New York Philharmonic: Central Park 16 July 2012

Another reason to love NYC in the summer. The New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Park had been suspended but they’re back again. In parks all over the city you can sit on a blanket, eat take-out, drink wine, and enjoy the cool night air, the birds chirping, and the orchestra playing.

Last night rtb and I were in Central Park. I brought the food (a surprisingly decent dinner of antipasta, pasta salad, bruschetta, chocolate cake, and red velvet cake from Duane Reade of all places) and she brought the wine. We were hoping to meet up with my friend Joe and his girls and his friend, who works for the Parks Department and can get us into the VIP section, but that didn’t happen. But we did manage to get a nice spot under a tree and not far behind the VIP fence.


We were very lucky to get that spot because people come early and set aside two or three blankets for their friends – there are tens of thousands of people there.

We had a group of women, who looked like retired UWS schoolteachers and one especially was very good with the shushing. So despite the quiet pieces we could hear everything.

rtb and I were laughing as we read the program because the music went from Wagner to Brahms and I find Wagner very heavy for a light summer evening (actually I find Wagner heavy for any time of any day) so I was looking forward to the Brahms lightening up the evening but the program made it seem like we were in for an evening of very heavy and not popular music. The initial reviews for the Wagner piece used words like “boneless mollusk, self-restoring, swims ever on into the immeasurable.” (Eduard Hanslick, Austrian music critic) The other thing we learned from the program was the Beethoven influence on the Brahms piece. They illustrated this by comparing music from both Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Brahm’s Symphony No. 1, which just confused us but when you’re listening you can hear it.

Thankfully the Wagner was only about 10 minutes. I enjoyed Prelude to Act I of Die Meistersinger – it seems I really enjoy Wagner without the German singing. Conductor Andrey Boreyko is emotive and passionate just like a good Russian should be.

Next was Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 with James Ehnes on violin. He is young and plays beautifully. You could actually hear the quiet high notes when he was soloing, despite the size of the park and the ambient noise. The audience applauded loudly and appreciatively after each movement – I know that isn’t done nowadays but I thought it was nice. It felt like a rock or jazz show with the audience applauding an outstanding solo. Ehnes certainly deserved the recognition.

Brahm’s Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68 makes good use of the timpani. I always feel kind of sorry for those guys in the back waiting for their one big moment but the undercurrent of timpani in this piece was very very cool.

After the concert there’s fireworks. If you’re sitting in the middle you can see them very well. Where we were sitting we could only glimpse them over the trees.

Once again a wonderful night in an incredible city.

By Carene Lydia Lopez