Vladimir Jurowski made his New York Philharmonic conducting debut last week in a wonderful program of Szymanowski's Violin Concerto #1 and Prokofiev's Cinderella ballet.
This was my first time in Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, whose acoustics since it opened in 1962 have been a source of endless controversy and tinkering. It doesn't have the warmth or architectural charisma of Carnegie Hall, which used to be the NY Philharmonic's home, but on Thursday evening the sound was very good.
Nicola Benedetti, the young violin soloist above, who I last saw freezing her way through a pops concert at the America's Cup in San Francisco last summer, was a late replacement for Janine Jensen in the Szymanowski and she and the orchestra did a marvelous job with the strange, complex, and rapturous concerto.
The concerto was based loosely on Noc Majowa, a poem by the Polish poet Tadeusz Miciński, which reads as follows:
"All the birds pay tribute to me for today I wed a goddess. And now we stand by the lake in crimson blossom in flowing tears of joy, with rapture and fear, burning in amorous conflagration."
Jurowski may be the great Prokofiev conductor in the world right now, and his one-hour condensation of the full three-act Cinderella ballet grew steadily more interesting as it went along, climaxing in the wild Midnight Countdown that ends Act Two.
Compared to Prokofiev's earlier ballets, culminating in Romeo and Juliet, the music of Cinderella is blander and more acessible. The New York Times critic, Corinna de Fonseca-Wollheim, whose name sounds like a perfect Edward Gorey parody, thought that "the lack of visual interest ultimately began to tire," but I disagree. The performance was so good by Jurowski and the orchestra that it became obvious this was late, great Prokofiev, written as a private antidote to the madness of World War Two raging around him.