Saturday, April 22, 2017

BSO — 2017/04/22

Mozart is our composer this week. The orchestra's performance detail page gives the essentials (typically not listing the pieces in the order in which they will be played):
Andris Nelsons leads this all-Mozart program featuring four acclaimed vocalists in Mozart's transformative Requiem, which he began in response to a mysterious commission. The work remained incomplete at his death in 1791, but at Constanze Mozart's request, Mozart's pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayer finished it with remarkable fidelity to the master's style. Opening the program, the great Romanian pianist Radu Lupu plays one of Mozart's most unusual piano concertos, No. 24 in C minor. Composed in the spring of 1786 and premiered by the composer in Vienna, the proto-Romantic C minor is unique in its strangeness and restlessness, and features a fascinating theme-and-variations finale.
(Emphasis added.)

See the performance detail page  also for all the usual links to background material.

The reviews in the Globe and BMInt are favorable, if slightly mixed in the Globe's case. Like the reviewers, I found the concerto cleanly performed and, for a piece in minor mode, placid. The Requiem had its loud and forceful moments, which I felt as more earnest than desperate. I'd like to hear it all again, but unfortunately I'll be tied up both this evening and on May 1, when it is to be rebroadcast.

As always, you can hear it on air or on line through WCRB at 8:00 p.m., EST, this evening, with a rerun on May 1, also at 8:00. Check the website for links to other information. Enjoy the concert.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

BSO — 2017/04/15

Although this week's program was part of my subscription, I didn't go because I was attending the Holy Thursday Mass. The BSO program detail page gives the usual links, including this week a video podcast about Bruckner. And here's what they say about the concert:
Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida, one of the foremost Mozart pianists of  our age, plays the composer's mysterious, stormy, proto-Romantic D minor piano concerto, a work owing much to the composer's sensitivity to operatic drama and emotion. Bruckner's seldom heard Symphony No. 6, written between 1879 and 1881, was the work he considered his boldest, though only the second and third movements were performed during his lifetime. Gustav Mahler led all four movements-but with cuts-in 1899, in Vienna; the first complete, uncut performance was given in 1901, in Stuttgart. Energetic, lyrical, and expansive, the Symphony No. 6 is a uniquely absorbing example of the composer's monumental symphonic style.
(Some emphasis added.)

Music Director Andris Nelsons will be on the podium.

We have the clash of the reviewers. The Globe found a lot of fault with the way both pieces were performed, whereas the Boston Musical Intelligencer was very pleased.

So, it's up to you to decide for yourself. You can listen this evening on WCRB at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. I probably won't be home from church in time for the Mozart, and my brother will probably call from Japan while the Bruckner is on, so I'll have to listen to the rerun on April 24 (also at 8:00). As you surely know if you're a regular reader, the 'CRB website has lots of material linked to the home page — including a podcast about this concert and other offerings on the station. You also know that within broadcast range, you can hear them at 99.5 FM, otherwise via webstream.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

BSO/Classical New England — 2017/04/08

This week the orchestra isn't playing in Symphony Hall (or anywhere else that I can see on their website). So WCRB is giving us a rerun of a concert from 15 months ago. Here's the description on their Upcoming BSO Broadcasts page, where you can also see the broadcast/webstream schedule for the rest of the season:
Saturday, April 8
Johannes Moser is the soloist in Dvorák's Cello Concerto, part of an All-Czech program that also includes "The Moldau," from Smetana's My Country, and Martinu's Fantaisies symphoniques (Symphony No. 6), all conducted by Ludovic Morlot, in a concert recorded on January 23, 2016.
Ludovic Morlot, conductor
Johannes Moser, cello
SMETANA “The Moldau” from Ma Vlast
MARTINU Fantaisies symphoniques (Symphony No. 6)
DVORAK Cello Concerto
Of course, I posted about it at the time of the performance. Unfortunately, I neglected to include a link to the review in BMInt. Here it is.

Anyway, this should be worth tuning in or listening on line on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time. It doesn't look as if they're planning to play it again on Monday the 17th.

BTW, while I was looking up the BMInt review of this week's rebroadcast, I noticed that there is an extensive, and fascinating to me, discussion about conducting in the comments on the review of last week's concert.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

BSO — 2017/04/01

This week we have a French guest conductor leading an all French concert. See the BSO's performance detail page for the usual links to background information. There, the program is described as follows:
French conductor Alain Altinoglu, making his BSO debut, leads this all-French program and is joined by his countryman, the violinist Renaud Capuçon, for Édouard Lalo's Symphonie espagnole, written for the great Spanish virtuoso Sarasate in 1874 and a brilliant concerto in all but name. Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture, by turns romantic and exuberant, opens the program. Albert Roussel's Suite No. 2 from his 1930 ballet Bacchus et Ariane was strongly championed with the BSO by Charles Munch. It was also Munch who introduced Henri Dutilleux's music to the orchestra and called for the commission of his atmospheric Symphony No. 2, Le Double, to commemorate the BSO's 75th anniversary.
(Some emphasis added.)

The reviews are favorable. The Globe finds no fault. The Boston Musical Intelligencer, with no space limitations, goes into more detail, but only has a couple of minor faults to find. I didn't go because I seemed to have a bit of a cold, but I'm looking forward to hearing the first half this evening, before my brother calls from Japan, and the rest in the rebroadcast on Monday, April 10.

As always, you can hear it tonight at 8:00 p.m. EST over WCRB on line or on air. And there is the usual rebroadcast at 8:00 p.m. on April 10. Their website has much information about their programming, including this page devoted to the concert, with a link to a podcast.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

BSO — 2017/03/25

This week we have a world premiere between two works from the early 19th Century, one a staple of the repertory and the other somewhat less familiar. Here's the description from the orchestra's performance detail page:
American cellist Alisa Weilerstein joins French conductor François-Xavier Roth for the world premiere of the BSO-commissioned un despertar, for cello and orchestra by German composer Matthias Pintscher, with whom Weilerstein has collaborated in the past. Pintscher, also a noted conductor, is a major figure in classical music in both Europe and the U.S. Opening the program is Hector Berlioz's alternately romantic and swashbuckling Le Corsaire Overture, which, as was often the composer's practice, took shape from earlier sketches. The title is an incidental reference to James Fenimore Cooper's The Red Rover ("Le Corsaire rouge"). Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, Pastoral, is his only explicitly programmatic symphony, a fundamentally cheerful work illustrating a sojourn in the countryside.
(Some emphasis added.)

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

On Thursday evening, I enjoyed the Berlioz overture — a pleasant piece. I thought they did a good job with the Beethoven. As can happen with a good conductor and orchestra, there will be details which become noticeable in the performance which are usually covered by other instrumental lines. In this case, I heard wind parts in the first movement which normally are obscured by the strings. What makes this desirable is that I get to see a bit more of how Beethoven composed. I shouted bravo at the end to get the audience started on the deserved applause, since the symphony doesn't end with the sort of loud and fast music that guarantees a standing ovation.

On the other hand, it is hard to find something good to say about the cello concerto which received its world premiere on Thursday and will have its broadcast premiere this evening. For one who is not a music professional it was not possible to see any connection among the things that were played. Notes succeeded notes, phrases succeeded phrases, but without any apparent relation to one another. The good things were that it was not too terribly dissonant, it was pretty calm and mostly quiet, and even the loud parts weren't ear-splitting. So even though it had no apparent value, it wasn't unpleasant to listen to. It was apparently a workout for the cellist in places, and she and the orchestra deserve credit for carrying it off, but IMO no credit to the composer. Nevertheless, I'll listen to the broadcast and see if I can find more value in it on a second hearing.

The reviews (Globe here, and Boston Musical Intelligencer here) have no substantial criticism of the Pintscher piece, and only minor complaints about the opening and closing works. So we agree thar rhe concert is worth hearing when WCRB broadcasts and streams it at 8:00 p.m, Boston time, with a repeat on Monday, April 3 (although I wouldn't blame you for going to the fridge during the Pintscher — the Beethoven won't begin until after 9:00). As always, there's other good material about the concert and other programming available on the 'CRB website.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

BSO — 2017/03/18

This week we enjoy a concert of music from before the 20th Century. I'll let the orchestra's performance detail page describe it:
BSO Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink leads the first BSO performances in thirty years of Joseph Haydn's 1774 Symphony No. 60, The Distracted, which was fashioned in six movements from music Haydn wrote for a play by that name. The women of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus are a provocative, wordless presence in the "Sirens" movement of Debussy's three-movement orchestral suite Nocturnes. Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, premiered at the end of 1813, has been an audience favorite ever since. Wagner called it "the apotheosis of the dance"; its entrancing second-movement Allegretto, one of the most familiar movements in Beethoven's symphonies, was encored in its first performances.
(Some emphasis added.)

As usual, that page also has links to various informational material.

The reviews are favorable. The Globe's reviewer saw some room for improvement in the Haydn, but was otherwise pleased. The review by the musicologist at the Boston Musical Intelligencer nitpicks over a couple of details in the Debussy and suggests that the finale of the Beethoven was too fast, but in general is approving.

Both reviews note the immediate standing ovation for the Beethoven, but it's normal. Beethoven wrote a real crowd-pleaser with a guaranteed applause-catching finale. It would have been remarkable if the audience members hadn't given that ovation. I was quite happy with the whole thing. The Haydn was fun. Although I generally don't care for the French Impressionists, the "Nocturnes" were serene and the typical dissonances of the style were not annoying. The Beethoven 7th was performed just last spring, and normally that would be enough to set me off on my "don't keep playing the warhorses at the expense of other deserving rarely heard compositions" rant. But for Haitink I'll make an exception. It was definitely worth hearing, especially since fourth chair horn player Jason Snider did the "bullfrog" low notes in the 3rd movement perfectly every time.

So by all means listen in the the broadcast or webstream over WCRB at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time this evening (repeated at 8:00 on March 27 and subsequently available on demand for a year). This concert's a keeper. As always, the WCRB website is worth exploring for related information, such as their podcast and schedule of BSO broadcasts, as well as information about other programming.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

BSO — 2017/03/11

The Boston Symphony has returned to Symphony Hall just over a week ahead of the swallows' return to Capistrano. Unfortunately, they weren't back in time to play on Thursday, so I haven't heard the abbreviated week's very full concert under the baton of Finnish guest conductor Sakari Oramo. The show opens with Symphony № 3 by Sibelius. Then, after intermission, orchestra and conductor are joined by pianist Kirill Gerstein and the men of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus for the Piano Concerto of Busoni. That's right. There's a men's chorus in the fifth(!) movement of this 70-75 minute work. The orchestra's performance detail page provides the usual links and this description:
Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo and Russian pianist Kirill Gerstein return to Symphony Hall, joining the BSO and the men of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus for the visionary Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni's monumental Piano Concerto, a fascinating but rarely heard work of Mahlerian scope dating from the first years of the 20th century. These are the first BSO performances. (Future BSO conductor Karl Muck led the premiere in Berlin in 1904.) Opening the program is a very different sort of piece from the same era, Jean Sibelius's Symphony No. 3, a sunny, open work with numerous touches of folk-music simplicity.
I generally like Sibelius, and this symphony should be enjoyable. I don't know what to expect from the Busoni. I've heard the audio preview linked on the BSO page, and what's there sounds okay; but will the whole thing be engaging, or too much of an okay thing?

Surprisingly, there is already a review in the Globe. It's quite favorable and gives a fair amount of description of the music. The reviewer praises both conductor and pianist, and finds no fault with anything. (On the other hand, there are no raves such as "best performance ever.")

This sounds like a pretty good one to listen to on WCRB radio or internet, at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time Saturday, with a rerun available at 8:00 on Monday, March 20. There is a link to a podcast on one of the interior pages. Browse the site for other information about the station's offerings.