Friday, February 19, 2010

BSO — 2010/02/18: Review — 2010/02/20: Preview

I was at the BSO concert Thursday evening. It was magnificent. They played Beethoven's 6th Symphony, "Pastorale" before the intermission, and the 7th to conclude the evening under the baton of Music Director James Levine. Unfortunately the Globe didn't review it, so here are some of my thoughts.

The 7th Symphony got the standing O at the end of the evening because it has a vigorous finale, and it was well-played indeed. But in my opinion the 6th was even better. A calm (except for the dance and thunderstorm) and limpid presentation of some of Beethoven's most beautiful music that let every detail emerge. The tempi and volume levels were perfect for the situations Beethoven mentions for each movement — no artificial accelerations or increases in volume to try to add interest or the conductor's "signature" to the beauty the composer wrote. The audience was clearly enthralled, because there was none of the usual coughing that accompanies slow and quiet music in Symphony Hall! All such audience noise was held for the pauses between movements.

The winds played flawlessly in the 6th — not even a single false note from the brass. They all deserved bows, but Maestro Levine chose not to single out any players or sections after the 6th. In the 7th, the winds were spectacular once more, including some nifty work in the lowest horn register by fourth horn player Jason Snider. This time the winds got the bows they deserved for the whole evening.

Bravo, Maestro Levine! Bravi, BSO!

Thursday's concert is not being repeated. On Saturday they will do Beethoven's Fourth and Third Symphonies. The concert will be broadcast at the usual time over WCRB. IMO the 4th is overrated, but given how well Levine handled the 6th and 7th, it should be worth listening to.