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Vienna Philharmonic Plays Memorial

March 18, 2002

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NEW YORK (AP) _ St. Patrick’s Cathedral was filled with un-Irish sounds on St. Patrick’s Day.

The Vienna Philharmonic, having completed is annual weekend at Carnegie Hall, moved a few blocks over Sunday night for a concert in memory of the victims of September’s terrorist attacks.

After the horns _ raised above the audience, near the entrance of the cathedral _ played the adagio from Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, the entire orchestra performed Haydn’s hour-long ``The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross.″

Then, in the most moving moment, candles given to the audience were lighted and Mozart’s brief ``Ave verum corpus″ was played, with the Amor Artis Chamber Choir and the Cathedral of Saint Patrick Choir joining in.

``In the face of the hate by which the world seems dominated, the violence, the terror and war, your presence demonstrates a commitment to humanitarianism, forgiveness and reconciliation,″ violinist Clemens Hellsberg, the orchestra’s chairman, told the crowd.

``Your presence is also an expression of your willingness to understand that the overcoming of violence is not a question of might or power, but rather a belief in goodness and humanity.″

The acoustics of the cathedral are not kind to orchestral music, which tends to reverberate, and the seven Haydn sonatas seemed to drift. The Mozart, conducted by Johannes Somary, was the most moving work of the free concert, which was recorded for broadcast by WNET on March 29. It also will be televised by other PBS stations and by the Austrian network ORF.

At Carnegie, which completed a brief U.S. tour that began in Costa Mesa, Calif., the orchestra’s concerts this year were led by Bernard Haitink. Five women played with the Vienna Philharmonic, but none are members.

Following the retirement of harpist Anna Lelkes, who was admitted in 1997 when the orchestra ended its ban on women, the Vienna Philharmonic is a 141-member all-male orchestra.

To be eligible for philharmonic membership, musicians must complete a three-year trial with the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, from which the Vienna Philharmonic is culled. Harpist Julie Palloc won a trial in 1999 and violist Ursula Plaichinger did likewise in 2001, and they were included on the U.S. tour, as were three female fill-in musicians.

Sunday afternoon, Haitink ended the Carnegie run of three concerts with a majestic rendition of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony, performed in the Haas edition. The deep, sweet strings of the Vienna Philharmonic and the warm, liquidy brass combined for many fine moments, yet there was not the inevitability and sheen that this orchestra had when playing this piece under Herbert von Karajan at Carnegie Hall in February 1989.

Saturday’s program included Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 ``Haffner,″ Berg’s Three Pieces for orchestra and Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 ``The Great,″ plus an encore of Josef Strauss’ ``Delirium″ waltz. Again, the sound of the Vienna Philharmonic was unmistakable, for no other orchestra produces that string texture.


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