Philadelphia Orchestra delivers emotional, formidable program

02.23.14
Johannes Moser
Philadelphia Inquirer

By David Patrick Stearns

The cost of war was palpable in the Philadelphia Orchestra's Thursday program of Strauss, Shostakovich, and Beethoven, one of Yannick Nézet-Séguin's most conceptually formidable and musically resourceful concerts.

At this point in history, few of the musicians onstage have firsthand experience of the tragedies portrayed in Shostakovich's 1959 Cello Concerto No. 1 - a significant deterrent to tapping the music's fierce subtext about post-Stalin Russia.

Nonetheless, the performance was bursting with empathy, the most audible manifestation being the extended cadenza in which cellist Johannes Moser (replacing Truls Mørk) played Shostakovich's motivic train wreck as a nervous breakdown so massive that this excellent cellist seemed to have his own nanosecond collapse. The perhaps-unintended gaps in sound felt so emotionally bereft as to be beyond music.

Moser's recent recording of the concerto was no preparation for his fearlessly manic intensity on Thursday. He maintained much control, to judge from his smartly varied vibrato, but tossed aside typical coloristic effects for the most visceral expression possible. Nézet-Séguin urged him on and, during bows, showed his gratitude by going down on bended knee.

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