Saturday, February 17, 2018

BSO — 2018/02/17

It's French Impressionists this week. (Are there Impressionists from any other country?) Here's the synopsis from the BSO's program detail page (where you can also find the usual links to background information):
This all-French program features pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet in Ravel's serious, single-movement Piano Concerto for the left hand. Closing the program is a work that's long been a staple of the BSO repertoire, Ravel's ballet score Daphnis et Chloé, a tourde-[sic] force of orchestral coloration and dramatic atmosphere the composer felt was one of his best works. Opening the program are Ravel's orchestrations of two contrasting Debussy piano pieces. These concerts mark the 90th anniversary of Ravel's conducting the BSO at Symphony Hall while visiting America in 1928.
(Some emphasis added.)

This concert wasn't part of my subscription, so I have no impressions of my own to offer. The reviews are favorable. The Globe finds no fault. The Boston Musical Intelligencer finds a few bits that were less than perfect, but overall is very satisfied. That review also gives extensive information about the pieces, almost like program notes.

You can hear it all this evening, February 17, over WCRB at 8:00 p.m., Eastern time, with the usual repeat transmission at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, February 26.  Impressionists aren't my favorit figurative cup of metaphorical tea, but most people like them, so enjoy.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

BSO — 2018/02/10

It's Leipzig Week at the BSO, so they're offering four works from composers connected with Leipzig and the world premiere of a piece commissioned jointly by the BSO and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. As usual, the performance detail page refuses to tell about the program in order of performance — starting with the fourth piece, back to the first, on to the last, and finishing with the second and third ("not last but least"?). Anyway, here's what they say:

Andris Nelsons conducts J.S. Bach, Schumann, Shepherd and Mendelssohn featuring pianists Thomas Adès, Kirill Gerstein and Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Symphony Hall - Boston, MA - View MapThis excitingly varied, Leipzig-centric program-the BSO's first "Leipzig Week in Boston"-celebrates Andris Nelsons and the BSO's compelling new collaboration with the venerable Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra by featuring three composers strongly associated with that city, plus a new work jointly commissioned by both ensembles from the accomplished American orchestral composer Sean Shepherd, a Tanglewood Music Center alumnus now based in New York City. The opener brings together three world-class virtuoso pianists for Bach's triple keyboard concerto, BWV 1063, possibly created for performances involving his two elder sons, W.F. and C.P.E Bach, at Zimmermann's coffeehouse in 1730s Leipzig. Closing the concert is the deeply Romantic Scottish Symphony of Felix Mendelssohn, who was music director of the Gewandhaus from 1835 to 1847. And it was Leipzig where Robert Schumann met his wife Clara and spent much of his early career; his two contrasting, rarely heard works for chorus and orchestra on this program date from the late 1840s.

(Some emphasis added.) They don't give the titles of the Shepherd and Mendelssohn works either. Mendelssohn's song are Nachtlied and Neujahrslied; Shepherd's is titled Express Abstractionism.

I attended the Thursday performance, and I was unimpressed with "Express Abstractionism." The first three movements seemed unfocused and meaningless. The thought came to me, "There is no beauty in this." At least the last movement was calm and pleasant to listen to, beautiful in a way. When the composer came on stage for his bows, I stopped applauding. I'll give it another chance during the rebroadcast on February 19 to see if it makes more sense, but at this point (unlike one of the reviewers), I'm not hoping they will play it again.

During the Bach concerto, I noticed that Maestro Nelsons, was not conducting with a precise beat:  up, down, in, out. It looked more like the way people conduct Gregorian chant, with flowing, sweeping, and occasionally circular, hand motions. The use of pianos gave a very different soind from what harpsichords give. Maybe that lusher sound had something to do with how Nelsons conducted.

The Globe and Intelligencer reviews are generally favorable. They, along with the program notes linked on the performance detail page, will give some idea of what to listen for — especially in the Shepherd piece — unless you prefer just to let it unfold with no preconceptions. Also available is this interview with the composer.

It's all there for you — the good and the not so good — at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, over WCRB radio and internet, with a repeat transmission on Feb. 19, also at 8:00. Be sure to check out their website for information about other offerings.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

BSO — 2018/02/03

This week's Boston Symphony has works by Mozart and Shostakovich. As always, the orchestra's program detail page offers links to performer bios, audio previews, program notes, and a brief description of the concert:
Andris Nelsons conducts Mozart and Shostakovich featuring soprano Kristine Opolais [and bass Alexander Tsymbalyuk] 
The BSO presents one of Shostakovich's most unusual symphonies, No. 14, which continues the BSO's complete cycle of Shostakovich symphonies being recorded for future release on Deutsche Grammophon. Composed in 1969 and dedicated to Benjamin Britten, No. 14 requires the smallest instrumental forces of any Shostakovich symphony-string orchestra with ten percussionists. Opening the program is music of a very different stripe, Mozart's wonderfully amiable Gran Partita for winds. This sevenmovement serenade dates from about 1782 and is considered by many the finest work of "Harmoniemusik"- music for wind band-ever written.
(Some emphasis added.)

The reviews also give information about the pieces. The one in the Globe finds less fault with the performances than does the one in the Intelligencer. Although the Thursday performance was part of my subscription, when it was time to leave, I didn't feel like making the trek into Boston, so I have nothing to add to the above information. After reading the reviews, I'm sorry I missed it. I'll listen to WCRB this evening and on February 12 at the usual time. Note the other programming listed on the station's website.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

BSO — 2018/01/27

This week, the BSO gives us something old, somethings new (but not brand new) something borrowed, but nothing blue, so far as I can tell; so it isn't a wedding. What it is, we learn from the orchestra's performance detail page:
BSO Artistic Partner Thomas Adès returns to lead music of his own-a suite from his acclaimed 1995 chamber opera Powder Her Face-and joins with violinist Augustin Hadelich for György Ligeti's 1993 Violin Concerto, a wonderfully varied work that touches on virtually all of Ligeti's late musical concerns in material ranging from poignant, folk-like melody to delighted virtuosity. These performances will include a cadenza written by Thomas Adès for the finale. Opening the program is Beethoven's most boisterous and jolly symphony, No. 8. Closing the program is music from Stravinsky's 1928 ballet The Fairy's Kiss, an homage to Tchaikovsky drawing liberally on the latter's music.
(Some emphasis added.)

The old is the Beethoven, which opens the concert. The new are the Ligeti and Adès on either side of the intermission. The borrowed is music of Tchaikovsky which Stravinsky used in his ballet and divertimento. Read more about them via the links on the BSO page. Also, click on thumbnail photos for performer bios.

There is a mixed review (loved the Ligeti, liked the Adès, disappointed in the Beethoven, and doesn't like the Stravinsky) in the Boston Musical Intelligencer. The Globe reviewer found no fault with (said almost nothing about) the Beethoven and Stravinsky, liked the Adès, and raved about the Ligeti. Both found Hadelich's playing spectacular. The BMInt suggests you need to be in Symphony Hall to get the full effect of the violin in the Ligeti, but the reviews give good information about the pieces.

I'll be listening to WCRB this evening from 8:00 Boston Time until 9:00, when my brother calls from Tokyo. I'll try to catch the rest when the show is rebroadcast/streamed on Monday, February 5 at 8:00. The middle pieces may not be everybody's figurative cup of metaphorical tea, but you never know until you give it a try. I'm not sure I'll like them, although my interest is piqued for the Ligeti. They probably won't reach that spectacular cadenza the reviewers tell about before 9:00. It definitely gives me a reason to listen to the rebroadcast. If you decide to leave during the Adès, the Stravinsky will probably begin about 10:05.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

BSO — 2018/01/20

A single work is on this week's BSO program: Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler. The BSO's program detail page, with the usual links to background info, gives this description:
The outstanding American mezzo Susan Graham joins Andris Nelsons, the BSO, and the women of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus for Mahler's Third Symphony, which, along with his Symphony No. 2, exemplifies the composer's ambitious expansion of the symphonic genre. This is the second of Mahler's trio of "Wunderhorn" symphonies (Nos. 2-4) employing text from the folk-poetry collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn. The six-movement symphony is divided into two parts. Part I is a massive, 30-plus-minute opening movement representing a Bacchic procession celebrating the arrival of summer. Part II (movements 2 through 6) is a series of character pieces representing the responses of, in turn, wild flowers, animals of the forest, mankind itself, angels, and the spirit of love.
(Some emphasis added.) 

The reviews in the Globe and in the Boston Musical Intelligencer are detailed and highly favorable. I was there for the Thursday performance and enjoyed it. It's a massive work, but there is very little that seemed superfluous. I was very impressed with the playing all around, especially a fine trombone solo and the offstage posthorn solo.

I definitely recommend listening this evening at 8:00, Eastern Time, over WCRB. On Monday at 8L00 you can hear a rebroadcast of last week's concert of Webern, Bartók, and Stravinsky. The following Monday, this will be rebroadcast.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

BSO — 2018/01/13

This week's concert takes us a century and more froward from last week's, with music by Anton Webern, Igor Stravinsky, and Béla Bartók. While this may not be the most challenging music these composers wrote it is challenging, especially the first half of the concert. That's my opinion. Here's how the orchestra's performance detail page describes it:
In his second week of concerts, François-Xavier Roth works with outstanding French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard in Bartók's percussive, glittering Piano Concerto No. 1, in which the composer's love for Central European folk music merges imaginatively with early 20th-century modernism. Music by two close Bartók contemporaries fills out the program. Anton Webern's lush twelve-minute, single-movement Passacaglia from 1908 predates the crystalline miniatures for which he is best-known. Composed the following year is Stravinsky's The Firebird, the breathtakingly magical score for the Ballets Russes that catapulted the 27-year-old composer to fame and which, more than a century later, remains one of his most beloved pieces.
(Some emphasis added.)

The reviews are in — one in the Boston Globe, and two (!) in the Boston Musical Intelligencer (here and here). All three are favorable, although putting different takes on various elements of the music. They and the program notes and audio previews on the orchestra's page, should give you a pretty good idea of what you're in for if you listen, which you can this evening at 8:00 Boston Time via WCRB on line and on air. Challenging though I consider it, I'll be listening until my brother calls from Japan. Although there is language somewhere on the website which promises a rebroadcast on Monday a week later (which would be January 22 for this concert — and last Saturday's on January 15) I don't see it specifically for this or last week's concert. But it's worth trying if you're interested.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

BSO — 2018/01/06

The orchestra is back performing at Symphony Hall, and they have a great program this week. Here's the description from their performance detail page:
Two cornerstones of the repertoire anchor this program. The young English pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is soloist in one of Mozart's most familiar concertos, No. 21 in C, an elegant, good-natured work written and premiered in Vienna in spring 1785. Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 is the concerto's polar opposite in mood,a stormy struggle against destiny with a well-earned victory at the close. Opening the program is a rarity: the overture to the 1811 opera The Amazons by the highly successful and prolific opera composer Étienne Méhul, a contemporary of Mozart and Beethoven.
(Some emphasis added.)

The Thursday performance was cancelled because of the weather, so I haven't heard it yet, and I don't see a review in the Globe. The Intelligencer is enthusiastic.

The Mozart concerto is a favorite of its genre, and the Beethoven needs no introduction. So this is a concert not to be missed. As always, listen to WCRB at 8:00.