Critical Praise for “Bernstein’s Philharmonic: A Centennial Festival”

Critical Praise for “Bernstein’s Philharmonic: A Centennial Festival”
November 16, 2017 leonard slatkin

November 16, 2017

Leonard Slatkin’s performances with the New York Philharmonic for the Leonard Bernstein centennial celebration were met with rave reviews. The program included Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote, which Bernstein conducted in his 1943 Philharmonic debut, stepping in for the ailing Bruno Walter in a nationally broadcast concert that made him an overnight success. Strauss’s tone poem was paired with Bernstein’s third and final symphony, “Kaddish,” with soprano Tamara Wilson, the Concert Chorale of New York, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and narration by Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons.

Carter Brey in R. Strauss’s “Don Quixote” | photo by Chris Lee


Jeremy Irons in Bernstein’s Sym. No. 3 | photo by Chris Lee


“Review: Son Confronts Father to End a Leonard Bernstein Festival”

“This much-debated work [Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish”] was given a gripping performance on Thursday evening by the New York Philharmonic at David Geffen Hall, conducted by Leonard Slatkin. … [T]he work exudes a theatricality that is all Bernstein. Of course, that’s the very quality some people have objected to. Not me, especially after this powerful performance.”

“The evening began with a glittering account of Strauss’s tone poem Don Quixote.

—Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

“Quixotic Searches: Ancient and Renaissance”

“Mr. Slatkin gave us almost a Mahlerian grandeur to this crowning work [Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish”] of Bernstein religious search.”

“Slatkin conducted [R. Strauss’s Don Quixote] with a swirl of both emotions and grace. He has always been a knowing conductor, and if both his heroes last night gave a picture of the Quixotic, he was sensible, sensitive and artistically successful.”

—Harry Rolnick,


“Bernstein’s Philharmonic: A Centennial Festival (3)—New York Philharmonic/Leonard Slatkin—‘Kaddish’ & Don Quixote”

“Slatkin’s reading of the Strauss was true to its essentially narrative character, allowing the story, adapted from Cervantes’s novel, to be told by its protagonists, here Philharmonic principals—Don Quixote represented by Carter Brey’s cello and Sancho Panza by Cynthia Phelps’s viola. … Slatkin marvelously crafted the final Variation, in which Quixote is defeated in battle, and in the Finale he nurtured Brey’s sensitive depiction of the protagonist’s demise.”

“After intermission, Slatkin directed a thrilling account of ‘Kaddish’ Symphony.”

—David M. Rice,

“Concert Review: Our Dancing Hath Turned to Mourning: Leonard Slatkin Pays Homage to Leonard Bernstein at the Philharmonic”

“Mr. Brey’s cello [in R. Strauss’s Don Quixote] engaged in call-and-response with the orchestra, as Mr. Slatkin conjured the windmills, bleating sheep and a raging waterfall with a wave of his baton.”

“As the work [Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3] moved into its penultimate crescendo, Mr. Irons stood stock-still. He was trying not to smile or react at the rolling tide of major-key choral sound that was crashing right behind his back: the sound of the Philharmonic at full flight under Mr. Slatkin’s expert baton.”

—Paul J. Pelkonen, Superconductor Blog

Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3 | photo by Chris Lee