ORCHESTRA OF ST. LUKE'S
November 26, 2013
Guest conductor Iván Fischer (music director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra) led the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall in a program of Hungarian and German work.
The program featured Leó Weiner’s rarely heard Serenade for Small Orchestra (1906). Although its central theme charmed at first, it soon felt overused. The Serenade generally feels well crafted, but colorless, and probably deserving of its role as the program’s forgotten curio. There are reasons why some graves don’t get flowers.
The Weiner piece sat in contrast to Béla Bartók’s illuminating and inventive Hungarian Sketches (1931). While both Hungarian composers found inspiration in folk music, Bartók’s ability to synthesize this with his earlier Romantic tendencies to fashion his own unique, expressive language is what sets the composers far apart. The orchestra was incisive throughout – Fischer managing stirring silences amid the clever melodies and rhythms.
American pianist Jonathan Biss joined Fischer and the orchestra for Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor (1841; 1845). For all the lovely moments where piano and orchestra entwined, there were lulls in each movement that detracted from its overall grace.
As the program seemed to be ordered in ascending quality, from inessential to masterwork, Mozart’s 1788 “Jupiter” Symphony ended the night. Fischer conducted from memory through this affirmation of our worth as a species – a work that is, if not proof of a God, proof we can make something just as good.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Geoffrey Lokke