the least. It's not particularly melodic, and has nothing else that would make me want to hear it again.
After intermission it was Antonín Dvořák's Seventh Symphony. Though not nearly as well-known as his super-popular Ninth ("From the New World"), or even his Eighth, its themes are quite familiar. Maazel led it strongly, and the orchestra responded--they clearly like his conducting very much.
It was a pretty nice concert, all in all. We did not have tall people seated in front of us for a change, and everyone kept quiet during the performance. Maazel managed to look distinguished even without a tie. And my coughdrop supply held out.
2 hours ago