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Levine's music making reached incandescence on 4 August when he substituted for Edo De Waart (who was sidelined with a back injury) in an all Dvorák program. Surprisingly this concert marked the first time that Yo-Yo Ma and Levine had worked together. They proved to be musical soul mates. With Levine commanding resonant Brahmsian textures from his ensemble, Ma imbued the Cello Concerto in B minor with waves of warm, flowing, richly spun tone. His flawless technique and impassioned, high intensity approach made this thrice familiar masterwork sound freshly minted. The second movement Adagio, ma non troppo became a lyrical string lied, awash in nostalgic yearning; the Finale was bracing, Ma's phrasing agitated and intense. Levine brought forth orchestral details that are rarely audible in more mundane performances. This was a collaboration made in musical heaven.

James Levine and Yo-Yo Ma during rehearsal at Tanglewood on 3 August 2007. Photo © 2007 Michael Lutch
James Levine and Yo-Yo Ma during rehearsal at Tanglewood on 3 August 2007. Photo © 2007 Michael Lutch

In Levine's freshly scrubbed rendition, the Symphony No 9 in E minor (From the New World) became a newly revealed romantic masterpiece in the tradition of Brahms and Schubert. The weighty sonority and deliberate tempos of the opening movement served notice that Levine's interpretation was revisionist. The famous Largo became an instrumental aria, played with the most exquisite, scintillating tone by Robert Sheena. A lilting, dancing Furiant with agitated undercurrents encompassed the Scherzo. In the climactic Allegro con fuoco, energy and tension were combined in perfect proportion. The concert was a triumph for conductor and orchestra.

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Copyright © 25 August 2007 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA

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