N.Y. Philharmonic Adds 2 Premieres to a Diet of Classics

N.Y. Philharmonic Adds 2 Premieres to a Diet of Classics

Both lean on film-score tropes. A racing pulse out of Bernard Herrmann finds its way into the first section of “To See the Sky,” and “Three Muses in Video Game” aspires, in its middle, to John Williams-esque melodic sweep. But unlike Williams’s best, this stuff never took flight; Tan’s piece, for all its frenetic changeability, is plodding at its core.

Alessi brought a clear, smooth sound to the solo part’s droops and hoots. His slippery, jittery cadenza in the first section, over a thin frost of strings, is the most memorable moment in the score, though the eerie sliding of those strings is an effect that gets old fast. By the end of the concerto, with the trombone section acting as a kind of support team for the soloist, Asian and Western elements come together, both traditions rendered equally cloying.

Mendelssohn’s Third Symphony (“Scottish”) was more dependable, and its Adagio was lovely — the strings blending seamlessly with the oboe line and the movement building with persuasive authority before receding into a gentle glow. The first movement was clear and nimble, its dotted rhythms never too heavy. But van Zweden pushed the tempos of the second and fourth, as he sometimes does in fast music, in a way that felt less risky or exhilarating than hounded, leaving the players awkwardly scrambling.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, last week, fared better. The renovated Geffen Hall has more lucid acoustics than the space did in 2015, when van Zweden led this classic work as a candidate for the Philharmonic’s podium. Now, as then, the third movement was the highlight, its danciness somehow both menacing and celebratory.

It had a gracefully conducted predecessor on the program in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G, with Conrad Tao a witty, exuberant soloist. Tao performed his own cadenzas, which glanced past Mozart’s time toward Sturm und Drang Romanticism and even hints of modernist fragmentation. And his playful ornaments in the Finale subtly enlivened this chestnut: truly a meeting of old music and fresh spirit.

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