Friday, April 30, 2010

BSO — 2010/04/29-05/01

The final week of concerts for this season has Bernard Haitink on the podium. Before intermission he leads the orchestra in two works by Beethoven, Leonore Overture No.2, and Piano Concerto No. 4 with Emanuel Ax as soloist. After intermission they perform Bela Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra.

I was at the Thursday evening performance, and enjoyed it all, although I'm still not completely comfortable with Bartók.

The Leonore Overture No. 2 has a lot in common with the more familiar No.3, but there is also enough that is different about it to make it interesting in its own right.

Emanuel Ax has an fascinating habit of making several approaches to the keyboard, time permitting, before he actually plays. This concerto starts with a piano solo, and it was startling when he brought his hands to the keyboard, then withdrew them, and repeated the action two more times before he actually began to play. It looked almost as if he had lost his nerve. And at other points when he was preparing to enter while the orchestra was playing, he did the same sort of thing: Hands to keyboard, back, to keyboard, back, to keyboard and resume playing. I don't mean that he ever missed an entry, just that he had an unusual preparation.

The Bartók concerto is special to the BSO, since it was commissioned by our Music Director in 1943, Serge Koussevitsky, through his foundation, to be premiered by the BSO. At the time Bartók was ill and impoverished, and the commission was intended both to help him financially and to lift his spirits, as well as to get a good piece. And the BSO did in fact give the premiere in December 1944.

The reviewer for the Boston Musical Intelligencer liked it. The review in the Boston Globe was mixed.

I recommend listening to the WCRB broadcast or webstream at on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time (with pregame show at 7:00) if you can.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

BSO — 2010/04/24

This week's concert is Richard Strauss' Suite from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 2, with BSO principal horn James Sommerville as soloist, and Mozart's "Haffner" Symphony.

Here's the Globe's review. And here's the Boston Musical Intelligencer's.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

BSO — 2010/04/13-17: P/review

There is already a review of this week's BSO concerts, because it was given for the first time on Tuesday, rather than today (Thursday).

Here's a link to the review, which appeared in an online journal called the Boston Musical Intelligencer. The review gives all the details. Additionally, it is so enthusiastic that I'm especially looking forward to hearing the performance this evening.

Be sure to be at your computer to listen to the stream from WCRB on Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m., "Boston Time" (=EDT).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

BSO — 2010/04/08-10: P/review

Sorry for the late notice. I thought I had already mentioned this one.

First the big news: Maestro Levine had to cancel his appearances at the past two weeks' concerts as well as this week's. The BSO got a young conductor named Jayce Ogren to take the Lieberson premiere. He substituted Sibelius' "Finlandia" and "Valse Triste" for the Debussy "Jeux" which was to have opened the program. It turns out the BSO has not performed these pieces for a long time, and it was good to hear the. He seemed to me to do a competent job all around. Then for Elijah, they were fortunate to get Rafeal Frühbeck de Burgos as conductor. The oratorio is a favorite of his and he conducts it fairly regularly, so it was in good hands. Since it was Holy Week, I didn't get to it, but the reviews were favorable.

This week we have another world premiere: "Double Concerto for Violin, Violoncello, and Orchestra" by John Harbison. The conductor this week is Carlos Kalmar, a Uruguayan born conductor of Austrian parentage (the name looks Hungarian), who is currently the music director of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago. I was at the first performance, on Thursday, and enjoyed the new piece. It was commissioned for the BSO by the Friends of Dresden Music Foundation to honor violinist Roman Totenberg, who will be 100 years old next January 1. Mr. Totenberg was born in Poland but has long made his home and taught in the Boston area. The Friends had in mind a piece for his former student Mira Wang, whom he helped come from China to the US, and her husband, the cellist Jan Vogler, who for a time was principal cellist of the Dresden Staatskapelle. James Levine suggested John Harbison as the composer. Harbison, knowing that the "creators" of the solo parts are husband and wife, decided to write it as a dialogue between the spouses, with "misunderstandings" along the way, but eventual agreement, and then a bit more conversation.

As I said, I enjoyed it, and you can too, since it will get its broadcast premiere this evening at 8:00 (Boston time) on WCRB. It will be first on the program. After intermission that will play Mahler's Symphony No. 7.