Friday, October 9, 2015

BSO — 2015/10/08-10

This week the Boston Symphony gives us one new work in its Boston premiere and two very familiar ones. Music Director Andris Nelsons will be on the podium. Here's what the BSO's performance detail page says about it, this time listing the works in the order they'll be performed:
The Grawemeyer Award-winning American composer Sebastian Currier's Divisions was co-commissioned by the BSO with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the National Orchestra of Belgium to commemorate the centennial of World War I. The title's meaning refers to both the military connotation of "divisions" as well as to its 16th-century usage as a set of instrumental variations. Two strongly contrasting 19th-century works balance the program. German pianist Lars Vogt plays Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3. Brahms's Second Symphony is one of the composer's most gracious and sunny works-but with striking formal innovations.

Join the conversation online by using #BSOBeethoven for this concert series or #BSO1516 on your social networks to discover the excitement of the season and connect with one another!
(Some emphasis added.)
As usual, there are also links on that page for the BSO media center, performer bios, program notes, and audio previews.

The Globe review summarizes it fairly well, I think. So far, there's nothing about it in the Boston Musical Intelligencer or on The Arts Fuse. Having read the program notes a day or so before the Thursday performance and again at Symphony Hall, I was pretty well prepared for "Divisions," but I found it much more listenable than I had expected. It's definitely in a 21st century idiom, which I was expecting, but it somehow seemed more coherent than a lot of recent music. The second half was even gentler that I anticipated. Even the usher who has no use for recent music found this piece not too bad. I hope I'm not raising expectations too much. I just want say even if you don't like recent music, don't be afraid to listen to this fairly short piece.

The composer was present and came out for a bow after the piece was played. He seemed uncomfortable, making awkward gestures of waving to the audience and applauding the performers; he hung back from going to the front of the stage to receive the warm applause the audience gave him, staying three feet or so back. This was the first piece of Currier's the orchestra had performed. I hope they'll do it again and play other music by him.

The Beethoven piano concerto was well played, except that in a couple of places the strings drowned out the woodwinds. From my seat, I could see that during the first movement cadenza Maestro Nelsons turned to the last two pages of his score. I thought he was studying something about the end of the concerto, but eventually I concluded that those pages gave to music for the cadenza Mr. Vogt was playing (not printed where it occurs in the first movement because the pianist could do something different). So Maestro Nelsons was just following along to be ready to cue the orchestra when they came back in.

I decided not to stay for the Brahms and got home earlier than usual.

As always, you can hear the concert broadcast live or streamed over the facilities of WCRB. The station's BSO page has, among other things, a link to a podcast in which Lars Vogt, the pianist in the Beethoven, previews the concert. The live broadcast/webstream will be Saturday, October 10, at 8:00 p.m. EDT (Boston Time), and the repeat will be at 8:00 on Monday, October 19, just over a week later.

See what you think of the Currier. I hope you'll enjoy it as well as what follows.

Friday, October 2, 2015

BSO — 2015/10/01-03 — Updated

The Boston Symphony Orchestra is back where it belongs — in Symphony Hall. This week they open the 2015-2016 season with a concert described as follows in their performance detail page:
For the first concerts of the BSO's 2015-2016 season-an all-Russian program-Andris Nelsons and the orchestra continue their survey of Stalin-era works by Dmitri Shostakovich. Composed at the end of World War II, the atypically short, five-movement Ninth Symphony was criticized as being insufficiently serious for the time. Shostakovich's older compatriot Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote his final work, the vibrant, symphony-like Symphonic Dances, in 1940 while living in the United States. In between these two pieces, the marvelous Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin plays Tchaikovsky's beloved Concerto No. 1.
Join the conversation online by using #BSOKissin for this concert series or #BSO1516 on your social networks to discover the excitement of the season and connect with one another!
(Some emphasis — most, actually — added.)
That performance detail page also has a number of links. Program notes are accessible by clicking icons in the "Notes" column near the bottom of the page, audio previews by clicking those under "Audio," and performer bios by clicking on the thumbnail photos of the "Featured Performers." In addition, there is a "Media Center: Podcasts/Notes" graphic which gives links to some of the same material, as well as a brief (approximately two-minute) introduction to the music.

I enjoyed the concert, especially the Shostakovich. The program note refers to "a darker mood" in the middle of the second movement and "ominous" moments and others of "grief and desolation" in the third. Although the note had me expecting those elements, I didn't hear anything I'd have characterized that way. It wasn't all rollicking and playful, but I'd have called some parts calm, and some solemn. Shostakovich has his dissonances, but, to me at least, they aren't hard to take in this symphony. The Boston Globe, as of this writing, hasn't favored us with a review. Maybe one will become available later on the page I've linked. There is a typically lengthy review at the Boston Musical Intelligencer. The reviewer was aware of nuances in the performances which I hadn't picked up on. Maybe I'll notice them during the Saturday broadcast. One thing I would add is that in addition to the fine solos he mentioned, Clint Foreman opened the second movement of the Tchaikovsky very well on the flute.

As always, WCRB will broadcast the Saturday evening performance over 99.5 FM in Boston and stream it over the web. (The "Listen Live" button is on the right side of their homepage, near the top.) They also have a page devoted to the BSO. That page features an interview with Maestro Nelsons about this concert, as well was their complete BSO broadcast/webstream schedule for the season, and other items. The concert coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. "Boston Time" on October 3. If you miss it then, they repeat the broadcast/stream on Monday, October 12, also at 8:00.

Happy listening.

Update: The Globe has published a favorable review. While I'm at it, let me also note a somewhat critical review in the online publication, The Arts Fuse.

Friday, September 25, 2015

BSO/Classical New England — 2015/09/26

This is the last week before the BSO begins the 2015-16 Symphony Hall Season on October 1. For this Saturday's rebroadcast WCRB has chosen the September 27, 2014, concert, which was Andris Nelsons' first as Music Director of the orchestra. Here is how 'CRB describes it on their BSO page:
In his first concert as BSO Music Director, Andris Nelsons conducts excerpts from operas by Wagner, Puccini, and Mascagni, featuring soprano Kristine Opolais and tenor Jonas Kaufmann, as well as Wagner's Tannhäuser Overture and Respighi's The Pines of Rome.
(Some emphasis added.)
That BSO page also has a link to an interview with the maestro and a preview of the concert, as well as the broadcast schedule for the upcoming season.

The concert begins with the Tannhäuser Overture and ends with the Respighi, with the singing in between. The BSO's own performance detail page lists all the selections which are to be sung. There are the usual links to background information.

Since this concert was only given on that Saturday evening, there were no reviews to link when I wrote my preview at the time. Here's a link to a lengthy review in the Boston Musical Intelligencer. The reviewer liked most of what he heard but groused about the choice of pieces and the intrusions of PBS's cameras and lighting to record the show for television. He also tells about the encore: "O soave fanciulla" from La Bohème.

As usual, the concert can be heard on air or over the web from WCRB (link above) at 8:00 Boston Time. It should be enjoyable.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

BSO/Classical New England — 2015/09/19

WCRB gives us another "encore performance" of a concert given within the past year. I was at the Thursday November 20 performance. They recorded the one on November 22, 2014. Here's how WCRB briefly describes it on their BSO page:
Yo-Yo Ma is the soloist in Prokofiev's Symphony-Concerto for cello and orchestra, and Andris Nelsons conducts Harbison's Koussevitzky Said, Rachmaninoff's The Bells, with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and a world premiere by Eriks Ešenvalds.
(Some emphasis added.)

That page also has the schedule of concerts to be broadcast and streamed next week and over the coming season as well as links to some interviews.

I don't know why they won't list the pieces in the order they are performed. Harbison's piece opens the concert, followed by Ešenvalds and Prokofiev. Rachmaninoff follows the intermission, and concludes the concert.

The piece given its world premiere in the Thursday concert and its broadcast premiere on Saturday was titled "Lakes Awake at Dawn."

My recollection of the concert is that it was very good. The Harbison is brief, intended as a curtain-raiser, and quite amusing; the Ešenvalds sets the moods of the poetry well; and the Rachmaninoff is very stirring. Since all three of them have sung texts, it's an especially good idea to go to the BSO performance detail page and access the link to the program notes, where you can find the words. I think it will also be especially useful to read the notes on the pieces and check out the other background info.

The p/review I posted at the time has links to reviews. along with my impressions back then.

As usual, the concert is available by radio or webstream from WCRB on Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time (EDT). See the first link above. I recommend listening.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

BSO/Classical New England — 2015/09/12

On September 12, at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, WCRB will give us an encore presentation of the concert recorded almost a year ago — on September 20, 2014. They describe it as follows on their BSO page:
BSO Assistant Conductor Marcelo Lehninger leads the orchestra in Mozart's Sinfonia concertante, K. 297b, featuring BSO soloists, Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 by Villa-Lobos, with soprano Nicole Cabell, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5.
(Emphasis added.)

That page also has a link to a conversation with Maestro Lehninger and a preview of the concert. In addition, they give the concert broadcast and webstream schedule for the whole upcoming BSO season. I'm happy to see that they'll again be replaying each concert on the Monday nine days later.

My post about it at the time (with links to reviews and the BSO page) is here. I put a question mark after Mozart's name because the program notes say that some scholars doubt that Mozart actually wrote the piece in question.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

BSO/Classical New England — 2015/09/05

As we wait for the Symphony Hall season to begin, this week WCRB gives us a repeat of the concert of January 24, 2015. That concert found BSO Assistant Conductor Ken-David Masur on the podium replacing the scheduled conductor, who was ill. He conducted Berlioz's Overture "Le Corsaire," followed by Cello Concerto No. 1 by Saint-Saëns with Johannes Moser as soloist. After intermission, it was Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov.

You can listen to the concert on demand at the station's BSO program page. There's a pretty good action shot of the maestro. There are also links to other available concerts. As always, the broadcast and webstream will be on Saturday, September 5, at 8:00 p.m. EDT (or "Bostpn Time," as I like to call it.)

I p/reviewed it in January. At that time I wrote, "I liked Maestro Masur's conducting style, and found nothing in the music to dislike." The post also contains links to reviews and other background information.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

BSO/Classical New England — 2015/08/29

This Saturday's BSO broadcast/webstream on WCRB at 8:00 is an "encore" of the concert of February 28, 2015. It includes the Stravinsky "Dumbarton Oaks" Concerto, Images, for Orchestra, by Debussy, and the Brahms Violin Concerto. Charles Dutoit conducts with Julia Fischer as the violin soloist. The WCRB page describing the concert (with a recording available) indicates that Ms. Fischer played Paganini's Caprice No. 24, as an encore.

I previewed the concert, with all the usual links to background material, back when it was about to be given. You can check it out if you're interested. I'll just comment, as I did then, that the Stravinsky is from his "neoclassical period," nothing like "Rite of Spring." I find it pleasant enough. And Debussy and Brahms are generally well liked, so I think it's worth hearing, or hearing again.