“It was excellent timing on someone’s part: the New York Philharmonic’s, the University of Louisville’s, or both.”
So begins the rave review, by James R. Oestreich, of last night’s concert in The New York Times.
He was referring to the World Premiere of Bent Sørensen’s Evening Land happening the same week that Sørensen received the University’s Grawemeyer Prize for Music Composition, one of the most important in the field.
The piece, which was commissioned by the Philharmonic through the generous support of The Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music, is inspired by, in Sørensen’s words, “a very special evening light over the fields” from his childhood in Denmark, and “the new vision of flashes of light and bustling activity” that he saw in New York many years later.
The concertmaster — here, Sheryl Staples (in the absence of Frank Huang) — emerges from silence almost imperceptibly and in all innocence with a fetching little tune. The principal violist, Cynthia Phelps, eventually joins her, and they whisper across the podium until the other strings join in and overwhelm them.
The ending, after the fray, is truly touching. The principal oboist, Liang Wang, plays the work’s longest strain, Mr. Sorensen’s tribute to his father-in-law, an oboist who died in May before he could hear the work. Mr. Wang lingers on a high note, handing it off to Ms. Staples, who leads the strings on tiptoes back to silence.
The concert, conducted by Edo de Waart, also featured Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 with Emanuel Ax (who “offered his usual elegant, understated virtuosity,” Oestreich said) and Brahms’s Symphony No. 2. It will be repeated tonight and Saturday night.
(Photo: Chris Lee)