Just in time for the spring holidays, The Philadelphia Orchestra offered a fresh concert stream in Haydnesque mood. The program included a Haydn-influenced short work by Caroline Shaw, Elgar’s gentle Serenade for Strings, and a Haydn symphony associated with Holy Week.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts The Philadelphia Orchestra
© Jeff Fusco

With his wonderful instinct for finding just the right tempo, Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducted the scaled down but high spirited Philadelphia Orchestra in Elgar’s Serenade. It is such a lovely work, and what a beautiful performance this was, delicate romanticism flirting with English stateliness. We are so fortunate to hear and enjoy the renowned string section during these dark days, with concertmaster David Kim’s violin maintaining a sweet, song-like tone in solo passages, as smooth as shaken silk.

Shaw’s Entr’acte opened the program, and although this is as contemporary a work as you can get, the reverence for Papa Haydn was evident throughout. Shaw, the youngest person to win the Pulitzer Prize in Music, declares that this work for strings was inspired by a Haydn quartet, originally written for four players but expanded into the current version. The work has some delicious complexities to tease our brains, yet the structure is classical, crisp and easy to follow. There are more triplets than at a fertility clinic, and those made me think of Beethoven, as well, with the three notes and a fourth that appear in his Fifth and so many other works. Entr’acte has clearly defined sections and moves from a gentle minimalist perspective to a chatty party of pizzicato, snapping strings, friendly squeaks and sighs that brings a smile and then transitions to a rising halo of notes concluding in a brief strum. A delightful work that is both congenial and thought-provoking.

The Philadelphia Orchestra
© Jeff Fusco

The program ended with Haydn’s Symphony no. 49 in F minor, “La Passione”. While not specifically composed for Holy Week, the symphony was performed early in its history during that season of penance and solemn reflection. Its gloomy key and serious mood inspired the nickname that it retains to this day. The first movement had a sleepy feel, but the symphony gained depth and momentum as it progressed. Woodwinds and a harpsichord joined the strings while French horns with their haunting tenderness created an organic depiction of some unseen and indescribable sorrow. But for all that, Nézet-Séguin concluded the performance on a chipper note, with a burst of assertive energy that was surprisingly suitable to F minor, affirming Haydn’s sunny view of life even in times of darkness.

This performance was reviewed from The Philadelphia Orchestra's video stream