Friday, July 22, 2016

Tanglewood — 2016/07/22-24

This weekend's concerts give us lots of frequently played music (which indicates it's fairly popular), so you can listen without fear.

Friday, July 22.  The (mostly) "warhorse weekend" begins with the program described as follows on the orchestra's program detail page:
English conductor  Sir Andrew Davis-currently music director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and chief conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra-returns to the Shed stage for the first time since 2008. To open the program, he leads the  Boston Symphony Orchestra  in Vaughan Williams's haunting  Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, inspired by a melody by the great English Renaissance composer. Renowned Georgian violinist  Lisa Batiashvili joins the orchestra for Dvořák's Violin Concerto, and Maestro Davis and the BSO close the program with Sibelius's soaring Symphony No. 5, written in 1915 on commission from the Finnish government in celebration of the composer's 50th birthday and subsequently revised in 1916 and 1919.
(Some emphasis added.)
The page also has links to audio previews and program notes, with performer bios available by clicking the thumbnail picture.

The first two pieces are okay, but my personal opinion is that they are played too often. They take up time which could be spent giving us things which may not be quite as good, but which deserve an occasional hearing (the Strauss Clarinet Concerto, to give just one example). On the other hand, Sibelius is one of my current favorites, and I'm really looking forward to hearing his 5th.

Regrettably, management hasn't yet given up on its "UnderScore Friday" project: having a presentable young member of the orchestra give us a couple of minutes of drivel with some factoids about composer or music — all in the hope that it will make the concert more appealing to people who wandered in off the street, and thereby increase audiences in the future. "Wow! This classical music is actually cool! Give me more." And this is one of those UnderScore Fridays. Forewarned is forearmed. But listen anyway.

Saturday, July 23.  Here's the description from the BSO's program detail page:
Spanish maestro  Juanjo Mena, chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, begins a two-night stint leading the BSO on Saturday July 23 and Sunday, July 23, at 8 p.m. To begin the concert on July 23, Mr. Mena is joined by American pianist and frequent BSO and Tanglewood guest  Garrick Ohlsson for Tchaikovsky's rhapsodic and beloved Piano Concerto No. 1. Spanish soprano  Raquel Lojendio, making her BSO debut, joins the orchestra for the second half of the program, featuring Falla's complete The Three-cornered Hat, a ballet based on Pedro Antonio comic novella,  El sombrero de tres picos. Falla wrote the score in 1919 for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, the impresario and company that were responsible for commissioning many (sic) of the 20th century's greatest ballet music.
(Some emphasis added.)

The program detail page has the usual links to background information.

Again, the Tchaikovsky is well liked, so you'll probably enjoy listening. IMO, however, this is another of those warhorses that ought to have given place to something that is good but rarely heard. Also, the two pieces are so short that they could and should have given us a curtain raiser as well. After intermission, "The Three-cornered Hat" is innocuous enough, but not my favorite style of music. I'm not sorry that my brother's weekly call from Tokyo will make me miss it. I think reading the program note in advance — always a good idea, especially for narrative works — will really help you enjoy the Ginastera. Despite my semi-negative comments, knowing what was supposed to be happening really helped me enjoy it when I heard the piece several years ago in Symphony Hall.

Sunday, July 24.  On Sunday, we get one of the lesser-known pieces that I've been calling for. The BSO program detail page informs us:
On Sunday, July 24, at 2:30 p.m., 27-year-old German violinist Veronika Eberle makes her BSO and Tanglewood debuts with Maestro Mena and the orchestra in a performance of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4, written 1775, when the composer was just 19 years old. Also on the program is Beethoven's ever-popular Symphony No. 6, Pastoral, and Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera's Variaciones concertantes-a theme and 11 variations in which the composer wrote that all of the instruments are treated "solistically"-performed to mark the 100th anniversary of Ginastera's birth.
(Some emphasis added.)

I don't think I've ever heard the Ginastera work (which will be performed first, despite being mentioned last), so I applaud the conductor for presenting it. The other pieces are excellent and, along with the Sibelius on Friday, will be the highlights of the weekend concerts for me. Even so, if there were something good but unfamiliar instead of one or both, I wouldn't complain.

So overall, I recommend listening to all three concerts. Some of it is really great, and some is good, which is about what you can hope for in a concert program.

The Friday and Saturday concerts can be heard via WCRB radio or web at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, and the Sunday program will be aired and streamed at 7:00, p.m. (not live at 2:30). That home page, in addition to the link to listen over the web, gives information about other special programming which may be of interest. Their BSO page, in addition to listings of the works to be performed, gives the same information about the remaining Tanglewood concert broadcasts and various other interesting items and links, including a list of other stations in the region which broadcast the concerts.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tanglewood — 2016/07/15-17

I'm sorry to be late with this. Safari basically froze on me earlier on Friday and only unfroze just before 8:00, when it was far too late to write and post this item in time for the concert. So I listened, wile watching the Red Sox game. ("We" won!) Still, I'll include the Friday concert in this post since WCRB's on demand feature will make this concert available to listen to soon, they say.

Friday, July 15.  This an all Mozart concert with Pinchas Zukerman as conductor and violin soloist. The orchestra's program detail page gives the following description:
Violinist Pinchas Zukerman, a frequent BSO guest over the years and a renowned Mozart performer, joins the Boston Symphony Orchestra once again Friday, July 15, at 8 p.m., as both conductor and soloist for a program devoted entirely to that composer's music. From the podium, Mr. Zukerman will lead the orchestra in the Haydnesque Symphony No. 25 and one of Mozart's great, final three symphonies, No. 39 in E-flat. At the heart of the program, he takes up his violin to lead the BSO as soloist in the Violin Concerto-or the second, third, and fourth movements-from the composer's Serenade in D, K.250, Haffner.

The page also has links to audio previews and program notes, with performer bio available by clicking the thumbnail picture.

You can't go wrong with Mozart. I thought there were a couple of spots in the first half where some players got out of sync, but it was very good apart from that. But the big surprise for me was that there is a violin concerto embedded in the Haffner Serenade. I'd never heard that before. Although the program doesn't say so, they performed not only the three "violin concerto" movements but also the opening movement of the serenade, which the "concerto" immediately follows.

Saturday, July 16.  Here's the description from the BSO's program detail page:
On Saturday, July 16, at 8 p.m., BSO assistant conductor Ken-David Masur returns to Tanglewood, along with celebrated American soprano Renée Fleming, for a performance of Strauss's powerfully emotional and autumnally beautiful Four Last Songs, the last major piece the composer wrote before his death a year later in 1949. Also on the program are Tchaikovsky's beloved Symphony No. 6, Pathetiqué-which was also its composer's final work before death-and Ives's atmospheric and ruminative The Unanswered Question, perhaps his most popular work. Ms. Fleming made her BSO debut at Tanglewood 25 years ago, on July 13, 1991, performing Mozart's Idomeneo  with the BSO and Seiji Ozawa.
**Conductor Christoph von Dohnányi, who was scheduled to conduct the BSO concert this Saturday, July 16 and a portion of the TMCO concert on Monday, July 18, has, with great regret, been forced to withdraw from these performances due to complications following recent cataract surgery. BSO Assistant Conductor Ken-David Masur will replace Maestro von Dohnányi for both concerts. The programs remain the same.

Maestro von Dohnányi looks forward to returning to Tanglewood to lead the BSO in the orchestra's traditional season-ending performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 on Sunday, August 28.
(Some emphasis added.)

The program detail page has the usual links to background information. It's the second Saturday in a row that the scheduled conductor has had to withdraw because of health problems. A generation of well-known and revered conductors is passing away. Still, the orchestra should be in good hands with Mr. Masur.

Ives is an unusual composer, unconstrained by the normal rules of form and harmony of his youth, so his music can be jarring. I hope the brief piece of his which opens the program will not chase anybody away. If you're unfamiliar with Ives, be sure to read the program note for the piece before listening if possible. The title of WCRB's podcast, "The Answered Question," is, of course, a take-off on Ives' title, "The Unanswered Question."

The Strauss songs are lush, and the Tchaikovsky symphony probably deserves its status as a "warhorse" of the orchestral repertoire. While I think orchestras would do well to give it a rest and program other, less-performed, deserving works, I'm sure it will be fun to listen to.

Sunday, July 17.  On Sunday, the program is mostly well-known and popular pieces, with the Ravel probably the least well known. The BSO program detail page informs us:
Spanish conductor Gustavo Gimeno makes both his BSO and Tanglewood debuts on Sunday, July 17, at 2:30 p.m., leading the orchestra in Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1, Classical-a work that was inspired by and intended as a tribute to Haydn, and which is one of the earliest pieces in the so-called neoclassical style that became popular in the first half of the 20th century-and the suite from Stravinsky's breakthrough early ballet, The Firebird. Brilliant Chinese pianist Yuja Wang joins Mr. Gimeno and the BSO for two heavily jazz-influenced works: Ravel's Piano Concerto in G, at turns breathless and beautiful, and Gershwin's infectious and well-known Rhapsody in Blue.
(Some emphasis added.)

The Friday and Saturday concerts can be heard via WCRB radio or web at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, and the Sunday program will be aired and streamed at 7:00, p.m. (not live at 2:30). That home page, in addition to the link to listen over the web, gives information about other special programming which may be of interest. Their BSO page, in addition to brief descriptions of the Saturday and Sunday concerts, gives similar information about the remaining Tanglewood concert broadcasts and various other interesting items and links. Regrettably, the decision to delay the broadcast means that I'll have to miss this one, as I'll be away from my radio and computer at that time. I hope you'll be able to catch these standards.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tanglewood — 2016/07/08-10

Tanglewood resumes this weekend, with the usual schedule of major concerts Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon. This year WCRB has decided to record the Sunday concert and broadcast and stream it in the evening. So we have three evenings each weekend of music from Tanglewood.

Friday, July 8.  The opening night concert features Joshua Bell. Here's the BSO performance detail page's description:
The Boston Symphony Orchestra opens its 2016 Tanglewood season on Friday, July 8, at 8 p.m., with an Opening Night at Tanglewood program featuring music by Ravel, Saint-Saëns, and Prokofiev, led by Canadian conductor Jacques Lacombe. The performance features American violinist and Tanglewood favorite Joshua Bell as soloist in Saint-Saëns's romantic Violin Concerto No. 3. Mr. Lacombe opens the program with Ravel's raucous and colorfully Spanish-flavored Alborada del gracioso, and closes it with Prokofiev's popular Symphony No. 5, a work composed in just one month in 1944 and given its American premiere in 1945 by Serge Koussevitzky and the BSO.

Joshua Bell made his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1989 at age 21, and has returned to the festival every summer since. Jacques Lacombe made his BSO debut at Tanglewood during the 2014 season, and returns this summer for the third year in a row.
(Some emphasis added.)

The page also has links to audio previews and program notes, with performer bios available by clicking the thumbnail pictures.

None of the pieces is on my favorites list, but it should all be nice to listen to. Prokofiev can be a bit modern, but he's no Stravinsky, and he gave us  "Peter and the Wolf,"so I think it'll be worth hearing

Saturday, July 9.  Here's the description from the BSO's program detail page:
Jacques Lacombe returns to lead a second consecutive program with the BSO. Debussy's revolutionary symphonic poem  Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun and Ravel's atmospheric and beautiful  Daphnis and Chloe, Suite No. 2, two quintessential French impressionist works that are specialties of the orchestra, open the program. For the second half, Mr. Lacombe and the BSO are joined by soprano  Nadine Sierra and tenor  Jean-Francis Monvoisin, both making their BSO and Tanglewood debuts, as well as baritone  Stephen Powell and the  Tanglewood Festival Chorus, for the drama and the spectacle of Orff's rousing  Carmina burana.
Seiji Ozawa, following advice from his doctor to postpone any plans to travel abroad at this time, has had to cancel his Tanglewood appearances this summer due to lack of physical strength.
At the end of Maestro Ozawa's month-long stay in Europe (where he performed with the Berlin Philharmonic in Berlin and the Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland in Paris) this past April, due to overwork Ozawa developed a fever which resulted in weight loss. Upon his return to Japan, Ozawa continued with another demanding period of work, which further weakened his immune system. After thorough discussions with his doctors, family, and all concerned, Maestro Ozawa has decided to follow his doctors' advice and during the next few months primarily focus on recovering his physical strength. Ozawa, therefore, has had to reschedule his performance activities for this summer, which has unfortunately resulted in cancellation of his concerts at Tanglewood. We wish Seiji a speedy recovery and look forward to his return visit to Tanglewood in future seasons.
Quote from Seiji Ozawa
"I am very very sad and sorry that I will have to miss this summer's Tanglewood. I miss the Ground of Tanglewood and all my old colleagues and friends. Missing being in our house in West Stockbridge and playing tennis there. I am concentrating on eating and I am gaining more body strength now. I am so much looking forward to returning to Tanglewood SOON. My young colleagues, music students of Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland will be there with you. They are so concentrated on playing Chamber music and Ensemble. I hope you will all enjoy their music-making as much as I enjoy."

Quote from Mark Volpe, BSO Managing Director
"I know that Seiji is very disappointed not to be able to join us this summer at Tanglewood, as he was so very much looking forward to returning to the festival and working with his beloved Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Music Center, introducing us all to his treasured Swiss Academy, and reconnecting with the many audience members who have supported him so passionately over the years. All of us at the BSO will miss Seiji's presence this summer, but we understand that he has to follow his doctors' advice to take the time needed to recover his strength after a busy work schedule in Europe and Japan in April and early May. We wish Seiji a speedy recovery and look forward to his return to Tanglewood in future seasons."
(Some emphasis added.)

The program detail page has the usual links to background information. I hadn't realized that Seiji Ozawa was scheduled to conduct. It's too bad his health isn't up to the trip.

French impressionism isn't my favorite cup of tea, and I have little use for Orff's setting of the mediæval Carmina Burana, but the works are much liked by others, so don't let me be a wet blanket on the Tanglewood lawn. I'm just happy I won't be missing something a really, really, really want to hear when my brother calls from Tokyo at 9:00.

Sunday, July 10.  The Boston Pops will give a concert at Tanglewood on Sunday afternoon but WCRB won't be giving it to us (I'd guess because of contractual problems with the soloist). Instead, as the station's BSO page informs us:
Sunday, July 10, 7pm
Film Night, from Symphony Hall!

In a special encore broadcast from Symphony Hall, Laureate Conductor John Williams and Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart team up to lead a program of cinematic magic, with music from unforgettable films across the decades!
The Friday and Saturday concerts can be heard via WCRB radio or web at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. That home page, in addition to the link to listen over the web, gives information about other special programming which may be of interest. Their BSO page, in addition to the description of the Sunday encore concert posted above, gives similar information about the remaining Tanglewood concert broadcasts and various other interesting items and links.

Friday, July 1, 2016

BSO/Classical New England — 2016/07/02

This is the final weekend before the Boston Symphony begins its Tanglewood season. In the regular 8:00 p.m. time slot, WCRB will give will give us a rebroadcast of the concert given on October 31, 2015. I posted about it at the time. If you got there, you'll find that I liked it better than the reviewer in the Boston Globe. Here's a listing of the contents from the station's BSO page.
In an encore broadcast, Pinchas Zukerman is both the conductor and violin soloist in a program that includes Tchaikovsky's Mélodie, Andante cantabile, and Serenade, Elgar's Chanson de la nuit, and Schubert's Symphony No. 5.
(Most emphasis added.)

As always you can hear it over the air at FM 99.5, if you're within range, or on line via a link on their homepage. I'm looking forward to another hearing.

The BSO page also gives, among other things, a schedule of the broadcasts for the Tanglewood season, which, as noted, begins next week. There are numerous concerts through the week and on the weekends. WCRB broadcasts and streams the major three of each weekend: Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday afternoon. But this year, they will only transmit the Friday and Saturday concerts live at 8:00 p.m.. The 2:30 p.m. Sunday concerts will be transmitted on Sunday evenings at 7:00. I'm disappointed that they won't be broadcast live, although the delay will probably make it more convenient for me to listen, since there will not be regular competition with the Red Sox games on TV. At any rate, get set for three straight evenings from Tanglewood on weekends beginning on July 8 and continuing through August 27 (ending on Saturday this year rather than Sunday).

Since I will not have heard the programs earlier in the week, and no reviews will be available at my "press time," I'll only have links to the preview materials on the orchestras website and WCRB's, with maybe an occasional remark about a piece I'm familiar with — no extensive personal comments.

Friday, June 17, 2016

BSO/Classical New England — 2016/06/18

This week's "encore broadcast" and webstream from WCRB is of a concert that was given on January 16 of this year. It contains music by Debussy, Dutilleux, Canteloube, and Stravinsky. The middle two pieces are sets of songs sung by Renée Fleming. François-Xavier Roth conducts.

I posted about it at the time with my own opinions and links to reviews and the station and the orchestra's information pages — no need to copy it all here: you can go back and look. You can also look at the station's home page, linked above, and their BSO page for further links and information about this and other BSO concerts available via WCRB.

The broadcast and stream begin at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time on Saturday, June 18. I'm planning to listen until my brother makes his weekly phone call from Japan.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

BSO/Classical New England — 2016/06/11

This week and for the next couple of Saturdays, WCRB goes back to rebroadcasting and streaming previous BSO concerts, as we wait for the Tanglewood season to begin. This evening's concert is one I enjoyed, although my post about the original broadcast wasn't exactly enthusiastic. It;s from January 9 of this year and includes music by Gossec, Mozart (his Concerto for Flute and Harp), and Beethoven (the Eroica Symphony). I'm looking forward to hearing it again. The station's BSO page has a brief description of the concert, plus a schedule of upcoming broadcasts and assorted links to other BSO material, such as concerts available for on demand listening. My post from back in January give you links for the Symphony's program page and for reviews.

Enjoy responsibly!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

BSO/Classical New England — 2016/06/04

This evening at 8:00 WCRB gives us the third week of Boston Pops. Here's the description on their symphony page:
Sutton Foster!

The Tony Award wining star of Anything Goes and Thoroughly Modern Millie joins Keith Lockhart and the Pops at Symphony Hall for a program of Broadway favorites!

Next week, the schedule shows a return to encore broadcasts of symphony concerts as we wait for the beginning of the Tanglewood season.