Originally there were to be three works in addition to the Beethoven, but when Maestro von Dohnȧnyi had to cancel his appearance, they decided to perform the Mahler instead. It is more usual for the orchestra to perform the originally scheduled works under such circumstances. The Globe reviewer points out that the recent tour probably made it more difficult for Maestro Nelsons to prepare and rehearse the other works than if that had been the plan all along.
The Boston Musical Intelligencer gives us a rave review, not only praising the performances themselves, but finding depths of meaning in them. I was in the audience on Thursday — in the second balcony where I could see much of the keyboard in the Beethoven. I was amazed at how Mr. Helmchen's fingers flew over the keyboard, giving a powerful sound, while at times playing so softly that he was barely audible where I sat. Even with Symphony Hall's vaunted acoustics, I suspect that some in the rear of the auditorium must have had to take it on faith that he was playing the notes at those points. It was definitely a gripping performance. As for the Mahler — sometimes when listening to a work of that length I find myself thinking that it has gone on long enough, but this performance held my interest from beginning to end. It was never dull, and while I didn't see the layers of meaning the BMInt reviewer did, I found it all very powerful music, even the slow and quiet parts.
The reviewer in the Globe seems to have experienced Helmchen and Beethoven similarly, but was less pleased with what she heard, apparently preferring a more refined approach to the music. And in the Mahler she heard a masterful performance, but rather than dramatic meanings she saw it as Andris Nelsons finding "his happy place."
In short, I think this was an exceptional concert, well worth hearing. And hear it you can over WCRB on air and on the internet this evening at 8:00 Boston Time (EST). If you have to miss all or part of it this evening, there will be the make-up rebroadcast on Monday, November 27, also at 8:00. The WCRB page also has links to information about their other programs, including a podcast with an interview with Martin Helmchen and an preview of next summer's Tanglewood season.