Jurowski With Philadelphia Orchestra


Readers often ask why we don’t revisit the same Philadelphia Orchestra programs several nights in a row and compare performances. The reason this generally doesn’t work is that if we attend the orchestra Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Tuesday, that prevents us from covering concerts of other groups on those nights.

We have done it on occasion, though, and after David Stearns reviewed Friday night’s Vladimir Jurowski concert, I heard Saturday’s. I won’t write an entirely new review, especially since I concurred with so much of what David wrote, except to say that in terms of sophistication of interpretation and standards of orchestral playing, only Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos is Jurowski's equal. But here are a few loose threads worth noting.

Violin soloist Lisa Batiashvili was obviously feeling comfortable enough to play the Beethoven Violin Concerto and its Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) cadenzas from memory Saturday, which wasn’t the case Friday. I felt the first cadenza didn’t work, but loved the cadenza in the third movement. The difference? The first-movement one was a stylistic interloper, a 20th-century foreign substance that seemed to come out of and lead no where. The third-movement one, however, though still in a modern language, grew more naturally out of Beethoven’s material, and successfully made the case that in relative terms, we are contemporaries of Beethoven – very much of the same world. Artful, the way the orchestra participated in the cadenza itself – a technique much underused by composers.

What I liked about both cadenzas was the slightly Russian flavor, which made a connection to the Prokofiev Symphony No. 6 after intermission. There were also parallels to be drawn in some of the string writing of the Symphony and the Prelude to Wagner’s Parsifal. On paper, I never figured these pieces would have much to say to each other, but Jurowski heard it, and made it obvious in performance.

I understand the conductor spoke about some of these connections at Friday night’s concert, which ran almost two and a half hours. Saturday he skipped the talking, and the concert clocked in a two hours, eighteen minutes. I think Saturday’s audience missed out on something special.