NEW WORLD SYMPHONY
MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS
DUKAS/ BARTOK/ BEETHOVEN (10-21-06)
A NEW GLOW FOR NEW WORLD AT KNIGHT HALL
By Lawrence Budmen
The sound of the New World Symphony at the Carnival Centerís John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall on Saturday was nothing short of a revelation. At the Lincoln Theater, the ensembleís home base, the very bright acoustic tends to make climaxes sound strident and to obscure instrumental details.
In the hallís spacious audio environment, the softest passages emerged with clarity while solo instruments had definition and real presence. There was a bloom and space around the New World string sound that was never audible before. With continued tweaking of the stage canopy and sound chambers, the Knightís already exceptional acoustics can only get better.
With the exception of some briefly wayward brass in Bartokís Concerto for Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomasís ensemble was in prime form. Tilson Thomas brought the whimsy of Dukasís Sorcererís Apprentice into sharp focus. A superb bassoon solo conveyed the tone poemís sense of irony.
From the chilling tones of the dark, foreboding opening to the final brass fanfare, Tilson Thomas illuminated every ounce of color and excitement in Bartokís orchestral showpiece. The eerie wind-percussion duet of the second movement had rhythmic bounce and spark. Golden voiced brass intoned the quasi-Bach chorale.
The heart of this score is the third movement Elegy, Bartokís despondent death song. Rich, glowing strings gave a poignant and overwhelmingly powerful reading of this autumnal night music, shaped in long arcs by Tilson Thomas. The conductor turned up the fire of Hungarian paprika in the tumultuous finale. With conductor and orchestra in high gear, Bartokís incendiary score really ignited.
In Beethovenís eternal Symphony No.5 in C Minor, Tilson Thomas offered a tautly paced interpretation graced with a sophisticated ear for instrumental subtleties uncovered by recent Beethoven scholarship. A plethora of orchestral nuances emerged freshly cleansed.
The cello sectionís glowing tone carried the Andante con motto aloft. Eight double basses gave new meaning to bravura in the third movement trio. A final blare of triumphant brass capped the inexorable momentum of Tilson Thomasís super charged performance.
In its encore of Griegís The Last Spring, the ensembleís luminous strings turned a sentimental bon bon into a miniature masterpiece.