The orchestra, led by Mälkki with focused confidence on Wednesday, tends to be active but subdued, the way you can perceive seething activity even in a seemingly still jungle.
“Placing an old piece in new surroundings can make you think about it in a fresh way. Until the New York Philharmonic played Charles Ives’s short, indelible “The Unanswered Question” on Wednesday at David Geffen Hall under Susanna Mälkki’s baton, I had never thought of it as a tiny double concerto.
It isn’t, exactly. A double concerto adds two soloists to the orchestra, and the Ives has five: four flutists and a trumpeter. But its structure — in which soft expanses of consoling strings are the ground for interjections of somber trumpet and bursts of talkative flute — suggests the flutes are a single many-headed unit. It’s a kind of double concerto, then, in which two solo forces have a relationship to one another and to the main ensemble.
The orchestra, led by Mälkki with focused confidence on Wednesday, tends to be active but subdued, the way you can perceive seething activity even in a seemingly still jungle. There are hazy effusions of brass; little thickets of rattling, shivering percussion; and whooshing, glistening strings that were a textural link to the Ives, as well as to Stravinsky’s “Petrushka,” which came after intermission.”
“With rarefied Ives, a bold new concerto, and a scintillating Petrushka, Susanna Mälkki and the New York Philharmonic put the reconfigured David Geffen Hall through its acoustical paces Wednesday night.
Conductor Mälkki kept Ives’s six-minute tableau at the brink of audibility, as weightless as a thought.
Mälkki—who had godmothered this piece from a new friendship of two exceptional musicians to a concerto commission for them from the Helsinki Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic—expertly oversaw the boom-slap of percussion and the short, wrenching string phrases that punctuated the solos in the early going.”
“In the U.S., it’s a shame star conductors like Mälkki rarely venture beyond the American coasts, with maybe a Chicago stopover. But at least in a program of three works composed in the last hundred years, Mälkki certainly validated the glowing reviews she’s been getting.
Stravinsky’s complete Petrushka, brilliantly performed in the 1947 version, left no doubt of Mälkki’s finely honed control — and the hall’s almost startling éclat. Things are sounding good in New York.”
“In Mälkki’s calm and precise hands, chamber music-like and pandemonium-evoking sections blended well. Gradually allowed to display more and more improvisatory skills, the two protagonists conversed with ease, their exchanges culminating in a jam-session-like cadenza…”