So, last night, I had the opportunity to attend the New York Philharmonic’s performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, under Kurt Masur. Overall, I would say it was a very good performance, but for a few really bad bits, all of which Anthony Tommasini nailed in his review of the previous evening’s show. I am sorry so say those bits didn’t improve for Thursday night’s performance. Anyway, I had few thoughts on the evening, which I thought I would list here in no particular order.
* Bach is amazing. I know this is obvious. But unlike most amazing things, Bach is amazing at a level where you feel like you just have to say it aloud, as it is almost unbelievable. Then you pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming.
* Apparently Kurt Masur doesn’t like to have to conduct. (At least this is what my friend Danielle reports. Danielle rocked as part of the überfantastisch Westminster Choir, and so was privy to rehearsals.) He’ll be there to help if needed, but generally, the music should sort of play itself. And so, he won’t conduct unless you make him conduct.
* Apparently the Bass-baritone really wanted Masur to conduct. At least it seemed this way based on what appeared to be a complete inability to count. (This was the NYPhil he was singing with, right? You’d think he would have practiced his part a little bit!) Anyway, the great part about this was to see Masur save the orchestra from a total train wreck by giving a huuuuge down beat and bringing the strings in a bar early. That bar wasn’t really necessary anyway, right? Anyway, nice save Maestro!
* A Viola de Gamba, when not tuned, and poorly played, can make the New York Philharmonic sounds like a middle school orchestra from rural New Jersey. I have played in that middle school orchestra. It’s not a sound you want to hear.
* Matthias Goerne is a little creepy. I mean this is a good way, though. I kind of loved it.
* Kevin looks good in his new glasses.
* It was great to have a performance where, at any one time, no more than half of the musicians on stage were performing. This allowed for as strange sort of voyeurism, in which the audience got to watch very fine musicians listen. This was very interesting. More interesting was to see which members of the orchestra were moved to the point of physical movement, and which members just looked bored.
* Otherwise wonderful musical events are not improved when the woman sitting next to you insists on singing along with the Chorales at the ninth above the melody.
* Hightlights of the work for me, at least from last night: No. 39, Aria: Erbarme dich, mein Gott, No. 59, Recitative: Ach, Golgotha, unselges Golgotha, and No. 62, Chorale: Wenn ich einmal soll sheiden.