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Evaluate: The Philharmonic Feasts on ‘The Planets’

Holst’s “The Planets” is without doubt one of the Thanksgiving feasts of classical music. It seduces with number of coloration and texture — simply as tangy cranberry compote refreshes after buttery mashed potatoes — however tends to depart you overstuffed.

I’ve by no means heard it when it wasn’t not less than slightly an excessive amount of. However, performed with vigor by the New York Philharmonic beneath Dima Slobodeniouk on Wednesday night at David Geffen Corridor, it didn’t have me moaning with overindulgence, as some “Planets” performances do. It felt like a great strategy to ring in a vacation that’s all about bounty.

There was punchiness in “Mars” and real playfulness in “Mercury,” and Slobodeniouk was agile in guiding the orchestra via the hairpin transitions of “Jupiter.” That part’s noble hymn theme was much less strings-heavy than typical, flowing with ease.

That Ligeti’s “Atmosphères” is, like “The Planets,” indelibly related to the extraterrestrial is due much less to its title than to its inclusion (with out its composer’s permission) within the soundtrack of “2001: A House Odyssey.”

Written in 1961, not fairly half a century after Holst’s tone poem, the sumptuously eerie “Atmosphères” on Wednesday felt a bit just like the son or grandson of “The Planets.” Ligeti’s queasily unsettled sound world appeared a direct descendant of the surprised stillness firstly of “Saturn,” the uneasy simmering after the march drops out in “Uranus” and the gaseous, hovering thriller of “Neptune.” Neither of those works was performed with super-polish at Geffen, however beneath Slobodeniouk each had vibrant drama.

These tried and true “Planets” apart, this wasn’t a live performance of chestnuts. The orchestra revived “Atmosphères” to cap its commemorations this fall of Ligeti’s centennial; it hasn’t introduced the piece (besides because it’s excerpted within the “2001” rating) since 1978. And it’s performing Julia Perry’s 1951 “Stabat Mater” this week for the primary time ever.

Perry’s temporary “Research for Orchestra” was, in 1965, the primary music by a Black girl to be performed on a Philharmonic subscription program. It was introduced again final 12 months, however the “Stabat Mater,” scored for strings and a vocalist, is a much more highly effective work. Heated but refined and restrained, the piece’s 10 sections on a Latin textual content, lasting about 20 minutes in all, chart an intimate drama whose moments of grandeur are all of the more practical given the general modesty.

Within the brief prelude, gentle but pungent pizzicato plucks — amid brooding low strings and an elegiac solo violin — movingly evoke Jesus’s mom’s tears with out feeling too apparent. All through, Perry offers each voice and orchestra an interesting mixture of Neo-Baroque angularity and post-Romantic heat. The quivering, high-pitched flames of “the hearth of affection” close to the top are reminders that this piece and “Atmosphères” date from the identical period.

The mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges sang with oracular authority within the somber vocal traces, rising to flashes of depth. There have been passages by which a extra encompassing, contralto-style richness within the low register would have crammed out this music. However Bridges’s targeted tone was good for Perry’s poignant austerity.

The violinist Sheryl Staples, within the concertmaster chair, performed with sweetness and eloquence in each the “Stabat Mater” and Holst’s “Venus.” That part of “The Planets” additionally featured a superbly mellow flute solo by Alison Fierst, main into rhapsodic traces from the orchestra’s longtime principal cello, Carter Brey.

Oh, and for not less than one evening, the “fireflies” — the lights over the Geffen stage that do a flickering up-and-down dance earlier than concert events, in corny imitation of the chandeliers that rise earlier than curtain on the Metropolitan Opera subsequent door — had been stilled.

Would possibly they keep that approach forevermore? That will be one thing to be glad about.

New York Philharmonic

This program repeats via Saturday at David Geffen Corridor, Manhattan; nyphil.org.

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