Central Park Philharmonic

Tonight, the New York Philharmonic gave a free concert in Central Park. I’d been thinking of going, but then Nate and Beth (last seen in this post) said they were organizing a picnic so that cinched things.

It was awesome. Beth got there around 5:15 (for the 8pm concert) to snag a great spot, people brought blankets, wine and snacks, somebody contributed a little table for the food. I think the group ended up being around 20 people or so by the end, with all sorts of random connections in there; only Beth knew everybody (I only knew Nate and Beth and my friend Ann who I’d invited). We were a bit worried because there was the possibility of rain in the forecast, but it was sunny when we got there.

Alas, by the time the music actually started, there was a hint of a drizzle. Not enough to bother breaking out the umbrella for (except to cover the food), but water falling from the sky. After the first piece (Chairman Dances, by John Adams – typical John Adams – inoffensive minimalist melodic music), the drizzle had stopped, but they announced that due to an incoming front which they predicted would arrive at 9:50pm (remember this!), they were going to skip intermission, and only do the 1st and 4th movements of Beethoven’s Fifth, which had been scheduled for the second half. We booed, of course – New Yorkers are hilariously prone to booing.

The second piece was one I’d been looking forward to – Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto, performed by Leila Josefowicz, who I’d seen performing John Adams last year in New York. She was fabulous again, at least based on what I could hear from the speakers. I thought the piece was interesting for the first two movements, with lots of good rhythmic ostinato that Josefowicz really dug into, but the last movement was kind of by-the-numbers Romantic with lots of scale-like runs.

Then, as stated earlier, they did Beethoven’s Fifth, skipping the middle two movements. I was sitting there enjoying the familiar strains of the first movement and just had this big involuntary smile on my face. This was a genuine New York experience, enjoying a picnic in Central Park with new friends, surrounded by people as far as the eye could see, and the downtown skyline rising behind them. Evenings like these are why I came to New York.

After they rushed through the Fifth (seriously, the first movement was taken faster than I’ve ever heard it before), there were fireworks! (Oooh! Aahhhh!!) The fireworks ended at 9:42 or so. People started getting up to move out. At 9:45, strong gusts of wind started blowing across the park. And, unbelievably, at precisely 9:50, it started raining. And not just raining, but pouring. Lighting, thunder, rain coming down so hard that even with an umbrella, I got soaked. And the people without umbrellas? It was all over. Thousands of people trying to make their way out of the park in the driving rain was pretty hilarious. Several folks in the crowd (including myself) were just laughing because it was raining so hard. It would be pouring, and then, it would start raining even harder. It was just ludicrous. But we all made it out of the park, crowded onto the subway, and thence home. And now I’m writing about it!

Posted in nyc

4 thoughts on “Central Park Philharmonic

  1. Wow… that sounds like it was a poetically wonderful New York experience… I’m pretty jealous. Hearing Chairman Dances and Beethoven 5 (even abbreviated) in Central Park… wow.

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