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June 6, 2011 6:35 pm

NY Phil / MutterAvery Fisher Hall, New York

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Anne-Sophie Mutter performs solo part of the world premiere of "Time Machine,"

Anne-Sophie Mutter: in her trademark strapless gown, she defied anyone not to take her seriously

So-called serious music in Manhattan is grinding to an awkward halt. The Metropolitan Opera has closed its seasonal curtain. The City Opera, facing financial ruin amid an accumulation of managerial disasters, has abandoned the Lincoln Center in downsizing desperation, and plans for an itinerant future remain fuzzy. True to tradition, Carnegie Hall is taking the summer off.

But, at least for the time being, it is business more or less as usual with the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert. Good business. Smart business. Sympathetic business. One must be grateful for lingering favours.

The favours here involved a bit of mild yet wild Beethoven, a bracing novelty by Sebastian Currier (born 1959), and a sample of grandiose, oddly neglected Bruckner – nothing trite and hardly anything easy. A happy crowd of about 2,700 did not seem to mind.

The first half of the concert belonged to Anne-Sophie Mutter, the ever inquisitive violinist who is serving as artist-in-residence. Tightly draped in a trademark strapless gown (“It is like my plumber’s uniform,” she scoffs), our heroine looked gorgeously casual as always. And, as almost always, she defied anyone not to take her seriously.

For a warm-up exercise she chose Beethoven’s seemingly innocent F-major Romance. Many soloists fiddle over it gently, sweetly, perhaps daintily. She fiddled through it toughly, with equal parts passion and compassion.

Then she introduced Currier’s episodic, subtly clangorous, brightly agitated Time Machines (2007). Predicated on intricate slashes and compact crashes, punctuated with nervous lyricism and seasoned with harmonic surprise, this half-hour excursion made visceral sense even when the composer’s programmatic convolutions did not. Mutter proved equally persuasive as leader and follower. Unfazed by the inherent complexities, Gilbert supervised brash yet neatly nuanced support.

After the interval, he ventured Bruckner’s Second Symphony, which, surprisingly, the Philharmonic had not touched since 1971. Despite some stridency here and some imprecision there, this was a compelling performance, carefully gauged and propulsively paced (in William Carragan’s 2007 edition). With repetition, it might even become suave.  

 

www.nyphil.org

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