Reviewed by Dalia Wolfson
When the Met suddenly inserts an abundance of parentheses into its concert notes, you can be sure to expect a rather interesting performance. When you pick up a playbill â€“ innocently graced with the grin and glistening head of Lorin Maazel - the concert may look quite unassuming: perhaps the typical set of symphonies and anxious strings section playing a tune from the wigged Viennese days. But flip to the instrumentation section and youâ€™ll find a strange motley: barring the predictable presence of flutes, oboes and bassoons, additional musical tools are present. Suddenly, squashed among the stuffy orchestral favorites, are marimbas, vibraphones, darbukas and Arabic metal (or, alternatively, as the program notes, cowbells). Donâ€™t forget, though, that the performance also includes hi-hats, tom-toms, crash cymbals and, yes, an afterthought claims, "One of the percussionists also whistles".
"Spices, Perfumes, Toxins!" (2006), first on the program, is a piece suffused with the musical incense of the Middle East and complemented by the exciting interaction of its performers (and their eccentric supply of instruments). Israelis Tomer Yariv and Adi Morag, the duo that formed Percadu, hop around the stage and use their hands and sticks to coax playful sounds out of their signature marimbas. This particular work was designed especially for the pecussive group, whose dynamic music and fine mastery have won them international fame and respect. Avner Dorman, the young and talented Israeli composer, collaborated with PercaDu to produce a three-movement concerto reflecting the subjects of the title. Spices brings memories of the old, bearded men selling their wares in sing-song voices accompanied by silvery chimes in Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Street, Perfumes evokes a dream sequence of delicate sleepwalking in a Persian night, and Toxins fulfills the trio with a frantic awakening of melody and sound.
As a special treat for the audience, PercaDu performed a rendition of Korsakov's "The Flight of the Bumblebee" (1899-1900) a quick-paced composition rearranged for marimbas. The two men accomplished great feats of acrobatics to accommodate the rigor and speed of the piece and were later awarded by overwhelming applause from the thrilled crowd.
After intermission, the orchestra played Bela Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra, BB 123, Sz 116" (1943). This piece was written during Bartok's five years in the United States, a place of refuge from the Nazi regime. Bartok, at the time, was ill and poverty-stricken, and barely agreed to an offer from Serge Koussevitsky- a renowned conductor- to compose a symphony. Bartok instilled this work with his emotions about the torture of living but also, at certain soloing moments, with joie de vivr . Indeed, Avner Dorman would later analyze this composer's life and output in an academic dissertation on Bartok.
This concert was conducted by the illustrious Zubin Mehta, a former Music Director of the NY Philharmonic and honorary citizen of both Florence and Tel Aviv. Mehta played by heart and with great passion, paralleling the emotional spirit of the two composers as his hands indicated the entrance of the oboes or the gentle rise and fall of plucked violins.
The delivery of these two fiery works- separated by years and cultural differences- were thus linked by Mehta's expert conducting: the music ignited the audience and the concert was superb.
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