Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra took Carnegie Hall by storm on October 25, 2012. Joined by Thomas Hampson, cantor Carl Hieger, The Collegiate Chorale, and The Manhattan Girls Chorus, this reverential concert included a fantastic Mendelssohn concerto with the phenomenally talented Yuja Wang.
The evening originally began life as a Brahms concert with a piece by Hindemith, but hot on the heals of the orchestra’s success at the Salzburg Festival in July, they quickly made the change to include Schoenberg’s Kol Nidre and Noam Sheriff’s Mechaye Hametim (“Revival of the Dead”). However, they kept the second piece as the Mendelssohn. After our pianist finished, she was met by such thunderous applause that she returned to the stage to perform encores. The first of which was Rossini’s Largo al factotum. One wonders if she chose this because of its history with our baritone soloist. In any case, it was quite the crowd pleaser and prompted her to return for a second encore.
First on the bill was Schonbergs’ Kol Nidre. The piece is a choral piece with an announcer reciting text that deals with the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. Thomas Hampson took the roll of speaker in this piece. Even if you’ve never heard Mr. Hampson, one could infer his talent would be of the highest quality just by listening to him speak. One could not help but be taken by its poetry, speaking with fluid musicality, breathing as such as well. This piece perfectly set the tone for the final piece which was a commemoration of the Holocaust.
Sung entirely in Yiddish and Hebrew, Noam Sheriff’s Machaye Hametim is almost a requiem for the millions who were murdered during the Holocaust. Mr. Sheriff was commissioned by Bernard Bronkhorst, a Dutch-born Jewish patron of Jewish arts, to serve as a monument to the victims of the Holocaust. The first moment was titled Jewish Life in the Diaspora (until the Holocaust). Our children’s chorus of girls sang with sweet optimism, setting up an ephemeral sense of hope. Of course, history finishes that story, and the second movement entitled The Holocaust is where the fire and brimstone really comes through in the music. This movement in particular was a rushing torrent of musical turmoil that was, at times, a bit difficult to listen to. Only because we know exactly what each minor note stands for and the pain behind it.
Mr. Hampson had never sounded so rich in this piece. He is currently staring in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production of Simon Boccanegra, which makes this appearance that more special. The tenor soloist, Car Hieger, had a voice that was best suited for this music. He had such a sweet lilting, keening voice that brought the story to life in a very real way, bursting out with a cry at one point. The Collegiate Chorale added great drama in the piece as the vocal backdrop.
After about 45 minutes of emotional, heavy music, we’re finally allowed to bask in major keys and exalt in a joyous and optimistic, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”
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