Friday, August 22, 2014

Tanglewood — 2014/08/22-24

The last weekend of the BSO's Tanglewood season concludes, as usual, with a Sunday matinee performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, with Charles Dutoit conducting. The symphony will be preceded by the composer's Choral Fantasy with Yefim Bronfman as piano soloist. Before that, on Friday evening, there will be chamber music; and on Saturday, there's an Italian (largely Roman) theme.

Friday August 22  The score by Harold Arlen to the movie The Wizard of Oz will be played by the Boston Pops under Keith Lockhart. Apparently, there is no permission from the copyright holders to broadcast it, because WCRB will be substituting a concert recorded on July 1. The performance detail page lists the performers and works to be performed but lacks most of the usual links to background information. We find this information on the WCRB BSO page:
On Friday, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players celebrate 50 years as an ensemble in a concert that includes Yehudi Wyner's Into the Evening Air, Debussy's Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp, and Schubert's Octet. (recorded July 1)
(Some emphasis added.)

It might be interesting to hear the new piece by Wyner, and I'm sure the Schubert will be enjoyable. I'm not sure about the Debussy: I don't enjoy most of his music very much, but I'm not familiar with the flute sonata; so we'll see.

Saturday August 23  Saturday brings a more conventional program. Here's how the performance detail page puts it:
Charles Dutoit returns to the podium to lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra. An Italian-themed program on August 23 begins with Berlioz's colorful Roman Carnival Overture and continues with Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, featuring pianist Kirill Gerstein as soloist. Completing the program is Respighi's scintillatingly orchestrated trio of Rome-centric tone poems: Roman Festivals, Fountains of Rome, and Pines of Rome.
(Some emphasis added.)

The usual links to performer bios, audio previews, and program notes can be found on that page as well. This should be quite a rousing concert.

Sunday August 24  It has become customary to close the BSO's Tanglewood season with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. As noted above, this year it is preceded by the Choral Fantasy. Consult the performance detail page for links to program notes, an audio preview, and performer bios. It gives this description of the program:
On August 24, the BSO's Tanglewood season comes to a close with its traditional performance of Beethoven's transcendent Symphony No. 9. The final concert begins with Beethoven's Choral Fantasy, which also features pianist Yefim Bronfman and which was a clear precedent for the Ninth Symphony's choral movement. Vocal soloists include sopranos Nicole Cabell and Meredith Hansen, mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford, tenors Noah Stewart and Alex Richardson, and bass-baritone John Relyea.
It should be good listening. I like the Choral Fantasy maybe even better than the Ninth Symphony, but certainly both are worth hearing.

WCRB will be broadcasting and streaming the Saturday and Sunday concerts live, as usual, in addition to the pre-recorded concert of Friday. After that, they go back to the regular schedule of presenting BSO concerts on Saturday evenings. Until the BSO begins the Symphony Hall season, the three intervening Saturdays will have rebroadcasts. The station's BSO page has descriptions of those concerts as well as this weekend's and other useful links about on-demand availability of earlier concerts etc.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tanglewood — 2014/08/15-17

The best (IMO) piece of the whole weekend is going to be performed this evening while I'm out to dinner with a group of people — Beethoven's  Emperor Concerto (Piano Concerto No.5). I was introduced to the piece in my freshman year at college. My roommate had a recording of the concerto. Every Sunday morning he'd put it on his record player; but the record player had a slight malfunction: instead of stopping at the end of the first side, the tone arm would lift and go out to about an inch from the edge and settle down and play through the the remainder of the first movement. It did this over and over until he decided to intervene and flip the record for the second and third movements, which he only let play once. If it had bothered me, I might have spoken to him, but it was a great piece of music, so I was content to hear it over and over, while I was studying or reading the paper.

Friday August 15  The aforementioned Emperor Concerto precedes the intermission, with Stephane Deneve on the podium, and Emmanuel Ax on piano. After intermission, it's Prokofief's score for Alexander Nevsky. As usual, there are links to various sorts of background material on the orchestra's program detail page, which offers this description of the program:
Stéphane Denève returns to the Shed podium on Friday, August 15, to lead the BSO in music by Beethoven and Prokofiev. Pianist Emanuel Ax joins the orchestra for the first half of the program as soloist in Beethoven's ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor. After intermission, the BSO welcomes the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and mezzo-soprano Elena Manistina for Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky
(Some emphasis added.)

Saturday August 16  Saturday brings a concert performance of Bernstein's Candide, conducted by Bramwell Tovey, and with vocal soloists too numerous for me to list, since they're mentioned on the performance detail page, along with links to program notes and performer bios.
Operetta and satire come to the Shed on Saturday, August 16, with a complete concert presentation of Bernstein's wittyCandide, based on Voltaire's novel. The BSO and Tanglewood Festival Chorus are conducted by Bramwell Tovey, and the cast of distinguished vocalists includes soprano Anna Christy, mezzo-sopranos Kathryn Leemhuis and Frederica von Stade, tenors Nicolas Phan and Beau Gibson, and baritones Paul LaRosa and Richard Suart, as well as vocal soloists from the Tanglewood Music Center. 
(Some emphasis added.)

I attended a staged performance a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. As for Voltaire's message: whether this is the best of all possible worlds depends on what we mean by "possible." Certainly it is not the best of all conceivable worlds — that's heaven. And the world would be better if we behaved better. But, however we define "possible," it seems to me that the state of the world does not justify Voltaire's atheism.

But listen for the enjoyable music, hopefully well performed, and don't get too hung up on the philosophy.

Sunday August 17 After Bernstein's music on Saturday evening, the Sunday matinee is the Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert, with three pieces by Russian composers from the first half of the 20th century, performed by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra. Quoting the BSO performance detail page:
Eminent Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit takes the helm of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra for The Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert. The talented young fellows perform an all-Russian program featuring Stravinsky'sScherzo fantastique and the complete ballet score for The Firebird, as well as Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, for which they are joined by Russian soloist Nikolai Lugansky.
(Some emphasis added.)

Go to the detail page for links to background information.

As always, WCRB will broadcast and stream all three concerts, at 8:30, 8:30, and 2:30, respectively, with a half hour of related material beginning 30 minutes before concert time. The station's BSO page gives brief synopses of this and next weeks' Tanglewood broadcasts (next week being the season finale) along with links to interviews and to previous concerts available on demand.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tanglewood — 2014/08/08-10

I'm writing this more than a week in advance, since I'll be away until late Friday afternoon, but I expect to be back by the time the concerts begin. It looks like a rather eclectic weekend.

Friday August 8  This evening's concert features music of the three B's (not the usual three people speak of, but Bolcom, Barlow, and Barber) along with Elgar. It is under the baton of Leonard Slatkin and in honor of his 70th birthday. (Yikes! He's younger than me. I imagined he was older.) The performance detail page, as of this writing — July 31 — has links only for the program notes for the Barber and the performer bios: no notes on the other pieces and no audio links. I hope more will be added as the performance draws near. There is at least the following summary:
The BSO celebrates American conductor Leonard Slatkin's 70th birthday on Friday, August 8, as he leads the orchestra in a program featuring the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom's Circus Overture, commissioned by the BSO for the event. The program also features Wayne Barlow's soulful The Winter's Past, for oboe and strings, with BSO principal oboist John Ferrillo as soloist. Gil Shaham joins Mr. Slatkin and the Orchestra for Barber's Violin Concerto, and the concert concludes with Elgar's kaleidoscopic Enigma Variations.
(Some emphasis added)

Saturday August 9  Again a wide-ranging program awaits on the 9th. The program detail page gives the usual links this time, except for the Szymanowski, and describes the program as follows:
On Saturday, August 9, at 8:30 p.m., French maestro Stéphane Denève takes the podium for a BSO performance pairing music by Tchaikovsky with Debussy's quietly revolutionary Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, which conductor/composer Pierre Boulez said "brought new breath to the art of music." Mr. Denève and the orchestra are then joined by virtuoso Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos for early-20th-century Polish composer Karol Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No. 2. The drama and adrenaline of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 bring the concert to a close.
(Some emphasis added)
Debussy isn't my figurative cup of metaphorical tea, but at least the piece is short. Szymanowski can be quite "modern," but I'm not familiar with this concerto, so I'll be interested to hear how accessible it is.

Sunday August 10  Sunday continues the Tchaikovsky with an all-Tchaikovsky program conducted by David Zinman with Yo-Yo Ma featured as soloist in two of the works. The program detail page tells us
World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma once again takes the stage at Tanglewood on Sunday, August 10, at 2:30 p.m., this time in an all-Tchaikovsky program with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by American maestro David Zinman. Mr. Ma is featured in two works: the Andante cantabile, for cello and strings, and the Variation on a Rococo Theme, for cello and orchestra. The program also includes the Polonaise from Tchaikovsky's operatic masterpiece Eugene Onegin and the perennial favorite Symphony No. 6, Pathétique.
(Some emphasis added)
Again, as of July 31, the links to background material are scant, but that may improve.

WCRB will broadcast and stream all three at the usual times, with pre-concert features a half hour in advance; and their BSO page will probably have links to background material.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tanglewood — 2014/08/01-03

This weekend at Tanglewood can be characterized as "something for everyone." I'm posting a little early because I'll be too busy to post this on Friday.

Friday August 1  At 8:30 p.m., Assistant Conductor Marcelo Lehninger leads the orchestra in the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings, followed by Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1 — with Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloist. They also list Thomas Rolfs as trumpet soloist for the Shostakovich. After intermission, they'll play Symphony No. 4 of Schumann. The orchestra's performance detail page has links for program notes, an audio preview of the Schumann, and performer bios. It also includes this description of the show:
For The Serge and Olga Koussevitzky Memorial Concert on Friday, August 1, at 8:30 p.m., the Boston Symphony Orchestra is led by Assistant Conductor Marcelo Lehninger and joined by renowned French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Opening the program is Tchaikovsky's classically elegant Serenade for strings and concluding it is Schumann's Symphony No. 4, an ambitious and forward-looking work that unites all four of its movements-motivically and by instructing that they be played without pause-into a single continuous musical argument. In between, Mr. Thibaudet is featured in Shostakovich's scintillating Piano Concerto No. 1, an intricate and inspired work that belongs among the composer's best. The piece also includes a brilliant solo part for trumpet, to be played by BSO principal trumpet Thomas Rolfs.

Saturday August 2 brings John Williams' Film Night at Tanglewood with the Boston Pops, described as follows on the performance detail page:
John Williams' Film Night has become one of the most eagerly-anticipated evenings of the Tanglewood season. Join Mr. Williams, the Boston Pops, and special guests for a celebration of the music of the silver screen.
The page also has links to info about Maestro Williams and the Pops.

Sunday August 3  The concert will be at 2:30 and is classical-era music. With Juanjo Mena conducting and Augustin Hadelich on the violin, they will play Symphony No. 6, Le Matin, by Haydn; Violin Concerto No. 4 by Mozart; and Beethoven's Symphony No. 2. Go to the performance detail page, which gives this description,
Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena takes the Shed podium on Sunday, August 3, at 2:30 p.m., for a BSO concert devoted entirely to the Classical period and the Austro-German tradition. Young rising German violinist Augustin Hadelich joins the orchestra for Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4 in D, K.218, at the heart of the program. The Mozart is bookended by the music of his principal predecessor and successor, respectively: Haydn's Symphony No. 6, Le Matin, to begin the program, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 2, to close it. All three works capture their composers at the beginning of their careers and showcase their early genius. Mr. Mena was announced as a replacement conductor for Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, who sadly passed away on Wednesday, June 11.
for links to performer bios, as well as program notes and audio previews for the Mozart and Beethoven works.

All three concerts will be broadcast and streamed live by WCRB, Friday and Saturday at 8:30, and Sunday at 2:30, with preliminary material a half hour earlier. Their BSO page contains listings of the remaining programs of the Tanglewood season and links to interviews and previous concerts available on demand.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tanglewood — 2014/07/25-27

This weekend we get some mainstream composers from the late 18th to the early 20th century in roughly chronological order.

Friday July 25  We kick off the proceedings with Manfred Honeck leading the orchestra in music of Beethoven, Mozart, and Mendelssohn. As the BSO performance detail page describes it:
Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck, who last led the BSO this spring at Symphony Hall, makes his Tanglewood debut with two BSO performances Friday, July 25, and Saturday, July 26. The July 25 concert, at 8:30 p.m., features English piano soloist Paul Lewis, who elicited raves for his Symphony Hall performances with the orchestra in October 2013, in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12 in A, K. 414. Maestro Honeck also leads the orchestra in Beethoven's rarely performed overture to his ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, as well as Mendelssohn's dashing, breathless Symphony No. 4, Italian, which the composer called "the jolliest thing I have ever done."
(Some emphasis added.)

This should be very enjoyable. Although they don't mention it, Maestro Honeck is Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony. Check out the links on the detail page for further info (including performer bios by clicking on the thumbnail photos).

Saturday July 26  Maestro Honeck returns on Saturday evening to lead a performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection." See the performance detail page for links to program notes, audio preview, and performer bios. They offer this synopsis:
Manfred Honeck leads the BSO, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, soprano Camilla Tilling, and mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly in Mahler's sprawling and transcendent Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, both one of the great works and the great spectacles of the symphonic repertoire. At approximately 85 minutes in length and calling for an oversized orchestra in addition to the numerous vocal forces, this massive work shakes the rafters and stirs the soul in equal proportions, demonstrating Mahler's ultra-Romantic musical language as well as the intense spirituality ever-present at the core of his work.
Again, worth hearing, in my opinion.

Sunday July 27  The matinee includes music of Rachmaninoff and Verdi and features the debut of conductor Jacques Lacombe. As always, there are links to background info on the performance detail page, which also give this description of the program:
Canadian conductor Jacques Lacombe makes his BSO and Tanglewood debuts on Sunday, July 27, at 2:30 p.m., leading a varied program of Rachmaninoff and Verdi. On the first half of the program, Venezuelan-American pianist Gabriela Montero plays Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, full of passionate emotion and hummable melodies that stick with the listener long after the performance has ended. The operatic second half of the program-featuring soprano Marjorie Owens, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Bishop, tenor Issachah Savage, baritone Stephen Powell, and basses Morris Robinson and Julien Robbins-is devoted to the music of Verdi, including the Overture and Va, pensiero (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) from Nabucco and the Finale of Act II from Aida.
(Some emphasis added.)

Another very enjoyable concert, I think. The Verdi excerpts are all first rate.

WCRB will broadcast and stream all three concerts. Those on Friday and Saturday are scheduled for 8:30 p.m., Boston (and Lenox) Time, and Sunday's is at 2:30 p.m. Each will be preceded by a half-hour warm-up. These usually include recordings of other works by the composers on the concert or performances by the soloists or the conductor. The station's BSO page also gives overviews of the concerts, along with the schedule for the remainder of the Tanglewood broadcasts and links relating both to this weekend and to other BSO matters.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tanglewood — 2014/07/18(belated)-20

I'm sorry to be late with this. The Friday concert has already been completed, of course; but since it will be available for listening on demand, it might be still worthwhile for me to include the information about it.

Friday, July 18  From the BSO's performance detail page, we get the usual program notes, audio previews of some of the works, and performer bios, as well as the following blurb:
Edward Gardner joins the BSO at Tanglewood in his BSO debut for Strauss's musical joke about the German peasant, folk hero and trickster, Till Eulenspiegel. Baritone Thomas Hampson, dubbed "the ambassador of American song," performs Aaron Copland's deceptively plain Old American Songs. Beethoven's Symphony 7 rounds out a program that is in turns, dark, joyful, nostalgic and hopeful.
(Emphasis added)

They also note:
Conductor Christoph von Dohnányi has been forced to cancel his upcoming concerts at Tanglewood because of serious illness in his family. The concert on Friday, July 18 will now be led by British conductor Edward Gardner  in his BSO debut. The concerts on Friday, July 25 and Saturday, July 26 will be conducted by Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck in his Tanglewood debut. Programs and soloists remain unchanged.

Saturday, July 19  The concert, which begins at 8:30 p.m., Boston Time, includes the Brahms Symphony No. 3; Rolf Martinsson's "Bridge," Trumpet Concerto No. 1, with Håkan Hardenberger as soloist; and Capriccio Italien by Tchaikovsky: all under the baton of Andris Nelsons. Instead of describing the concert, the performance detail page gives information about procedures for area residents to obtain tickets for this Berkshire Night concert. It also gives the usual links to background material.

Sunday, July 20  Andris Nelsons returns to the podium for Rapture, by Christopher RouseLalo's Symphonie espagnole for violin and orchestra — with Joshua Bell as soloist — and the ever popular Fifth Symphony of Beethoven to close the program and evoke a standing ovation. Go to the performance detail page for the usual links.

The Sunday Concert begins at 2:30. Both it and the 8:30 Saturday concert will be broadcast and streamed approximately live (a few seconds delay) by WCRB, whose own BSO page includes a link to an interesting-sounding interview with Maestro Nelsons as well as brief descriptions of all three concerts for this weekend, the schedule for this summer's remaining Tanglewood broadcasts, and other links and information. They have a sort of preview show beginning ½ hour before the scheduled concert time. (The BSO, in my experience, never actually starts on time. They always begin at least 5 minutes late, which provides a little grace period for audience members who might have been on time but for some slight delay.)

I'm not familiar with the Martinsson, Rouse, or Lalo pieces, but I'm curious to hear them. I don't care much for Brahms, but I'm sure the Tchaikovsky and the Beethoven will be good. Enjoy.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tanglewood — 2014/07/11-13

Friday, July 11  Music Director Designate Andris Nelsons leads an all-Dvořák concert — "The Noonday Witch," his Violin Concerto, with Anne-Sophie Mutter as soloist, and Symphony No. 8. Go to the orchestra's performance detail page for links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios (click on the thumbnail photos). They summarize the program as follows:
Czech composer Antonin Dvořák was a long-serving orchestral string player, so it is curious that his beautiful, singing violin concerto should be the least well-known of all the instrument's great masterpieces. Flowing, lyrical and fiery, the concerto reminds the German virtuoso Anne-Sophie Mutter of passages in Mozart's The Magic Flutesung by the Queen of the Night due to its technically daunting passages for the violin's highest register. Andris Nelsons, the BSO's music director designate, offers a torrent of melodies in Dvořák's 8th symphony, in turns thrilling, adventurous and achingly lyrical.
The concert begins at 8:30 and can be heard over WCRB via radio or webstream., with a "pre-game show" at 8:00. Go to the station's BSO page for brief descriptions of this weekend's broadcasts and the remainder of the Tanglewood broadcast season, as well as links to interviews, podcasts, etc.

Saturday, July 12  Maestro Nelsons conducts music of Richard Strauss — the final scene from "Der Rosenkavalier," with Sophie Bevan, soprano (Sophie), Angela Denoke, soprano (Marschallin), Isabel Leonard, mezzo-soprano (Octavian), and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra,  RachmaninoffSymphonic Dances, and Ravel — Boléro, the latter two with the BSO back on stage. The program detail page, with usual links, describes it, somewhat irreverently, thus:
Strauss's Rosenkavalier ("The Knight of the Rose") portrays the bitter-sweet love triangle between the worldly-wise, aristocratic Marshallin, her young toy-boy lover, and a young rose, Sophie, in a rollicking comic opera that is, well, Wunderbar! The BSO's Andris Nelsons presents Rachmaninov's lush Symphonic Dances, the composer's final composition, written in New York exile but full of nostalgia for the old Russia. Ravel's  Bolero--pounding, relentless, irresistible-rounds out  a spectacular gala program.
Once more the concert begins at 8:30, with the station's preliminaries at 8:00.

Sunday, July 13  The Boston Pops take the stage under the baton of Keith Lockhart, with Jason Alexander as guest artist. Here's the description from the performance detail page:
Singer, dancer, and master of comedic timing, Jason Alexander is best known for his appearances on television (as George Costanza in Seinfeld) and in film. A Broadway veteran and Tony-Award winner, with the Boston Pops he will perform selections from The Music Man, Pippin, andMerrily We Roll Along, plus a few surprises.
The show begins at 2:30, with WCRB beginning coverage 1/2 hour earlier.