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 995allclassical.org/ on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time (with pregame show at 7:00) if you can.
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