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Review: A Philharmonic Contender Returns to the Podium


Lindberg is rarely lower than artful, as in how that cadenza seems to silkily melt out of softly plush strings, which just as quietly and cleverly rejoin the pianist a minute or so later. The shadows in the beginning of the second movement organically grow into an expansive, grave grandeur paying homage to Debussy’s “La Mer,” with passages of candied glockenspiel woven beautifully into the golden wire of a tiny group of violins. The third movement has bits of sumptuous playfulness, punctuated by yelps of brass.

But overall the work’s impact is muted and breezy, which is striking given the broad, Rachmaninoff-esque sweep of Lindberg’s musical gestures.

Rouvali, considered one of a full lineup of conductors accompanying Wang in the approaching months as she tours with the work, which premiered in San Francisco in October, matches her clean, objective style. There may be a conscientiousness to Rouvali that may tip into squareness, as I felt when he led the Philharmonic in Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony a 12 months ago. And Rossini’s “Semiramide” Overture on Thursday lacked the steadily accumulating propulsion, even through lyrical passages, that’s the piece’s reason for being; the soufflé never really rose.

But in Beethoven’s Second Symphony — a classic that remains to be by some means underrated — he was superb, along with his deliberate, even careful conducting yielding a graceful, stylish interpretation. I even have rarely been more clearly yet delicately aware of Beethoven’s most visionary passages here: the orchestra mistily reconstituting itself near the top of the primary movement, the amorphous clouds of harmonies within the finale.

Under Rouvali, the second movement was intimate and sober, however it progressively relaxed, even to an enthralling daintiness; the third, never rushing the eager rhythms, reached elegance. This conductor doesn’t do breathlessness, and he could probably do with just a little more liveliness. But when he avoids plainness, his judiciousness can seem very like maturity.

Recent York Philharmonic

This program repeats through Tuesday at David Geffen Hall, Manhattan; nyphil.org.

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