NY PHILHARMONIC CHINESE NEW YEAR CELEBRATION
February 18, 2013
Crowds funneled into Avery Fisher Hall for the Gala evening concert celebrating the Chinese New Year. West and East met up in the crossroads between traditional art forms and contemporary expressions. Rousing processional music called the audience to attention in Li Huanzhi’s “Spring Festival Overture.” Soon the sound of flutes calms the bombastic waves until the brisk tempi returns with a flourish. In one of his last works, Mahler’s “Der Einsame im Herbst” (The Solitary Person in Autumn) from Das Lied von de Erde (The Song of the Earth) dwelled inside a deep, melancholy realm, and mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano drew warmth from the sorrow. In the US premiere of Ye Xiaogang “Imitations of Old Poem: Long Autumn Night,” from The Song of the Earth, an assured Ying Human exhibited strong musical intent and control over the expansive vocal variations.
But when Herbie Hancock strode on stage, the evening’s energetic conductor Long Yu appeared as thrilled to see him as the adoring audience. Jazz pianist and composer, Hancock’s mastery is immediately evident. The score for Chen Quigang’s “Er Huang for Piano and Orchestra” was propped in front of Hancock. Despite the written notation, Hancock invested the piece with a muscular performance, and undeniably personal interpretation. Deep breaths separated chord progressions that ultimately fanned up and down the piano keys. Near the end, Hancock broke into an improvised passage that drew on his classical and jazz roots, dancing vibrantly to the atonal melodies that rose and fell into a dizzy spinning jazz flower.
In another star turn, Ye Zou demonstrated remarkable body and facial control and expressivity in her role as the Concubine in Selections from the Beijing opera’s “The Drunken Concubine.” A tip of the head or snap of the wrist exploded in expressions of sadness or happiness, disappointment or drunkenness. I’ve never seen a person imitate a drunken person with so few moves that were so vibrantly real.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis