Perlman plays in star-studded anniversary concert at Carnegie

Perlman plays in star-studded anniversary concert at Carnegie

In the foreground, from left, Itzhak Perlman, Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma performing at Carnegie Hall’s 125th Anniversary Gala, for which Richard Gere served as the host
(Photo credit: Richard Termine/The New York Times)

Review: Carnegie Hall Turns 125, With Brass and Other Fanfare
By Anthony Tommasini
The New York Times
May 6, 2016

Addressing a packed Carnegie Hall on Thursday night, Richard Gere, the evening’s host, welcomed everyone to the venerated hall’s “125th-birthday party.” The night was indeed the exact anniversary of Carnegie’s festive opening, May 5, 1891, at which Tchaikovsky, in his only visit to America, conducted his “Marche Solennelle,” and Walter Damrosch led the first New York performance of Berlioz’s “Te Deum.” Thursday’s concert, as Mr. Gere suggested, was more a celebratory musical affair than a substantive musical program. And why not?

Sure, Carnegie Hall might have commissioned a work for the occasion, or performed something as ambitious as that Berlioz piece: a 50-minute score for a tenor soloist, two choruses, children’s choir and orchestra. But Carnegie has been a commissioning colossus for decades and has presented hundreds of challenging programs. This was party time. The celebrants were a cavalcade of popular artists, including Renée Fleming, Isabel Leonard, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Lang Lang, Emanuel Ax, Michael Feinstein and James Taylor.

On Thursday, after a stirring performance of the national anthem, fortified by brass players in the aisles and balconies, Mr. Heras-Casado led the chorus and orchestra in a rousing account of Handel’s “Zadok the Priest,” a coronation anthem. Turning to chamber music, Mr. Perlman, Mr. Ma and Mr. Ax played the Andante from Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor. That these artists chose the tranquil, beguiling slow movement from this Mendelssohn work, which they played beautifully, brought a reflective moment to a gala evening. Then Mr. Ax and Mr. Lang, making an unlikely piano duo, gave a sprightly account of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance in G minor for piano four-hands. Mr. Ma joined them for “The Swan” from Saint-Saëns’s “The Carnival of the Animals.”

Mr. Lang had the piano to himself for a milky Manuel Ponce intermezzo and one of Ernesto Lecuona’s feisty “Danzas Afro-Cubanas.” Ms. Fleming sang Strauss’s song “Morgen,” accompanied by Mr. Heras-Casado and the orchestra, with Mr. Perlman no less, playing the wafting violin solo. She was joined by Ms. Leonard for a beloved duet, the “Barcarolle” from Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffmann.” Later, microphone in hand, Ms. Fleming slipped nicely into her pop mode for Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” with the orchestra.

The evening ended with everyone onstage for a jam-session rendition of “The Joint Is Really Jumpin’ in Carnegie Hall.” Mr. Lang and Mr. Ax even took turns at the piano, playing boogie-woogie riffs.

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