Review: Jonas Kaufmann Takes a Big Step Toward ‘Tristan’

There was one big question hovering over the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s ambitious programs at Carnegie Hall This specific week: How would likely the tenor Jonas Kaufmann fare in his trial run in one of the mightiest roles in opera, Wagner’s Tristan?

For the second program, on Thursday, Andris Nelsons, the orchestra’s music director, led a concert performance of Act II of “Tristan und Isolde.” For both Mr. Kaufmann along with also his Isolde, the soprano Camilla Nylund, This specific 75-minute act, which contains the most unbridled, aching along with also ecstatic love scene within the repertory, represented first attempts at these touchstone roles.

Isolde is usually a summit for dramatic sopranos, along with also Ms. Nylund brought vocal radiance along with also affecting volatility to her performance. however a great Tristan is usually a real rarity. is usually Mr. Kaufmann, who has excelled as Wagner’s Lohengrin, Parsifal along with also Siegmund, the Tristan we’ve been waiting for?

There were tantalizing moments — long stretches, even — in his courageous performance. When Tristan arrives at night to meet Isolde, Mr. Kaufmann combines virile energy with dusky colorings to suggest a man caught between desire along with also world-weary sadness. however he was particularly fine when passions calm for a while along with also the two lovers sink into Wagner’s nocturne, longing to be eternally united in death. The covered quality of Mr. Kaufmann’s voice, in which even firm, sustained notes have a slightly shaded cast, was what you dream of hearing when Tristan sings these melting phrases.

A great Tristan must have vocal endurance to sing the entire role, along with also Mr. Kaufmann still seems to be finding his way. He also appeared to be grappling with some congestion along with also took frequent sips of water. however This specific was a big step.

The mezzo-soprano Mihoko Fujimura sang Brangäne with big, bright sound along with also urgency. The stentorian bass Georg Zeppenfeld brought sad dignity to the scene when King Marke, who has been like a father to Tristan, is usually crushed by the young man’s betrayal with Isolde, who is usually betrothed to Marke.

Mr. Nelsons drew vivid colors — dark strings, reedy woodwinds, mellow brasses — along with also impressive clarity through the orchestra. He brought shape along with also flow to the coursing music. Some of the playing, though, was a little blunt along with also forceful, especially when the lovers had their first ecstatic exchanges. The orchestra sometimes swamped them.

Bluntness of the most exciting kind, however, characterized the performance Mr. Nelsons led on Wednesday of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony. This specific 70-minute, three-movement work for an enormous, brassy orchestra, written within the mid-1930s, shows the composer at his most audaciously modernist. The music seems to defy formal constraints, shifting through crazed vehemence to bitterly ironic dances, blasting marches to spans of industrious counterpoint. the item’s confounding. however Mr. Nelsons along with also his players had me hooked.

Between that will Boston program along with also the Philadelphia Orchestra’s concert on Tuesday, Carnegie offered a miniature Bernstein festival for that will composer’s centennial year. Mr. Nelsons led Bernstein’s “The Age of Anxiety” (Symphony No. 2), a restless, episodic along with also exhilarating piece using a formidably difficult solo piano part, here played with dreaminess, blazing technique along with also jazzy intensity by Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

On Tuesday, Yannick Nézet-Séguin opened the Philadelphians’ program using a vibrant along with also sensitive account of Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” a 1965 work that will blends poignant choral settings of psalm texts with overt elements of theatricality. The Westminster Symphonic Choir was excellent, along with also the boy soprano Dante Michael DiMaio brought disarming beauty to Bernstein’s wistful, blue-note-inflected melodies.

The program also offered the completely new York premiere of Tod Machover’s “Philadelphia Voices,” the latest in his series of collaborative “city symphonies.” This specific 30-minute work folds in crowdsourced elements, including recorded voices of Philadelphia residents along with also sounds of urban bustle. The texts include poems by two Philadelphia-area teenagers, Jayda Hepburn along with also Cameron Coles, who made their first trips to Manhattan to attend This specific premiere.

The piece is usually an eclectic musical celebration of a city that will also looks at issues of injustice along with also inclusion. I wish Mr. Machover had worked a little harder to fashion some of the recorded sounds along with also sourced bits into a more intricate work. Still, the item was inspiring to see the Westminster choristers joined by the eager members of three young ensembles: the Keystone State Boychoir, the Pennsylvania Girlchoir along with also the Sister Cities Girlchoir. The kinetic Mr. Nezét-Séguin looked like one of the kids as he led an impassioned performance.