You may be forgiven, not too long ago, for not remembering that Jaap van Zweden is the music director of the New York Philharmonic.
After he inaugurated the renovated David Geffen Corridor in October, he disappeared from the orchestra’s efficiency calendar till every week in the past. Throughout that absence, the orchestra introduced his successor, Gustavo Dudamel — whose go to to New York in February, to do little greater than smile for the cameras and signal a chunk of paper, was organized with a lot fanfare, you virtually felt dangerous for van Zweden, nonetheless the music director for yet one more season, as he quietly returned to the rostrum final Friday.
His present residency, although, whereas simply two weeks, is hardly modest. On Tuesday, the Philharmonic introduced his ultimate season, by which he’ll lead eight subscription applications, together with, as his farewell, Mahler’s colossal “Resurrection” Symphony. And for his live shows this time round — a part of a barely marketed mini competition known as “Spirit” — he has taken up a pair of monumental works: Messiaen’s “Turangalîla-Symphonie” and Bach’s “St. Matthew Ardour.”
The Messiaen, sprawling and operatically extreme, would appear the higher match for van Zweden, who revels in enormity. However final week, it was principally flattened and impatient, loud however not highly effective.
And the Bach didn’t maintain out a lot promise. Van Zweden has by no means had a real grasp of the fleet litheness of the Classical repertoire, virtually by no means touches Baroque music with the Philharmonic. His efficiency of the “St. Matthew Ardour” at Geffen Corridor on Thursday, nevertheless, proved a pleasing shock — maybe his best look this season.
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After the thick bombast of the Messiaen, it was disorienting to listen to van Zweden lead a “St. Matthew Ardour” of clever, usually deferential restraint and clear, balanced counterpoint. The rating’s almost three hours of music moved alongside at a principally unhurried tempo, a calmly flowing temper set from the beginning: the opening refrain gently pulsating, the layers of sound easily accumulating.
Not that it was a constantly clear night. The “Ardour,” sometimes carried out in the course of the Lenten season however not restricted to it, is a mammoth enterprise for double choir, double orchestra and soloists to recount the betrayal, dying and burial of Christ. On Thursday, the Philharmonic — joined by Musica Sacra and the Brooklyn Youth Refrain — didn’t appear to have had sufficient time to arrange it.
Some sections unfurled with out a fault; others have been messy. Arias struggled to achieve traction, and at instances solo instrumentalists weren’t correctly built-in with the bigger ensemble. What’s misplaced, throughout lapses like that, are the moments that encourage awe, changed by a sort of white-knuckle anxiousness in, for instance, the grand refrain that closes the oratorio’s first half.
However extra memorable than these imperfections was van Zweden’s refreshingly measured therapy of the orchestra, notably in its assist for the vocal soloists.
And what soloists! The tenor Nicholas Phan was a lyrical, actorly information by way of the story because the Evangelist, standing alongside the bass-baritone Davóne Tines’s Jesus, sung with a wealthy, creamy tone that, in Christ’s ultimate phrases on the cross, turned compellingly momentous. The soprano Amanda Forsythe, her sound hovering and pure, shone within the longer, abstracted strains of the aria “Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben.” Tamara Mumford’s penetrating mezzo-soprano was nicely formed in “Buss und Reu” and “Erbarme dich,” even at a nervously rushed tempo.
Every look by the tender, earnest tenor Paul Appleby felt too temporary. In “Geduld,” as he sang alongside the viola da gamba participant Matt Zucker — who, just like the organist Kent Tritle, supplied a dose of traditionally knowledgeable efficiency fashion — he spun trickily lengthy melodic strains of advanced rhythms so exactly articulated and chic, you wished he would return to this piece because the Evangelist.
The standout was Philippe Sly, in his Philharmonic debut. This bass-baritone has a sturdy opera profession — assured as both Leporello or the title character in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” — and sang Jesus in a “St. Matthew Ardour” with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Corridor final season. Commandingly resonant, but additionally sweetly heat in his higher vary, he was extra satisfying as a chameleonic soloists on Thursday: bringing dramatic coloration to the few strains of Judas, a determined disappointment to Peter and sensitivity to arias like “Komm, süsses Kreuz.”
His “Mache dich, mein Herze, rein,” already a excessive level of the rating, was the excessive level of the live performance, whereas additionally standing in for the night as an entire. It had an unsteady begin and will have been slower, but as soon as it discovered its footing, the aria was serene, balanced and — no matter your religion or the time of 12 months — profoundly shifting.
New York Philharmonic
This program repeats by way of Saturday at David Geffen Corridor, Manhattan; nyphil.org.
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