This was the first post-COVID major performance for this orchestra, and everyone involved was thrilled and relieved to return to some semblance of normal performance practice. This season opening performance presented a varied program featuring strong soloists, full of hits and very few misses.
The first piece, Tchaikovsky's "Rococo Variations" featuring cellist Jan Bogdan, featured some tentative playing by the orchestra, although this soloist's playing couldn't be faulted. The next piece, Ibert's Flute Concerto featuring Avishai Srugo, demanded more playing from the orchestra, and they were up to the task. Sometimes a dull accompanying part during a concerto makes for a complacent orchestra. I loved this flute concerto, it is a modern piece (composed in 1934) full of vibrant, unconventional melodies and strained notes that stretch the range of the instrument in eye-opening ways.
After the break, soprano Yaara Atias performed two arias, the first (Mozart's "Se il padre perdei") was simply fine, but the second (Donizetti's "Il faut partir") was superlative and elicited strong reactions from the audience. Finally, the full orchestra took the stage for Debussy's "La Mer", which was excellent and superbly conducted by Lahav Shani. His somewhat underplayed Mahler 1 actually built my anticipation for this performance even more. The things I didn't like about his Mahler (deliberate tempo and pacing, milking the slower, atmospheric parts) are perfect for "La Mer", and it didn't dissappoint.