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The Pizzicato Five

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In its episodes of toughness, solace, and abject prostration, the concerto feels at once polished and raw, a meticulously carpentered representation of rough experience. The violin moves through horror and comfort, and the orchestra takes up its utterances or tries vainly to overwhelm them. A climax comes in the form of a crashing gong so massive it sometimes takes two people to dampen its aftershocks. Later, the violin skitters up to a series of ever-loftier peaks, answered by flutter-tongued flutes that perch effortlessly higher still. It’s like struggling up a mountain path to find that the birds have gotten there with far less drama; triumph sharpens the sense of limitation.

The bounty keeps coming: This week, the Philharmonic revives Gubaidulina’s Two Paths, a concerto for two violas that has haunted me ever since the orchestra first performed it a dozen years ago. Like that mountain-climbing violin line, these weathered forms, too, keeping staggering on, bringing old solace and new chills.

Two Paths
By Sofia Gubaidulina.
New York Philharmonic. April 13, 14, and 16.


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