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Review: Mythical Twins Inspire Music Divided in Two

To his credit, he has not drawn the contrast too sharply, or used his structure to represent good and bad, pretty and ugly. “Pollux” (played first) and “Castor” emerged from a single rhythmic germ, and they also share an ominous, nocturnal mood, brasses brooding and drums menacing.

The world he depicts is angry on both sides. “Pollux,” though, is misty, swirling, altogether starry; delicate violins at one point are joined by a gentle motif in the flutes that becomes a gradual, dawnlike blossoming of winds.

Mr. Salonen leans a bit too heavily on Pollux’s divinity, overloading that music with galactic twinkling. “Castor” is the tighter and more compelling half, whooping and whining in feverish strings and pounding with rhythms that echo the gallop of horses, upon which Castor and Pollux are often depicted riding. In the loud, grim ending, there is little trace of the hopeful conclusion of the twins’ myth: When Castor is dying, Pollux chooses to share his immortality with his mortal brother, and the two spend eternity alternating between the heights of Olympus and the depths of the underworld. In other words: compromise, which is so elusive today.

Hindemith’s “Ragtime (Well-Tempered),” from 1921, which opened the concert, whips one of Bach’s fugues into a tart carnival. Without pause, the Philharmonic then played Schoenberg’s rich yet focused 1922 arrangements of two Bach chorales. The program closed with Hindemith’s “Mathis der Maler” Symphony (1934), a sonic portrait of Matthias Grünewald’s bracing 16th-century Isenheim Altarpiece.

By the mid-1930s, Hindemith had been blacklisted by the Nazis. He had grown fascinated by the story of Grünewald, who 400 years before had also seen his livelihood suffer over political differences, and whose work

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/07/arts/music/review-new-york-philharmonic-esa-pekka-salonen.html

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