If you think that the only way a concert can be exciting is if there are pyrotechnics, scantily clad pop stars, or a mosh pit of closely touching strangers, then you probably weren’t at the opening night gala for the New York Philharmonic on Thursday night. However, even if those are your typical requirements for excitement (either because it’s what you love, or it’s what our generation loves), it is still possible that you would have found Thursday night’s program engaging and yes, perhaps even exciting. Conducted by Alan Gilbert and featuring the legendary virtuosity of violin soloist Itzhak Perlman, the New York Philharmonic gave a rousing performance for the opening concert of their 2012-2013 season at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center.
The fashion-watching alone was a thrill, with women and men alike pulling out the stops with gowns, tuxedoes and a cascade of sequins and sparkles. Many concert goers chose to bestow their support upon the New York Philharmonic with more than just the price of their concert ticket by purchasing a seat at the post-concert dinner for upwards of $1,000 a plate. Avery Fisher Hall was, however, packed to the gills with more than just the stereotypical wealthy New Yorkers of their sunset years.
It may often be the misconception that only the older generations enjoy the heavenly strains of the New York Philharmonic, but if Thursday night is any indication of a turning generational tide, then it is turning fast and hard towards the younger generations and even the millennials. With some seats selling for well under $100, the glamour and cache of the New York Philharmonic opening Gala Concert was available to a broader spectrum of audience members, and was clearly of interest to younger generations also.
As they announced that this concert was the opening of the 171st season at the New York Philharmonic I felt the weight of history, and understood in that moment that the millenial generation is soon to take on the mantle of preserving our cultural institutions. I wondered if those listeners in their seventies and eighties seated around me came to the opening night concert of the New York Philharmonic five decades ago, and whether or not our generation would be able to keep such a bastion of our nation’s cultural heritage afloat, especially in tumultuous political and economic times.
As the concert began with The Star Spangled Banner it highlighted how closely our artistic institutions and government are tied to one another. Funded by private donors as well as national and state grants, the New York Philharmonic is just one of many institutions that survives and thrives with positive government support, but might not continue to be a national treasure for another 171 years if that support disappears.
Last night, The New York Philharmonic played with stunning grace and fluidity, filling the auditorium with sounds that could transport a listener far beyond the four walls of the concert hall. Itzhak Perlamn had the audience enrapt in silent awe as he played works by Massenet, Tchaikovsky and even John Williams. As always, Perlman is a wonder to behold, returning for a second bow to acknowledge the audience that leaped to their feet when he was finished, and simply couldn’t stop clapping and cheering for their beloved musical champion.
Closing the program with Respighi’s Pines of Rome, Alan Gilbert stationed part of the brass section in the front two boxes of the house, thereby stunning the audience with a marvelous din that was so loud it would rival a rock concert. My cheeks hurt from grinning so hard.
This season was set aflame by last night’s performance. Take a chance and find some unexpected excitement at the New York Philharmonic this season, and finally find something to do with your Saturday night that you can tell Grandma the truth about.