Levine's Wagner has texture and force, an ebb and flow that creates great import, yet a lightness that lets all the colors shine . . . [Levine's Schubert] was grand and lavish with an arch that intensified toward the conclusion.
. . . the channel between Levine and his orchestra remains spectacularly intact. . . . the prelude to "Lohengrin" planed in a languorous updraft. In Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, the orchestra swiveled and swooped like a flock of starlings around Evgeny Kissin's piano . . . the sounds that his orchestra made in the hall rushed around with a ferocious, exuberant grace.
The festivities ended with the massive stresses and heroic sprawl of Schubert's 9th Symphony, played with taut propulsion, abiding grace and dynamic flair . . . This wasn't just a concert. It was a celebration.
. . . one of the greatest living American conductors . . . he led a serene, poised and glowing account of the Prelude to Act I of Wagner's "Lohengrin" . . . This was Mr. Levine at his best . . . this was a day to celebrate his return and bask in his musical glory . . . Mr. Levine excelled in this demanding Schubert work . . .The first movement was grand, stately and exciting . . . The scherzo was at once buoyant and incisive. And the finale, which can seem repetitive, was thrilling, played with momentum and restlessness, yet without any loss of grandeur, clarity and musical architecture . . . Mr. Levine's return was a triumph.
. . . [Schubert 9]: a number of places where the Met Orchestra sonority seemed more imposing than I've ever heard it. No showy surface details, but a sense that he and the musicians were a well-oiled musical mechanism, sailing through beautifully managed transitions that made the piece's ideas follow each other with a divinely inspired inevitability. Or, rather, Levinely inspired inevitability. In the "Lohengrin" Act I prelude, not a nanosecond was taken for granted, conveying the first blush of discovery, but backed up by Levine's lifetime of experience, study, and artistry. Such qualities are what music lovers live to hear but don't often encounter.
. . . a "triumphant return" to the podium . . . [the results] betray no sign of fatigue or weakness, and the Met Orchestra has become a great ensemble under his stewardship . . . Listen to the beautifully paced "Lohengrin" Prelude and notice how the strings have the desirable but not always achieved "shimmer". Following it, the fortunate audience heard an elegant piece of relaxed virtuosity from Evgeny Kissin in Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, with the expected sensitive support by the conductor . . . As an encore, Kissin scintillates in Beethoven's "Rage Over A Lost Penny" . . . [Schubert 9]: it's a large-scaled, vigorous performance that wears its Romantic garb proudly. That doesn't mean there's anything more than subtle manipulations of the tempo. He doesn't do a retard at the end of the first movement, the way most conductors do . . . The rest of the performance features springy rhythms and beautiful solo playing and certainly no lack of energy. Of its kind, it's really quite terrific . . . The recording includes part of the audience's enthusiastic response but, thank goodness, doesn't overdo it to let us know we are hearing something special. We can tell that without any assistance.
. . . the MET forces play with a real intensity and sense of occasion. For his part, Levine not only directs excitingly, but surpasses his studio versions of these pieces with relative ease. The Wagner Prelude begins with some unbelievable string playing. It shines, for lack of a better word, and upholds the conductor's reputation for mastery in this repertoire. Levine, to his credit, refuses to simply bathe in the sound, moving things forward and maintaining musical structure. The Beethoven features very fine contributions from the winds and very, very incisive strings . . . [Beethoven 4]: [Kissin] manages to ally his unquestionable skill with real musicality . . . [Beethoven / "Rondo a capriccio"]: neatly dispatched, and quite playful . . . a wonderful Schubert Symphony no. 9 . . . Right from the opening bars, the nobility of tone is married to a welcome vigor. Brass are warm and splendidly projected, while the strings' incisive nature plays huge dividends here. So too does the flattering sound image of Carnegie Hall, which gives a warm glow to the entire concert. As full concerts go on disc, this is truly one of the finer ones, and a great tribute to the storied relationship between Levine and the MET. Awesome.