The 2019 Winter Festival, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s (NJSO) annual celebration of the most artistic works in music. On January 27, Daniil Trifonov put the button on the Festival in an afternoon that included a program that first seemed eclectic, then turned electric.
Do you think you know Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra?” Truly, you don’t. We know the pop culture “Sunrise” portion of the opening that figured so prominently in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but it is the thrumming and thrilling chest-rumbling voice of the organ in live performance–the lyrical development of the theme that proves Strauss’ mettle, as he set the portions of Friedrich Nietzsche’s treatise of the meaning of life through the Persian prophet Zarathustra. Strauss gives us the meaning of life in the motif that threads through, popping up here, there and everywhere. What a treat to hear the entire work with such energy! A great antidote for arctic temperature, and this alone made the trip outdoors worthwhile.
Setting the tone for February Valentines, Robert Schumann’s glorious valentine to his wife, pianist Clara Schumann, was given vibrant life by guest artist Daniil Trifonov. While Clara may have been the first to add Robert’s masterwork, the Piano Concerto in A Minor, Opus 54 to her repertoire, Trifonov has carried forth the legacy in rich jewel toned elegance. He is transported in the cadenzas, at times levitating from his seat with thrilling trilling and dynamic virtuousity that illuminates phrases. The Allegro affetuoso is a lush, sexy, romantic prelude for a valentine, with energy and beauty, sweep and style. The Intermezzo: Andante grazioso has a delicate opening, with a smooth segue into a conversation, a duet with the orchestra: two friends who are in love, echoing one another’s thoughts, both tender and sentimental. The final Allegro vivace is where energy returns and, BOOM! goes the dynamite, with scintillating trills and phrases that become an explosion of joy. This contrasts with the almost martial feel of the orchestra, in its majesty, as joyously the piano flows and gambols, luring the orchestra as a Pied Piper whose wand is a piano rather than a flute. WOW! And Trifonov’s encore was Sergei Rachmaninoff’s graceful and sensual “Vocalise” that was enough, on its own, for us to be fully satisfied. But there was even more in store!
Alexander Scriabin’s aptly named “Le Poème de l’extase,” or Poem of Ecstasy, was the beautifully urban and urbane return to the early 20th century, with a modern feel. You can hear Scriabin’s thoughts, as he approaches New York Harbor by sea and imagines the hustle and bustle of a City that is full of joy, energy, hope, and the excitement of new beginnings. And that is what the New Year is all about, isn’t it?
Time is fleeting and there is still SO much more season to love! Get your tickets now at www.njsymphony.org