Applying Olympic Sinew to Strauss

02.23.14
Johannes Moser
The New York Times

Nézet-Séguin Brings Philadelphia Orchestra to Carnegie Hall

By James R. Oestreich

The Winter Olympics may have been seven time zones away, in Sochi, Russia, but energy, athleticism and showmanship also filled the air at another Olympus, Carnegie Hall, on Friday evening, in a concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra.

In the opening work, Strauss’s “Metamorphosen” — a somber but surging “study for 23 solo strings,” as Strauss described it — the ensemble played with unrelenting vigor, the violinists and violists standing throughout. And Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the orchestra’s diminutive but charismatic music director (nicknamed Mighty Mouse for his iron-pumped upper body, which his jacket could barely contain), began his evening-long podium dance.

Then there were the bravura flourishes of the strapping and exuberant German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser, as tall as Mr. Nézet-Séguin is short, who threw himself bodily into a performance of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1. In addition to the sheer physical dexterity needed to get around the notes in a work written for the hulking and commanding Mstislav Rostropovich, Mr. Moser punctuated decisive phrase endings with thrusts of his bow, stretched one long leg down from his platform to join the first violinists up close and personal in an animated passage, and leapt to his feet on his final note.

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