Saturday, October 25, 2014

BSO — 2014/10/23-25

This week it's the three B's: Bach, Brahms, and BSO. Bach's solo cantata, "Ich habe genug," was sung by Bryn Terfel with the orchestra. For the Brahms "German Requiem," they were joined by Rosemary Joshua and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, singing, as always, from memory. This was the second program that Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos was originally scheduled to conduct. Bramwell Tovey, who seems to be well-liked by the chorus, took on the podium duties. Here's what the orchestra's performance detail page has to say about the program and performers:
This program pairs two of the great works for voice and orchestra in the German musical literature. Bach's 1727 cantata for bass soloist and orchestra stands among the best-known of his several hundred works in the genre. Its text (the title translates to "I have enough") refers to the sustaining power of faith in the hour of death. A German Requiem, Brahms's largest work, originated with music he wrote following Robert Schumann's attempted suicide in 1854 and evidently was also connected with the death of the composer's own mother. The result is an utterly personal, scarcely ceremonial Requiem for soprano and baritone soloists, chorus, and orchestra, episodically setting texts from the Bible. Its "German"-ness derives partly from the fact that, unlike the traditional Latin Requiem text, Brahms used Martin Luther's German translations of scripture. Bryn Terfel, who has previously appeared with the orchestra at Tanglewood and in gala Symphony Hall concerts, here makes his BSO subscription series debut. Acclaimed British soprano Rosemary Joshua makes her BSO debut in the German Requiem.
The page also contains the usual sorts of links to audio, program notes, and performer bios.

The Globe reviewer was very pleased with the performance, and the somewhat more detailed review in the Boston Musical Intelligencer was also highly laudatory. I was there on Thursday, and I think both reviews are good. I'd underline that I thought the various sections of the orchestra played their parts very clearly: Maestro Tovey kept the forces well-balanced.

Brahms is not my favorite composer, but this piece, especially as performed on Thursday, is worth hearing. The concert was an appropriate anticipation of All Souls Day, November 2, as well as an appropriate memorial to Maestro Frühbeck, as pointed out in the Intelligencer. So I recommend listening in over WCRB this evening or November 3 at 8:00 p.m. And visit their BSO page for all the links that you can find there.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

BSO — 2014/10/16-21

This week's concerts of music by Nielsen and Brahms were to have been conducted by the late Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. His place on the podium will be taken by Thierry Fischer, who is coincidentally Keith Lockhart's successor as music director of the Utah Symphony. The program will be the one originally planned, with Rudolf Buchbinder as piano soloist in the Brahms.

Links to audio previews, program notes, and performer bios (click on the thumbnail pictures) are available at the orchestra's performance detail page, which also gives the following overview of the concerts:
Esteemed Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder joins the BSO for Brahms's vast, emotionally intense D minor piano concerto, which the Viennese composer wrote over the course of several years, in part as a reaction to the tragedy of his mentor Robert Schumann's attempted suicide in 1854 and his death two years later. Brahms-still only in his mid-twenties-was soloist in the concerto's premiere in January 1859. The great Danish composer Carl Nielsen chose to write his Fourth Symphony, an expression of the "Elemental Will of Life," in one large movement. He prefaced this questing 1916 score with a telling aphorism: "Music is Life, and, like it, is Inextinguishable."
(Some emphasis added.)

The reviews in the Boston Globe and the Boston Musical Intelligencer were generally favorable, while pointing out aspects of the performances that each reviewer found less than ideal. But a comment on the Intelligencer review began as follows,
Nice review by Vance Koven…except I’d go much stronger. My best advice to any of you interested in great music-making is to run to the box office and snap up a ticket for one of these remaining concerts. It’s that good. Thursday night’s concert was exceptional. It was non-routine music-making at its best, with tremendous artists (Fischer and Rudolf Buchbinder), and the orchestra playing their hearts out. In what has already been a very strong start to the season (this is my third concert), this has been the best performance yet.
and continues with several paragraphs of equally enthusiastic detail.

I wasn't there on Thursday, having switched my ticket to next Tuesday, so I can't give my own impression. Based on the comment in the Intelligencer, though, I'm looking forward to this concert and I think it'll be worth your listening to it over WCRB this evening at 8:00 or Monday, October 27, also at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. The station's BSO page has a listing of the broadcast/webstream schedules for the remainder of the season, along with numerous links to interviews and other items concerning this concert and other BSO happenings, including access to earlier concerts now available on demand.

Enjoy the show.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

BSO — 2014/10/09-11

This evening Christian Zacharias conducts the orchestra in music of Schubert to open and close the concert and solos in a Mozart piano concerto before intermission. Here's the description from the orchestra's performance detail page:
The German pianist-conductor Christian Zacharias returns to the BSO in his dual role for Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17 in G, performing from the keyboard as Mozart would have done for most of his concerto premieres during his Vienna years. This concerto, one of the composer's most joyous, may have been written for and premiered (in June 1784) by his student Barbara Ployer. Music by Mozart's Viennese successor Franz Schubert opens and closes the program. Schubert's familiar music for the 1823 play Rosamunde has had a successful life in the concert hall, although the play itself was a failure and has long since been lost. Completing the program is one of Schubert's most popular works, the haunting, two-movement Unfinished Symphony in B minor.
(Some emphasis added.)
That page is also where you can go for links to audio previews, program notes, and a performer bio.

This concert is not part of my subscription, so I can't offer my own thoughts about it. The Globe review, well-focused on the music, is generally favorable, with a couple of reservations. The reviewer in the Boston Musical Intelligencer also gave a generally favorable review. While they gave most praise to different aspects, they both found it worth hearing.

Hearing it is what you can do by radio or internet via WCRB this evening at 8:00 or Monday evening October 20, also at 8:00. It will also be available for a year for on-demand listening over the web. The station's BSO page gives the complete season broadcast/webstream schedule along with links to numerous interviews and on-demand concerts. Enjoy.

If you missed last week's Beethoven, Bartók, Tchaikovsky concert, it will be the broadcast/stream on Monday the 13th at 8:00 p.m., following the usual pattern of rebroadcasts.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

BSO — 2014/10/01-03 (+ 04)

This week, the BSO played concerts on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, with no concert on Saturday. I don't remember a Wednesday concert ever before, and it's very rare for there to be no Saturday concert. I'm guessing that Maestro Nelsons had contractual obligations to be elsewhere this evening. Anyway, without a live concert to broadcast, WCRB is presenting a recording of one of the earlier performances this week.

So this evening you can listen to Andris Nelsons' second concert of the year, described as follows on the orchestra's program detail page:
For his second program of 2014-15, Andris Nelsons leads three great works reflecting his lifelong immersion in the world of symphonic repertoire-works that also demonstrate the commanding stylistic range of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Beethoven's Symphony No. 8, premiered in 1814, is as consistently high-spirited and jolly as anything the composer ever wrote. The contrastingly aggressive and lurid Suite from Bartók's 1918 ballet score The Miraculous Mandarin captures the urban tension of post-World War I Europe. Tchaikovsky's final work, the Pathétique Symphony, is noteworthy for its melodic warmth and the composer's intricate, magical orchestrations. Premiered shortly before his death, the Sixth ends unusually, and emotionally powerfully, with a slow, mournful movement rather than a triumphant finale.
(Some emphasis added.)

As always, you can find links to various background features on that page as well.

As I mentioned, WCRB will broadcast (and stream) the concert this evening — at 8:00, with a repeat on Monday, October 13, also at 8:00. The station's BSO page has the season broadcast schedule, information about on demand streams, and links to a lot of interviews.

The Wednesday concert was reviewed by the Boston Globe and by the Boston Musical Intelligencer. The Globe reviewer was satisfied overall, and especially liked the playing in the Tchaikovsky. The review in the Intelligencer had more detail, and no reservations about the playing by the orchestra, although the reviewer doesn't care for this Tchaikovsky symphony. I thought the orchestra played quite well on Thursday evening. So I think it's worth listening to.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

BSO — 2014/09/27

Andris Nelsons' inaugural concert as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is only being performed this evening (although there will be the customary rebroadcast in nine days). This means that there are no reviews so far, just the usual preview information. There will be music of Wagner, Mascagni, Puccini, and Respighi. The BSO performance detail page has links to program notes, a couple of audio previews, and performer bios (click on the pictures). It also provides the following synopsis:
This wide-ranging one-night-only event celebrates the start of BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons' tenure with the orchestra, and features two close colleagues of the conductor as soloists, the acclaimed Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais, and the outstanding German tenor Jonas Kaufmann. Each sings selections from the Wagnerian and Italian verismo repertoires, after which they join forces for a powerful duet from Puccini's Manon Lescaut. The concert opens with Wagner's Tannhäuser Overture-the work that first inspired a five-year-old Nelsons to a life in music-and closes with Respighi's spectacular orchestral showcase,Pines of Rome.
(Some emphasis added.)

As usual, you can listen on air or over the web via WCRB at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. And since the concert is sold out  —something I don't recall seeing before, although it must have happened occasionally at least on opening nights — that's the only way you can hear it. Their BSO page has links to several interesting-looking interviews and to the complete season broadcast/stream schedule. (And dang! during the past week they've had a retrospective on previous music directors from Koussevitsky through Levine, with programs Sunday through Friday. If I had noticed, I could have listened while watching the Red Sox.)

It should be worth hearing.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

BSO — 2014/09/18-20

The Boston Symphony Orchestra is back at Symphony Hall for the season, which will extend until May 2, with a break for Holiday Pops in December. I was at the opening concert of the season on Thursday, and heard the program which will be given this evening, Sept. 20. Associate Conductor Marcelo Lehninger leads a concert which includes music of Mozart (?), Villa-Lobos, and Beethoven. On the orchestra's performance detail page we get this summary:
BSO Associate Conductor Marcelo Lehninger returns to the Symphony Hall podium for a concert spotlighting members of the orchestra. Four BSO principals take center stage for Mozart's seldom heard Sinfonia concertante for winds, last performed by the BSO in 1989 (with a different solo quartet). Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos's Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 for soprano and cellos is one of several like-named pieces intended to meld Brazilian musical ideas with the classical tradition. One of Villa-Lobos's most popular scores, the work is in two parts, sung in Portuguese: an Aria with words by Ruth Correa (who sang its premiere) and a Dance with words by Manuel Bandeira. The accompaniment for cellos alone makes it a rarity on orchestral concerts; these will be the first BSO performances of the piece. Closing the concert is Beethoven's powerful Symphony No. 5, among the best-known of all orchestral pieces.
The same page also has links to program notes , audio previews, an interview with the maestro, an — by clicking on the photos — performer bios.

Reviews were favorable, both in the Boston Globe and — even more favorable — in the Boston Musical Intelligencer. While I enjoyed it, I didn't think it was the best I've ever heard. Dynamics could have been better, in my opinion, and the Mozart and Beethoven sometimes seemed more like playing the notes than playing the music. Even so, the finale of the Beethoven can't help but be rousing when the notes are played correctly. So I think it's going to be enjoyable to listen to.

As always, WCRB will present the concert live, beginning at 8:00 p.m. You can hear it as a radio broadcast at 99.5 FM (or one of their satellite transmitters), if you're within range of the signal. Otherwise listen to the web stream by clicking the "Listen Live" button on the right side of their homepage. The station's BSO page has not only a brief description of the program, but also links to background interviews, information about on-demand listening to previous concerts, and the broadcast/streaming schedule for the whole season — which reminds us that each Saturday concert is rebroadcast nine days later, on Monday evening.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

BSO — September Hiatus — 2014/09/13

For the final Saturday before live broadcasts from Symphony Hall resume, WCRB has chosen to give us an encore of the concert of October 19, 2013, the first Andris Nelsons conduct with the BSO after being chosen to be its music Director, a post he assumes this season. I posted my review of the concert on October 19, 2013.

Here is how WCRB summarizes the content on their BSO page:
In an encore broadcast, BSO Music Director Designate Andris Nelsons leads the orchestra in Wagner'sSiegfried Idyll and the Symphony No. 3 by Brahms, and Paul Lewis is the soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25.
(Some emphasis added.)
That page also contains a number of links you might wish to follow.

As usual, the concert broadcast, available also over the web by clicking the "Listen Live" button on the WCRB home page, begins at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. Based on my review of 11 months ago, I think you'll enjoy it.