Through no fault of my own, I found myself at Davies Hall on Monday night for the 2nd of 2 Israel Philharmonic programs led by Zubin Mehta. The house was fully packed, & the performers & their supportive audience remade the symphony experience for me that night. American & Israeli flags were displayed on the stage, & the concert began with the national anthems of both those countries. The rest of the program was staunchly Germanic. Maestro Mehta came out wearing the bored expression of someone with a stomachache, but he comfortably conducted the entire program without a score. The orchestra has a raw string sound & ragged woodwinds & brass. Phrasing does not come naturally to the ensemble, & the familiar Beethoven & Schubert works often sounded like new pieces. The off-stage trumpet of the Leonore Overture seemed like it had fallen into the piece by mistake. Extraneous noises came from the percussion section when Maestro Mehta was walking to the podium for the Webern, as well as during a pause between movements.
For the Schubert C Major Symphony, the woodwinds moved to the front desks of the orchestra, the oboe sitting where the concert master would be. This makes some sense, but the interest was mostly visual. The woodwind section had persistent intonation problems, & a strange squeal popped out during the 2nd movement. The timpanist consistently thwacked the instrument as hard as he could. In the final movement, Maestro Mehta rotated himself clockwise to turn from the 1st violins to the 2nds, so that he was momentarily conducting full frontal, facing the audience.
Everyone around me was so engaged by the concert that they all conversed about it at some point during the music. Throughout the evening, 3 old ladies in our row had serenely refused to stand, forcing my concert companion & myself to climb over them 3 times, but they stood promptly at the end of the Schubert & joined in the big, appreciative standing ovation. Maestro Mehta announced that he dedicated the Schubert symphony to Joseph Krips, which elicited sighs of gratitude from the audience. A woman seated in front of me turned into a head-banger during the livelier moments of the Overture to Die Fledermaus encore.
§ Great Performers Series
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Zubin Mehta, conductor
Beethoven: Leonore Overture No. 3
Webern: Six Pieces for Orchestra
Schubert: Symphony in C major, The Great
Encore: Johann Strauss Jr: Overture to Die Fledermaus
Mon, Feb 28, 2011 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall