It’s at all times a very good signal when an orchestra’s gamers gentle up with smiles at a conductor.
And on Thursday night time at David Geffen Corridor, that occurred again and again, with grins passing between the musicians of the New York Philharmonic and its podium visitor, David Robertson, all through a beguiling, smart program.
The live performance started the Philharmonic’s festivities to celebrate the centennial of the Hungarian-Austrian composer Gyorgy Ligeti’s delivery. Robertson led the U.S. premiere of “Mifiso la Sodo,” a brief work for chamber orchestra that Ligeti wrote as a scholar in Budapest in 1948. He started revisions three years later, however by no means completed the job; the piece lay dormant till final yr.
With its punchy, pretend Italian title, “Mifiso” is crammed stuffed with little musical jokes, show-off brilliance and jovial accents. Ligeti gave it the subtitle “Cheerful Music,” which is each an ironic riposte to the Stalinesque dictums that dominated the Hungarian arts within the Forties and ’50s and a real description of this piece.
Robertson additionally resurrected a Ligeti work that the Philharmonic hadn’t performed since 2004 (performed by him again then, too): “Live performance Romanesc,” or “Romanian Concerto,” a hurricane of colour and exuberant virtuosity from 1951 that pulls upon Romanian people music. On this concerto for orchestra, there’s a very charming portion through which the basses pluck away, in gritty gutbucket fashion, whereas the violins whirl overhead in a zippy dance.
One other concerto — the Russian-born, London-based composer Elena Firsova’s Piano Concerto — supplied a marked distinction in a fragile work that inverts the style’s conventional fast-slow-fast construction. Firsova wrote it in 2020 for Yefim Bronfman, who gave its New York premiere on Thursday. (The efficiency was additionally the Philharmonic’s first of Firsova’s music.)
Firsova’s concerto diverged from the power of Ligeti by ushering in a meditative pause with a solitudinous, transient introduction. One in all her primary themes is a wistful, upward-spiraling scale that darts by the piano and the assorted devices of the orchestra. Close to the top, she retreats into evanescent, gossamer textures from which a haunting, music box-like set of patterns emerges from the glockenspiel, vibraphone, tubular bells and the piano, which is performed close to the highest of its vary. Bronfman, an assiduous supporter of Firsova’s work, performed with commanding surety.
The night’s second half was dedicated to Brahms’s Serenade No. 1, which initially was envisioned as a small chamber piece, however then Brahms stored increasing it. In its ultimate model, the piece’s instrumentation remains to be lithe — simply two every of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, French horns and trumpets, plus timpani and strings — however the winds and brasses specifically introduced in a welcome plushness. The phrasing, underneath Robertson’s baton, was shapely and intentional, whereas tracing a persuasive by line again from Ligeti at the beginning of this system.
Robertson’s identify has been raised on occasion over time as a possible music director of the Philharmonic. Whereas that’s unlikely to occur anytime quickly, these huge grins from gamers throughout the stage — to not point out their dedicated, heat performances — made the musicians’ emotions clear.
New York Philharmonic
By means of Saturday at David Geffen Corridor, Manhattan; nyphil.org.