Mehta, Israel Philharmonic impress audience at Kravis Center

By Alan Becker

Zubin Mehta conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Sunday night at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.

The symphonies of Franz Joseph Haydn seem to have fallen out of favor during the past few decades and today appear infrequently on programs. Thankfully, when Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra came to the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach Sunday they brought with them Haydn’s Symphony 96 in D subtitled “The Miracle.”

The symphony acquired its subtitle due to a supposed incident at the first performance when a large falling chandelier “miraculously” failed to cause any injury. The story may not be true, but undeniably genuine was Sunday’s excellent performance under the vigorous leadership of  lifetime music director, Mehta. This was big-boned Haydn with no attempt to reduce forces, or play in period style, yet it spoke with relevance, humor, and classical balance.

Conducting the entire program from memory, Mehta was able to concentrate on dynamic contrast and showed the orchestra’s flexibility and the players’ glorious ability to vary their sound from a whisper to a substantial forte. The oboe solos were hauntingly lovely. but the other woodwinds showed outstanding qualities as well.

Following intermission it was on to Mahler and his Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor.  Here the playing was more variable with a crack on the exposed opening solo trumpet motif and French horns had their difficulties here and in the Scherzo as well. Still, all the brass came together in a glorious blaze of triumph in the vehement second movement and at their cyclical reappearance at the close of the symphony.

The hushed strings and harp in the famous Adagietto were a thing to behold, as Mehta coaxed divine sounds from his players. Mahler’s tribute of love for his beloved Alma found a rich vein of lyrical expression in this music.

The orchestra’s seating arrangement with divided violins paid rich dividends during the Rondo-Finale as the fugal themes were tossed about from section to section. The brass redeemed themselves in the finale, and the entire ensemble was most impressie under Mehta, playing with a unanimity of purpose and chamber-music-like clarity.

The often-restless Kravis audience rose to acclaim both orchestra and conductor, and stood applauding for quite some time, making no attempt to leave until it was clear there would be no encore.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Mehta, Israel Philharmonic impress audience at Kravis Center”

  1. Posted Feb 22, 2011 at 7:41 am by Steve Nelson

    Trombones were by far the best and most impressive section. Great ensemble.

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Mon Feb 21, 2011
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