Carnegie Hall’s opening night gala took place on Thursday, September 29, 2022, with the performance beginning at 7 PM. You could spend $1,000 for the 5:30 PM cocktail party and concert or $2,500 for the performance and dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street. The evening was sold out weeks in advance, and attendees were excitedly anticipating The Philadelphia Orchestra, its famed director and conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin, and celebrated pianist Daniil Trifonov.
The evening was an electrifying success, with over 5 million dollars raised! Anyone who believed that classical music is a bore would have quickly enlightened as the opening sequence of Ravel’s “La Valse” took hold. The only complaint was the exceptional acoustics which magnified the already loud orchestra. Ravel composed “La Valse” in 1919 at the behest of impresario Sergei Diaghilev who wanted accompaniment for his Ballet Russes.
Unhappy with the product, Diaghilev chided Ravel in front of Igor Stravinsky and Francis Poulenc leading to a permanent breach between the two divas. La Valse was later used by the Royal Flemish Ballet in 1926 and sampled by choreographers George Balanchine and Frederick Ashton. This cacophonous unfamiliar piece was my least favorite of the night.
A far more delightful ensemble was 19th Century Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, played by Russian virtuoso Daniil Trifonov along with Yannick Seguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The 31-year-old Trifonov who performed his first recital at the age of 7 was sublime.
Famous for losing one of his baby teeth during a performance of a Mozart concerto at the age of 8, Trifonov similarly threw himself into tonight’s Adagio along with outstanding maestro Yannick Seguin. This dynamic duo exhilarated the excited Trifonov. He rose from his seat during the dramatic and forceful recital.
The New York Times referred to Trifonov as “one of the most awesome pianists of our time,” His impetuous playing knocked the socks off the spellbound crowd. The French-born Yannick Seguin was equally impressive as the 47-year-old Metropolitan Opera, and Philadelphia Orchestra music director held the evening together with his poetic movements and expertly timed directives.
The orchestra was his to manipulate as the perfectly executed Liszt piece ended with standing ovations for Trifonov, Seguin, and their wide-ranging accompaniment-my favorite being a thoroughly engaged female violinist. Liszt, often referred to as a 19th Century Rock Star, binded together several interwoven movements for a seamless continuity that showcased Trifonov and Seguin’s strengths in an epic finale.
Diversity and modernity greeted the audience for “Chasqui,” composed by American Gabriela Lena Frank in 2001, whose Lithuanian Jewish father and Peruvian mother imbibed within her a love for multicultural intersections.
Her three-and-a-half-minute piece was bold and beautiful and left me wanting more. The finale of Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 in G Major consisted of flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons. A 24-year-old Dvorak wrote his first symphony in 1861 within weeks, and G-Major is one of his most radiant Adagios traversing from passionate to happy to triumphant.
This 35-minute pastoral piece transports the audience to faraway place-the likes of which they might never desire to forsake. The 9 PM finale concluded with multiple standing ovations for Seguin and his instrumentalists as mask-clad attendees made their way to the exit.
Hundreds of well-heeled New Yorkers, including Chairman of the Board of Trustees Robert Smith and musical genius Jon Batiste (clad in McQueen), headed to Cipriani 42nd Street for an epic dinner filled with socialization, drinking, and a great deal of recounting of the magic that had just transpired.
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