Reaction: Beethoven and Mahler, New York Philharmonic

Wednesday, February 16 2017
David Geffen Hall, New York, NY

New York Philharmonic
Manfred Honeck, conductor
Inon Barnatan, piano

Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 1 (1797)
Mahler, Symphony No. 1 (1888)

This blog, being 1.5 years and some 40 blog posts old now, is at a cross road.  On the one hand, writing semi-critically about concerts has profoundly deepened my understanding and appreciation of music and (most) musicians.  On the other hand, however, free time is becoming more and more of a luxury, and I’m not sure the best way to spend it is rehashing how much I cringe at New York Philharmonic’s brass.  In the longer term I may have to be selective in which concerts to blog about or quit altogether, but for now I’m going to post brief “reactions” in lieu of longer and (what are intended to be) more cerebral “reviews” for concerts that stir up nothing new in me.  I imagine this will cover all the New York Philharmonic concerts in the foreseeable future.

Now, as for the music itself…I’m obviously no musicologist, in fact I didn’t even bother reading the program notes, but on some level I perceive Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto and Mahler’s First Symphony to be very similar in the context of their respective composer’s opus.  Both are early works with glimpses of the cosmic themes that would dominate the composers’ later periods, yet both feature childlike elements of joy and wonder.  I thought the Beethoven went really well.  (Well, the piano was a little too quiet to start, but I say the same about every piano concerto performed with this orchestra.)  In fact, I was surprised to read in my own blog that I’ve already heard Mr. Barnatan perform Mozart’s 23rd–he made no impression at all with a forgettable performance of an impossibly unforgettable piece of music.  On this evening he played Beethoven as few do anymore, balancing emotion and restraint, wonder and maturity.  The orchestra took a more transparent approach and didn’t hold anything back.  I’m used to the second movement being played with more tenderness, but in this performance Mr. Honeck turned the orchestra’s usual weakness in its lack of nuance into a strength, underscoring the element of innocence in the concerto.

The Mahler went pretty well too, modulo my usual complaints about the brass, which especially affected the first movement.  The third movement was absolutely sublime, with the smoothest, most haunting double bass solo playing a familiar but contorted nursery rhyme, answered in turn by the oboe.  In all the recordings I’ve ever heard of this symphony, the oboe happily blasts dance tunes over the funeral march.  Principal oboist Liang Wang, a prince among men, expressed so many emotions in so few measures, imbuing the typically playful grace notes with heartbreaking sensitivity.  Twenty minutes later, the finale was explosive beyond words; I don’t know if Mahler’s First *should* sound quite so earth-shattering, but overall the performance worked.

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Review: Beethoven’s Triple, Minnesota Orchestra

Saturday, July 16 2016
Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, MN

Minnesota Orchestra
Andrew Litton, conductor and piano
Nicola Benedetti, violin
Leonard Elschenbroich, cello

Beethoven, Overture to Fidelio (1814)
Beethoven, Concerto for Piano, Violin, Cello and Orchestra “Triple Concerto” (1803)
Brahms, Symphony No. 4 (1885)

Wrapping up a highly satisfying weekend in Minneapolis, I caught a Sommerfest concert highlighted by Beethoven’s rarely heard Triple Concerto.  Rarely heard, I suppose because the number of soloists involved makes it difficult to pull together a polished performance with limited practice time, which is what these summer concert series are for–audience seems to not demand as much perfection when the weather is nice.  Rising stars Nicola Benedetti and Leonard Elschenbroich joined conductor Andrew Litton, who double dutied at the piano, for an admirable attempt at the Triple Concerto.  Prior to Ms. Benedetti and Mr. Elschenbroich taking the stage, Mr. Litton felt compelled to inform us that the two of them are an item, which seemed like unnecessary information at the time but in retrospect may have been to adjust the audience’s Bayesian prior toward the belief that the two of them play as one.  Spoiler alert, they did not.

The whole thing was a mess, really.  By now I expect to cringe at any American orchestra’s wind sections, but Minnesota Orchestra’s (what I presume to be second tier) winds were a notch below that already low bar.  Between that and the poor acoustics of the concert hall, a muffled echo trapped the sounds of the soloists throughout the first movement.  Seemingly desperate to break free, Ms. Benedetti played with much less restraint after the opening movement, and poor Mr. Elschenbroich couldn’t keep up, which led to a labored negotiation between their instruments on tempo that was never quite settled.  (Mr. Litton had his hands full with the piano and was of little help at arbitrating.)  Nevertheless, the audience seemed to appreciate the effort and leapt to its feet with a prolonged standing ovation.

The Brahms symphony in the second half of the concert went much better.  Brahms symphonies are usually good for hiding lack of finesse, and besides I’m certain the orchestra has played Brahms’s 4th countless times in the recent past that little rehearsal time was needed.  Even so, many of the wind solos barely eked out the right notes and made no pretense at any kind of interpretation.  Against this underwhelming backdrop, I led my mind wander and became distracted by the awful florescent blue lighting and the weird 3-dimensional geometric cutouts protruding from the concert hall’s walls; it’s as if someone accepted the challenge to construct a more trippy version of David Geffen Hall.  At the end, however, Brahms rarely disappoints and the sweeping majesty of the music carried the orchestra to a serviceable, if not rousing, finish.

As for the opening overture, there isn’t much to say except that Beethoven and opera are an odd match.  Still, Beethoven’s got a high batting average, unlike, say, a certain Cleveland catcher that I saw at Target Field on Friday.  Trust me, that will be the best link you click on all week.

Review: Joshua Bell and Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

Monday, March 21 2016
David Geffen Hall, New York, NY

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Joshua Bell, violin and leader

Prokofiev, Symphony No. 1 “Classical” (1917)
Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto (1878)
Beethoven, Symphony No. 8 (1812)

These days I’m short on cash and even shorter on time, which actually inspired me to attend this concert tonight.  Somehow, splurging $60 that I do not have and two hours that I cannot spare go a long way toward convincing myself that I’m not as poor or busy as one would otherwise believe.  Actually it’s kind of fitting to hear Joshua Bell playing Tchaikovsky on the heels of my DC trip, since the last time I was in DC was to accompany a friend who idolizes Bell for a concert where Bell played the same concerto.  It’s no mystery why he plays this piece so often–between the visceral virtuosity the piece demands and the garish passion built into the score, Tchaikovsky might as well have written his violin concerto for Mr. Bell.  To the soloist’s credit, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, whatever it is.  The dazzling first-movement cadenza went so well that the audience burst into a standing ovation at its final note, significantly delaying the start of the second movement.  This may have ironically deflated some of the orchestra’s energy, as their playing was palpably more constrained in the second and third movements, but that’s immaterial, as the piece is thoroughly a vehicle to showcase the violinist.  Mr. Bell more than rose to the occasion, projecting tones at times warm and lilting but mostly throaty and tempestuous, all the while maintaining impeccable technical control despite sawing away on his $4 million Strad with so much gusto that one can only wonder how expensive the instrument must be to insure.  Nuance was neither demanded nor supplied, and that’s just as well.

For the symphonic portions of the program, it was quite odd to see Joshua Bell playing sitting down and as part of an orchestra.  Mr. Bell isn’t the first violinist I’ve seen attempting to conduct a Beethoven symphony; Itzhak Perlman conducted Beethoven’s Second with the Philadelphia Orchestra several years ago.  Whereas Perlman conducted from the conductor’s podium, Mr. Bell double-dutied as first violin, gently waving his bow to cue the wind sections when not playing himself.  This is no easy feat, as Beethoven’s symphonies require considerably more coordination than those of Mozart, which is typically where this sort of experiment takes place.  Just as Beethoven’s pastoral Sixth was co-composed with the iconic Fifth, the witty Eighth was co-composed with the life-affirming Seventh.  I had listened to a few different versions of the Eighth on YouTube earlier in the day and found it to be the most Classical (and operatic) of the Beethoven symphonies, full of the kind of humor and joy that permeates much of Haydn’s work.  Mr. Bell and this orchestra, however, played the Eighth as if it were the Ninth–loud, intense, dramatic, thereby losing all of the Eighth’s subtle delights.

As for the opening Prokofiev, it’s not the most comfortable piece for me to listen to.  Though the Baroque-sized orchestra played under a Classical paradigm (the first and last movements follow the familiar sonata form and the third movement is even a gavotte), one can’t help but sense that this is still a 20th century piece with questionable tonality in 18th century clothing.  It’d be easier to listen to an outwardly dissonant piece, quite frankly, though nothing too sinister stood out to me either, so perhaps I’ll revisit the piece at some point and see if I can say anything more constructive about it then.
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Review: Nikolai Lugansky Plays Brahms’s First

Saturday, March 19 2016
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC

National Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Nikolai Lugansky, piano

Brahms, Piano Concerto No. 1 (1858)
Beethoven, Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” (1808)

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It was the best of the times, it was the worst of the times.  On the one hand, this was the day that I had circled on my calendar many moons ago, the long-awaited spring’s eve that would be the reward for the fall and winter of discontent: Nikolai Lugansky making his annual North American swing, with the National Symphony Orchestra being this year’s lucky band.  What’s more, he would play Brahms’s First Piano Concerto, which is not only one of my very favorite pieces of music, but a piece that until now I have never heard him play, not even on YouTube.  On the other hand, I arrived to a cold, rainy DC sleep deprived and highly distraught.  I had just been informed the night before that I have to vacate my New York apartment much sooner than anticipated–if you have ever tried to look for an apartment in New York on a restricted timeline and a non-banker’s salary, you’d sympathize–and instead of relaxing and maybe pregaming, I spent the long bus ride down I-95 navigating the stages of anger and bargaining.  (And the ensuing time in the metro instinctively stepping away from the train tracks–House of Cards fans would understand.)

Having been to some of the world’s most renowned concert halls–Musikverein in Vienna, Mariinsky in St. Petersburg, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, not to brag or anything–I have to say that the Concert Hall at Kennedy Center is the Pareto optimum between stately and understated.  Unfortunately, it is also the global minimum in acoustics.  Either that, or Mr. Vänskä made some curious conducting choices.  Brahms’s First is many things–passionate, foreboding, a mishmash of the entire German tradition from Bach to Schumann with a hint of folk idioms–but muted should not be one of them.  Yet such was the overall impression given by everyone on stage.  Right off the bat, it is clear that the NSO is nowhere near the level of the other American orchestras that I’ve listened to so far this season.  They play remarkably in sync, but underneath the synchronicity is a smattering of off-pitch instruments and an incoherence in expression.  Still, like how our brains can autocorrect typos to enable us to read heavily misspelled paragraphs, I think my brain superimposed more pleasant recordings of the piece over the orchestra’s playing.  Not over the soloist, though, of course not, even if Brahms is possibly not the most natural composer for Mr. Lugansky’s style.  The piano enters the concerto near the end of the orchestra’s opening exposition, after an exaltation of the first violins that I react very strongly to but, for the life of me, cannot figure out what that reaction is exactly.  Tonight–and this is just me–perhaps due to the stressful reminder of stability’s transience, those notes right before the piano’s entry sparked memories of beautifully fragile quotes from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.  I’m used to the piano starting assertively and in somewhat of a contrast with the orchestra, which was not the soloist’s choice.  This is in and of itself fine, but for some reason or another, the soloist and the orchestra never developed any credible rapport throughout the performance.

Prior to tonight I had heard Mr. Lugansky in person three times, twice playing Rachmaninoff and once giving a recital highlighted by an esoteric Schubert sonata, all highly technical pieces with significant built-in emotion.  Brahms, on the other hand, requires perhaps more explicit emoting on the pianist’s part.  Not that Mr. Lugansky is lacking in anyway emotionally, but rather what I’ve long admired about him is the way his highly polished and slightly aloof virtuosity paradoxically generates energy and passion.  Yet against the sloppy mess that was the orchestra, the soloist’s crisp dexterity was nearly wasted.  It certainly did not help that the conductor brought the second movement, particularly the piano’s unaccompanied passages, to a painfully slow and quiet whisper, which in my opinion was neither the intent of the composer nor the strength of the performer.  Fortunately, toward the end of the third movement the sheer force of the score overcame the orchestra’s shortcomings, and with Mr. Lugansky as animated as I’ve ever seen him, the pianist and the orchestra found just enough common ground with each other and with the music to bring the piece to its deserved rousing finish, whence the audience started to clap as the final notes were still being played.

The second half of the program was Beethoven’s Sixth, which, who cares.  Kidding, kidding, though anyone looking for a comprehensive review of the symphonic part of the program will have to look elsewhere.  Beethoven’s even-numbered symphonies tend to be more low-key and less fatalistic than his odd-numbered ones, and there is little in the joyful Sixth Symphony that recalls the intensity of the Fifth, which is remarkable considering that Beethoven had composed the two pieces at roughly the same time.  I guess the Fifth reflected the stormy climates of Vienna while the Sixth took after the composer’s sanctuary in the countryside.  What also struck me about the Sixth, besides its overall pleasantness, is how much closer it is to Brahms than it is to Haydn in both form and content; certainly this is the most Romantic of the Beethoven symphonies that I have heard this season.  The NSO and Mr. Vänskä did a much better job here than with the Brahms, though certain parts were still played in an inexplicably lethargic way and even the very polite DC audience seemed a bit impatient toward the end.

After the concert, Mr. Lugansky kindly held a CD signing session.  When it was my turn, I told him that I’m a big fan, and that I had come from New York to see him.  He seemed very pleased by this and told me that he will be playing in New York next year.  It is settled then: however much my next apartment costs, it will almost be worth it.

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Review: Argerich and Dutoit in Montreal

Saturday, February 20 2016
Maison symphonique de Montréal, Montreal, Canada

Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
Charles Dutoit, conductor
Martha Argerich, piano

Berlioz, Le carnaval romain Overture, Op. 9 (1844)
Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 1 (1797)
Stravinsky, Petrushka (1911)
Ravel, La valse (1920)

They say that Martha Argerich technically never cancels a performance, because she never actually signs any contracts promising that she’d show up.  You know, kind of like how Canadian winters never promise to pull any punches.  So when one books a flight to Montreal in February, not only must one be prepared for the possibility of a last-minute substitute pianist, one has to accept that the weather may interfere with even the backup plan of settling for some poutine.

But, whatever other grudges I hold against life, tonight I was a lucky lucky girl.  For starters, Ms. Argerich showed up.  Nominally, the concert is a homecoming for Charles Dutoit, who led the OSM for 25 years before having some kind of fallout (and personally I do have a soft spot for the man who was chief conductor in Philadelphia during those formative years of my musical education).  The maestro got a rousing reception, but make no mistake about it, Ms. Argerich was the main draw.  That her name was barely a footnote on the promotional brochures was probably due to the orchestra management not wanting to jinx an already delicate proposition.  When she came out on stage, the audience led out an audible gasp and gave her such an enthusiastic welcome that she had to gesture the audience to stop clapping so that the music may begin.   As for the performance itself, it’s not often that I say this, but Ms. Argerich playing Beethoven is everything that one could imagine, and more.  The First is probably my favorite among Beethoven’s five piano concertos (and there is no bad one in the bunch), with a carefully crafted first movement, heartbreakingly tender second (right up there with the second movements of Mozart’s 23rd and Beethoven’s own Emperor as the Greatest Slow Movements Ever), and delightfully witty finale.  I’ve listened to many versions of the concerto by many a great pianist, but none of them has anything on Ms. Argerich, who struck that sublime balance between technique and interpretation, control and abandonment.  What’s remarkable about her, particularly during the second movement, is that she emotes exquisitely and openly without ever overplaying.  Where mere mortals come off as either aloof or undisciplined, Ms. Argerich’s playing is accessible, intimate, rousing, but also no-nonsense and never patronizing.  If there is a heaven, please let it be Martha Argerich playing Beethoven on a loop.  (But also, please let Ms. Argerich grace our presence on this earth for many more years to come.)

I didn’t make the trek to Montreal for the snow and slush, or, for that matter, the rest of the program.  Berlioz / Stravinsky / Ravel is typically a trio that I would only listen to if I were in a captive audience, which in this case I was.  But I’m happy to report that while I came for the pianist, I will leave with new-found interest in Berlioz and Ravel, and, if nothing else, slightly less fear for Stravinsky.  The Berlioz overture that opened the program was not unlike the Weber overture from my last blog post, as both featured soulful wind melodies (in this case, the oboe) and created a fully dramatic arc in limited lengths of time.  Stravinsky is one of a very few number of classical composers (the others being Debussy and Schoenberg) that I go out of my way to avoid, but tonight I actually found myself enjoying Petrushka.  I mean, Stravinsky to me is like Picasso: there are parts of his art that are almost familiar, but the realization of this familiarity itself, along with the components that are ostensibly uncanonical, is deeply provocative and even subversive.  It’s not music for relaxation, as I always feel as if I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.  While I probably still won’t be adding Petrushka to my work playlist anytime soon, for the first time I felt that I was able to somewhat reconcile between the classically enjoyable parts of modern music and the expositions that promptly and purposefully deconstruct this enjoyment.  Speaking of which, I had always taken Ravel’s Valse as a straightforward waltz, but evidently it is actually a deconstruction thereof.  Upon closer listen, indeed the waltz theme takes on darker qualities as the beats go on, with the once harmonious and innocent theme gradually being consumed by shadow until it plunges into near-chaos yet eerily still maintaining the form of the waltz, which by the end was merely a skeletal vehicle.  Maestro Dutoit, 80 years young and having lost nary a spring in his steps, almost danced along, though one must wonder about the symbolism in concluding the program with this piece (and then playing Bolero, however a crowd pleaser it is, as encore).  Maybe he was seeking closure, kind of like how writers kill off main characters to prevent others from continuing their stories unauthorized.  I hope that he and everyone else found what they came looking for tonight.  I know I did.
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Review: “Dumky” and “Archduke”, Zukerman Trio

Tuesday, February 3 2016
92nd Street Y, New York, NY

Zukerman Trio
    Pinchas Zukerman, violin
    Amanda Forsyth, cello
    Angela Cheng, piano

Dvořák, Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90, “Dumky” (1891)
Beethoven, Piano Trio in B-flat major, Op. 97, “Archduke” (1811)

Something new this week: chamber music!  For a self-proclaimed classical music enthusiast, I really have quite a narrow comfort zone, don’t I?  Non-orchestral music typically need not apply, but I’m working on changing that.  Since I’ve yet to have an unfavorable reaction to anything composed by Dvořák and Beethoven, this program is as good of a starting point as any.

Dvořák, with his accessible brand of Bohemian rhapsody, is the ideal chamber composer.  Maybe I’m mostly drawn to the gravitas of Teutonic struggle, but lighter fare is enjoyable in moderation.  Actually, a dumka is a traditional lament of captive people, yet the piece radiates a very outgoing vibe.  There are passages of quiet anguish, but they are interspersed and contrasted with upbeat melodies of celebration.  The cello took on the part of mourning, and the piano, the effervescent interludes.  The violin was barely there–I mean, I’m sure that’s not what the composer intended, but that’s how the performance came off.

The “Archduke” may not be among Beethoven’s top ten hits, but the archduke in question, Rudoph, was also the namesake of the famed Emperor concerto, the piece that started my obsession with the composer.  Beethoven finished the trio shortly before starting work on his Seventh Symphony, which is interesting because the two pieces couldn’t be further apart, musically if not thematically.  In fact the “Archduke” shares some similarities with the “Dumky” played in the first half of the program.  Like the “Dumky”, it also displays great contrast between episodes of dynamic outbursts (in this case punctuated by the strings) and the more understated backdrop (created by the piano).  Supposedly the piano part was written to be relatively simple so that the patron himself could give the work its premier, and the soul of the piece lies within the cello part in the third movement.  (By design, isn’t cello the soul of every trio?)  Unfortunately, the cellist had a bit of a instrument malfunction.  To my untrained ear, I couldn’t tell what was wrong, but she was visibly distracted for the last two movements and the trio paused for a long time after the third movement so that she could fix her cello.  I’m sure on a better day they could have made more of an impression, but in some sense, the most enjoyable a chamber piece could be for me is to not make too much of an impression.  I like symphonies to overwhelm me, but at this point in my life and musical education I think I prefer chamber pieces to just float me by, enchanting me without swallowing me whole.  And tonight’s performers and source material did just that.
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Review: Sounds of Vienna, Philadelphia Orchestra feat. Jan Lisiecki

Thursday, January 14 2016
Carnegie Hall, New York, NY

Philadelphia Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Jan Lisiecki, piano

J. Strauss Jr, “Tales from the Vienna Woods” Waltz, Op. 325 (1868)
Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 4 (1806)
Beethoven, String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95 (1810, arr. Mahler)
HK Gruber, Charivari (1981)

The way most things happen in life is gradually and then suddenly.  Falling in love, for instance.  And growing old.  Having started elementary school one year early and then proceeded to spend the next 22 years in school (where peers are neatly divided along years of birth), I had always been reminded of my youth.  But at some point evidence started mounting that even I couldn’t escape aging.  High school classmates posting wedding pictures on Facebook, then baby pictures.  Coworkers who were mostly born half a decade later.  Strangers in hostels saying things like “I’m traveling the world now so that by the time I’m __, I’d be settled into a career and family”, where __ is my age (or younger).

Then, one fine winter evening, a 20 year old kid makes his Carnegie Hall debut, and suddenly it hits me that I’m now old enough, that someone who wasn’t even born at the time I stopped playing Beethoven, is now performing Beethoven as a pro.

Jan Lisiecki is, as we said, 20 years old.  He is lanky and apparently a Vogue model.  In fact he looks almost like a young blond Benedict Cumberbatch.  His demeanor is calm and unaffected, which in another few years would serve him well with Beethoven’s 4th.  For now his quietness translates more as timid rather than quietly assertive, especially with a full-bodied orchestra around him.  Unlike Beethoven’s other piano concertos, the 4th opens with a thoughtful piano solo.  (Come to think of it, other than the Rach 2, I haven’t heard another concerto–for any instrument–that gives the first note to the soloist.)  There is no effervescent first movement or an emotive second as I’d come to expect from the composer, but rather the whole piece feels like a serious dialogue between the piano and the orchestra, until some of the tension dissolves in the more typical rondo finale.  To my ear, Mr. Lisiecki hit all the right notes at the prescribed tempo, but did not quite bring out the subtle conflicts of the music.  To be fair, the 4th may be Beethoven’s least accessible piano concerto, a tall order for a 20 year old to interpret.  For encore, the soloist made the interesting choice of playing Träumerei from Schumann’s Kinderszenen.  It is not a technically difficult piece–with some practice even I can give a go at it, but playing it fluidly such that emotions flow at will is not easy.  Here one can sense Mr. Lisiecki’s immense potential.  It’s as if he created a canvas with the notes and painted something heartbreakingly beautiful on it.  When he figures out how to do that at scale with entire concertos, he will be the heir apparent to Krystian Zimerman, if he isn’t already.
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The rest of the concert is all nominally a tribute to Vienna, with the opening waltz, the closing deconstruction of waltz, and the Beethoven quartet, composed shortly after Napoleon’s invasion of Vienna (which had upset the composer greatly).  I’d say that in reality it was more like a tribute to the Philadelphia Sound–the strings played an orchestral arrangement of the quartet, after all, and they played it with such conviction that it is difficult to imagine that the piece was not originally composed for the richness of a full-bodied orchestra.  Otherwise, to be honest I was seriously jet-lagged, having made a 25 hour trip back to NYC from Oceania earlier this week, so I was kind of out of it, even with being surrounded by the sound of my beloved Philadelphia Orchestra.

Nevertheless, I absorbed and enjoyed enough of the concert to opine that our old friend Anthony Tommasini from the New York Times is once again rather provincial in his predictable critique of the concert, that “orchestras everywhere have been engaged for too long in what feels like a continuous Vienna festival.  And in these programs, Mr. Nézet-Séguin is mostly sticking to the canon, including Beethoven, Haydn and Bruckner, with just one short piece by a living composer.”  First of all, no sentence should start with a conjunction in journalistic writing.  Also, the first part of that statement is simply not true–the New York Philharmonic, for instance, seems to have been engaged for too long in what feels like a continuous Rachmaninoff festival, which I do not recall Mr. Tommasini criticizing.  Moreover, the second part of that statement is akin to saying something like “This English lit curriculum is mostly sticking to the canon, including Shakespeare, Austen, and Dickens, with just one short poem by a living writer.”  Whatever is wrong with that?  The fact is that classical music, be it Strauss or Beethoven or Esa-Pekka Salonen, has been at least partially rooted–explicitly or implicitly–in Viennese tradition since before Mozart, and it will continue to be as such.  After all this time.  Always.