New York Philharmonic Plays Tchaikovsky at Avery Fisher Hall

Music lovers often speak of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto as if there were only one. The Second and Third Concertos are rarely performed.

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But on Friday night at Avery Fisher Hall the New York Philharmonic offered Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto as part of its annual Summertime Classics series. Bramwell Tovey conducted the flashy and sometimes sentimental work, with the dynamic young Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski as soloist.

Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky’s colleague at the Moscow Conservatory, who had critiqued and performed the First Concerto, criticized the Second for its episodic piano writing and unwieldy length. To Tchaikovsky’s chagrin the Ukrainian pianist Alexander Siloti produced a revised and shortened version, which the Philharmonic performed on Friday, with Tchaikovsky’s original piano score.

The piano part is a strenuous workout for the soloist. Mr. Trpceski admirably conquered its myriad technical difficulties, which surpass those of the First Concerto. He played with virtuoso panache in the many bravura passages and with an elegant touch in more introverted moments. The orchestra performed with verve and a suitable sense of grandeur, but the piece, full of bombastic flourishes, lacks Tchaikovsky’s trademark melodic flair, and it sometimes sounded like much ado about nothing.

There was a persistent cellphone ring midway through the concerto. Before the next work Mr. Tovey reminded listeners to silence their gadgets. “We have a tradition of stopping so you can take the call,” he said, referring to the infamous evening in January when Alan Gilbert halted a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 after a patron’s phone rang during the final measures. “It’s good for your phone company, but the charges in therapy afterward are enormous,” Mr. Tovey added.

The program opened with a buoyant and spirited rendition of another infrequently performed work by Tchaikovsky, the “Festival Coronation March,” which the intensely self-critical composer described as “noisy but bad.” Also noisy, and even more jubilant, is the popular “1812” Overture, another of the occasional pieces he wrote for official state ceremonies. It received a stirring performance here.

The concert, punctuated by Mr. Tovey’s entertaining comments about the music, also included a lithe and elegantly phrased performance of selections from Act IV of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”

The program will be repeated on Monday and Tuesday evenings at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center; (212) 875-5656, nyphil.org.

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New York Times

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