Jakub Hrusa and Santtu-Matias Rouvali, two of the world’s most respected rising conductors, continue to end up very close together. In 2017, they were also named the principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonia Orchestra. (Rouvali was elevated to the top spot of that group two years later.)
When Rouvali debut with the New York Philharmonic in the fall of 2019, it was a week before Hrusa appeared over there. And now they are back in the orchestra, once again in tandem: Hrusa, 40, last week and Rouvali, 36, on Thursday.
Their appearance – and of other Philharmonic guest conductors this season – is being watched closely since the announcement in September that Jaap van Zweden will be step down as music director in 2024. These two young, talented artists are among the brightest candidates to succeed him.
Hrusa’s recent performance was, Joshua Barone wrote in The New York Times, “rich with novelty and spirit throughout.” So does Rouvali – if not its main product, Tchaikovsky also often plays the Fifth Symphony. But Thursday’s show at the Rose Theater at the Jazz Center in Lincoln began with the American premiere of a recent work by Zibuokle Martinaityte, and continued with a rare story of the full six Ops. Strauss. 68 songs, “Brentano-Lieder.”
Martinaityte’s dense, moody “Saudade” (2019) begins with a ceaselessly rocking motif and a quality of awakening, quickly obscured by eerie fluctuations in cello and acoustics. oozy, the discord slips in the violin.
A snarl of darkness becomes almost palpable, as in Ash Fure’s unsettling visceral score, before gradually expanding into an orchestra full of mourning. That climax comes about halfway through the 17-minute stretch, losing some urgency after that, with the descending tidal movement continuing to rise and fall, even as the coloration of Martinaityte’s orchestral text still intrigued.
Philharmonic debut in songs by Strauss, soprano Golda Schultz – as in “Le Nozze di Figaro” at the Metropolitan Opera last month – serene and confident, her voice smooth and immaculate. You understand why these works are not often performed as a group; The voice is soft and fast enough that the four songs in the middle might struggle with the better songs that frame them.
And Schultz, whose slender instrument sweetly penetrates but doesn’t bloom precisely, isn’t in her element for the enthralling opening “An die Nacht”. But with Rouvali softening the orchestra into intimacy, she brings German wit and joy into “Ich wollt ein Sträusslein binden” and “Säus’le, liebe Myrte!” and Zerbinetta-esque ingenuity for “Love.”
The ending “Lied der Frauen” wanted a bit more epic tone, but Schultz attacked it enthusiastically and provided a lighthearted atmosphere until the very end. And in “Als mir dein Lied erklang” she excelled, singing with the combination of purity and humanity that characterizes the best Strauss music.
Throughout the evening, Rouvali walked around the platform with a sort of cheerful composure, like a local general directing army movements. He keeps a precise beat, his left hand is usually closed but gives a precise index finger.
His Tchaikovsky is logical, restrained, and orderly – and also relaxed and natural in his expression, in contrast to the neat, manicured style that van Zweden often brings to standard repertoire. But this Thursday’s frankness sometimes leans toward simplicity, as when the strings in the first movement mask rebellious passages in the wind. It’s a fast account, neither particularly epic nor intense.
New York Philharmonic
The show continues through Saturday at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Manhattan; nyphil.org.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/arts/music/new-york-philharmonic-santtu-matias-rouvali.html Review: Another Week, Another Philharmonic Podium Candidate