Friday, January 20, 2017

BSO — 2017/01/21

This week's Boston Symphony concert begins and ends with familiar works. In the middle is one that is much less well known, one that the BSO has never played before. In fact, they've never played anything by this composer. Here's how the BSO performance detail page summarizes it:
The great Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer joins Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena and the BSO for the Polish-born Soviet composer Moisey Weinberg's Violin Concerto. Weinberg-whose music has never been performed by the BSO-moved to the Soviet Union at the start of World War II, becoming a friend and protégé of Dmitri Shostakovich, who intervened with authorities when Weinberg was arrested on political grounds. Weinberg's Violin Concerto (1959) is a substantial work with a strong stylistic kinship to Shostakovich's music. Opening the program is Prokofiev's brief and delightful Classical Symphony, modeled on the symphonies of Haydn and Mozart. Tchaikovsky's emotionally intense Fourth Symphony, completed in 1878, represents the culmination of a traumatic period in the composer's life.
(Most emphases added.)

Also check out the links on that page for program notes, audio previews, performer bios (click on the thumbnail pictures), and podcasts.

This concert wasn't part of my subscription, so I can't give you any opinions of my own. The reviews in the Boston Globe and the Boston Musical Intelligencer found no fault with any of the music or the playing, except for one item mentioned by the Globe reviewer. As noted, though, the Weinberg piece inhabits the same musical universe as Shostakovich, so it could be a bit challenging, but why not give it a whirl?

You can hear the performance Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m., EST, over WCRB, radio or internet. Check out other pages on their website for further information about their programming and their podcast.I'll be out celebrating my birthday during the first part of the broadcast, and talking to my brother in Japan after I get home, so I'll have to wait for the rebroadcast on January 30 to hear how it was.


Friday, January 13, 2017

BSO — 2017/01/14

This week's Boston Symphony concert is unusual in that the two works preceding intermission feature the organ. Here's how the BSO describes it on their performance detail page:
English conductor Bramwell Tovey is joined by virtuoso American organist Cameron Carpenter, who makes his BSO subscription series debut in a work written for him, At the Royal Majestic, by the innovative American composer Terry Riley, a founding father of musical minimalism. Himself an organist, Riley created this eclectic large-scale concerto "shifting, as its title suggests, from sounds reminiscent of the Mighty Wurlitzer housed in the grand movie palaces, to fragments of Calliope, Baroque Chorales, occasional craggy dissonance of clashing pipes, and boogie." To open the concert, Carpenter is soloist in Samuel Barber's 1960 organ-and-orchestra work Toccata Festiva, by turns exuberant and lyrical. The English composer Edward Elgar's tour-de-force of orchestral and expressive imagination, the EnigmaVariations, is a series of widely varied portraits of his friends achieved via transformations of a common musical theme.
(Some emphasis added.)

See that page also for links to performer bios, program notes, and audio previews.

The reviews are favorable. The Globe describes things concisely and identifies the two! encores, each of which was spectacular in its own way, and good for giving us a chance to hear the organ unimpeded by sounds from the orchestra. Of course, if there is an encore or two on Saturday, it/they will not necessarily be the same, but I'm sure you'll recognize "Fly Me to the Moon," if he does it. The Boston Musical Intelligencer has more space available for its reviews, and this review describes the music and the performance in greater detail — including noting that Cameron Carpenter played the (optional) organ part in the Elgar.

The concert was enjoyable to listen to. Seeing the organist playing, especially watching his feet on the pedals, certainly added to the experience. He frequently changed the stops, but most of the time, I didn't notice any change in the sound of the organ. But I think it'll be worth hearing even without the added visuals. So I definitely recommend going to WCRB on air or on the internet at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. If you miss any of it on January 14, they will rebroadcast/stream it at 8:00 p.m. on Monday January 23. Their podcast, "The Answered Question" includes a useful discussion of this week's program during the first 15 minutes.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

BSO — 2017/01/07

The orchestra returns to Symphony Hall this week with an unusual program, featuring wind players of the orchestra as soloists in generally unfamiliar works. The BSO performance detail page describes it as follows:
Soloists from the ranks of the Boston Symphony Orchestra take center stage in this highly unusual, far-ranging program led by BSO Assistant Conductor Ken-David Masur. BSO piccoloist Cynthia Meyers performs Vivaldi's delightful Piccolo Concerto in C. BSO principal clarinet William Hudgins and clarinetist Michael Wayne are soloists in Mozart-contemporary Franz Krommer's Concerto No. 2 for two clarinets. BSO principal trumpet Thomas Rolfs is soloist in French composer André Jolivet's Concertino for trumpet, piano, and strings, a dynamic, three-movement work from 1948. BSO principal trombone Toby Oft plays the Trombone Concerto of Italian composer Nino Rota-best known for scoring Coppola's The Godfather but a versatile and prolific composer of concert and stage works as well. Finally, Robert Schumann's Konzertstück ("Concert-piece") for four horns provides an exhilarating showcase for principal horn James Sommerville and his virtuoso colleagues Rachel Childers, Jason Snider, and Michael Winter.
(Most emphasis added.)

I was there for the performance on Thursday, and I found it all pleasant enough — except for the Jolivet, which I'd call "not unpleasant." As originally programmed, the Jolivet concerto was to finish the first half, but I guess they decided it would be better not to have the Vivaldi and Krommer adjacent. I thought everybody played very well, except for a couple of wobbles in the horns. The Jolivet trumpet concert was "modern." The others, including the Rota, were normal music. But none of them were particularly memorable. In the Krommer clarinet concerto, I imagined the Hudgin's tone was a bit brighter, and Wayne's a bit mellower. The BMInt reviewer suggests something similar. So it was a great night for the wind players to have some time in the spotlight. I'm glad I was there for it, and I think you be glad to have listened, if you do.

The reviews are favorable. The Globe noted the occasional problems with the horns. The Boston Musical Intelligencer gives a fairly good synopsis of the music (and likes the Jolivet much more than I did).

The horn soloists in the Intelligencer photo are, l.-r., Snider, Winter, Childers, and Sommerville. Clint Hutchinson, flute player, is in the center, just slightly behind Ms. Childers. In the back, behind Mr. Hutchinson, is assistant tympanist Daniel Bauch. The conductor, Ken-David Masur, is standing on the right, and in the back row behind him are two trumpeters, but I'm never sure which is which.

Anyway, you can listen, beginning at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, over WCRB. There's another page on their website which has a link to their podcast, with interviews with three of the evening's soloists. It also has a link (fine print upper left, to the remaining broadcast schedule for the season. I'd have expected this concert to be rerun on January 16, but they don't say they will.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

BSO — December Hiatus — 2016/12/17

It's back to Tanglewood again for the third week of the December hiatus. This week's rebroadcast is of the final concert of the 2016 Tanglewood Season. The now-traditional performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony is preceded by the much less familiar "Quiet City" by Aaron Copland. I posted about it last August, but unfortunately, the link to the BSO performance detail page goes to the previous week. Here's the correct link. I don't remember any specifics about the Copland work, but my general recollection is that it was pleasant to listen to. As for the Beethoven: of course it's enormous and amazing.

So by all means, listen if you can this evening at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, over WCRB; and check out the rest of their website for other interesting items.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

BSO — December Hiatus — 2016/12/10

This week's Saturday evening broadcast/webstream over WCRB is the concert given at Tanglewood on August 5, 2016. The station's website gives the particulars:
Saturday at 8pm, Giancarlo Guerrero conducts Dvorak's Serenade for Winds and Brahms' Serenade No. 2, and Yefim Bronfman plays Liszt's 2nd Piano Concerto.
December 10, 2016
Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor
Yefim Bronfman, piano
DVORÁK Serenade for Winds
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 2
MAHLER (arr. BRITTEN) What the Wild Flowers Tell Me
BRAHMS Serenade No. 2
(Some emphasis added.)

I posted a bit about it back then, but there were no reviews to link.

The Brahms Serenade was a revelation to me when I heard it for the first time several years ago in a concert at Symphony Hall conducted by James Levine: Brahms could and did actually write cheerful music for orchestra. It's pleasant all the way through and especially delightful toward the end, above all when the piccolo comes in to put the metaphorical frosting on the figurative cake.

There's nothing wrong with the rest of the program either, so enjoy the show at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. Also explore the WCRB website for other interesting things such as podcasts and schedules for future BSO broadcasts.

Friday, December 2, 2016

BSO — December Hiatus — 2016/12/03

As noted last week, the Boston Symphony Orchestra will not play in Symphony Hall until January 5, and the next live broadcast will be on the 7th. Meanwhile, as on earlier occasions, WCRB will fill the Saturday time slot with rebroadcasts of concerts from last summer at Tanglewood for this weekend and the next two, Pops on at least one of the remaining two weekends. I'm not sure about the fifth.

This week, they rebroadcast the concert of Friday, August 10, 2016, with music of Otto Nicolai, Mozart, Debussy, and Ravel, with Charles Dutoit conducting and Emmanuel Ax playing piano in the Mozart. My brief note about it at the time included this excerpt from the BSO's performance detail page:
On Friday, August 12, at 8 p.m., Swiss maestro Charles Dutoit, one of the BSO's most popular guest conductors since his debut with the orchestra in 1981, conducts his first performance of the season as Tanglewood's 2016 Koussevitzky Artist-an honorary title reflecting the BSO's deep appreciation for his generous commitment to Tanglewood and for his extraordinary 30-plus-year dedication to the BSO at Tanglewood, in Boston, and on the orchestra's 2014 tour to China and Japan. The program opens with the overture to Nicolai's charming, witty operetta The Merry Wives of Windsor, a piece the BSO hasn't performed since 1984. Following the overture is Mozart's warm Piano Concerto No. 22, a personal favorite of American pianist and annual Tanglewood guest Emanuel Ax. Maestro Dutoit also leads the BSO in Debussy's La Merand Ravel's Bolero, music of which Maestro Dutoit is a foremost interpreter, and which has a special place in the BSO repertoire.
(Some emphasis added.)

It should be enjoyable listening over WCRB at 8:00 p.m. on December 3. There will not be a further rebroadcast on the 12th, but it should be available on demand.

Winter Orgy® Period 2016

WHRB's Winter Orgy® period began on December 1 with the Warhorse Orgy. Now they are into the Dvořák Orgy®, which will run through December 9, generally from midmorning until 10:00 p.m. — with interruptions for things like the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday, church service o Sunday, Harvard sports events, etc. See the program guide for specifics, including the approximate timing of works to be played.

Other classical music orgies include

     Menhuin Orgy®, Dec. (after the opera) - 12;
     New York School Orgy, Dec. 13;
     Steve Reich Orgy, Dec. 14;
     Marriner Orgy, Dec. 15-19 (with the first two days all Mozart); and
     Reger Orgy, Dec. 20-21.

Again, see the program guide for specifics. After the Reger Orgy, they return to regular programming, with music for Christmastime through the 25th. You can listen on line (go to the station's homepage) or on air in places reached by their signal on 95.3 FM.

Fortunately, this is happening at a time when the Boston Symphony is off, and Holiday Pops takes over Symphony Hall. WCRB will be broadcasting reruns of previous seasons' concerts. So you don't have to give up a live concert broadcast in order to hear an orgy that interests you.

For new readers, the WHRB orgy periods originated in the 1940's. WHRB is a student run station, and during exam periods, rather than carefully selecting the pieces to be played they came up with the idea of just running through all the records they had by one composer, or performer, and then all by another. And they've been doing it ever since, although it has transformed into a major undertaking, tracking down as much of the orgy subject's music as possible, selecting among recordings of the same piece, and scheduling them in order of composition, as much as practicable.