Cellist Alisa Weilerstein, photo by Lucio Lecce
Without Weilerstein’s gripping performance, the less positive aspects of the event might have outweighed the positive. These included Principal Conductor Iván Fischer’s much regretted absence, a missed opportunity to create interest and capital for himself socially and the NSO musically in the community – the NSO agreeably bends over backwards to exceed Fischer’s own stratospheric musical expectations but did not seem invigorated by Itzhak Perlman’s conducting. Resultant low points included the harrowing struggle of Perlman (violin) and Pinchas Zukerman (viola and conductor) to play unison material together in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, though the second movement was nice, and the trombonist grossly flubbing the elephant roar solo in Ravel’s Bolero. Investment bank and primary benefactor of the evening Morgan Stanley’s turbulent week in the financial markets could not have helped the general mood.
Anne Midgette, Energetic, if A Bit Ragged, NSO Opener Is All in Fun (Washington Post, September 22)
Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, Economy Strikes a Sour Note at the NSO Opener (Washington Post, September 22)
On an evening tainted with external uncertainty, the NSO could have provided a pristine musical escape for an affluent audience of 2,500 people collectively facing hundreds of millions of dollars or more of financial losses. The evening was further undermined by whoever programmed Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Wiener Blut. Of course the literal translation of the waltzes contains the word “blood,” the program notes point out that title actually should be interpreted as Viennese “strength” or “courage” instead of blood on the street. Ominously, the program notes go further to point out that Strauss, Jr.’s work was tragically undermined by the Vienna Stock Exchange’s collapse one week after the work’s premiere during the opening of the Vienna Exhibition in 1873. Thankfully, Weilerstein’s cello playing left positive memories.
The first concerts of the NSO's fall season will feature Miguel Harth-Bedoya, the first to ride the ever-turning carousel of conductors in this essentially leaderless season, in a performance of Shostakovich's fifth symphony and Beethoven's fourth piano concerto, with Hélène Grimaud (October 2 to 4).