Friday, November 25, 2011

BSO — 2011/11/25-29 — Info and Reviews

I went to the BSO today to listen to John Harbison's 4th Symphony. I liked it. He has managed to occupy the middle ground between Beethoven and Babbitt. You can hear it tomorrow at 8:00 p.m Boston time on the webstream from with a "pre-game show" at 7:00, or on Sunday at 1:00 without the "pre-game." After that it will be available on demand for two weeks.

They also had a book signing by Ron Della Chiesa, the radio and web announcer of the concerts, for his book "Radio My Way." I got he book and the autograph and had a nice conversation with him while the orchestra was playing a Suite from "Daphnis and Chloë. (I had left the auditorium so as not to overlay the Harbison with the Ravel.) Among other things, I learned that the phrases "Fenway Park of Music" (referring to Symphony Hall), and "pre-game show" are things which the producer, Brian Bell, came up with. I had always thought the they were original with Ron.

To amplify a bit on my statement that "I liked it. He has managed to occupy the middle ground between Beethoven and Babbitt," the work is jagged and episodic, but it has recognizable short themes which get repeated and modified, so I considered it musical. You might want to check out the program notes included on the BSO website, and I'll link the Boston Globe review when it is published.  Here it is. He's noncommittal.

Here's the description of the whole concert on the orchestra's website. This page also has links to the program notes for the Ravel and the Mahler.
To open his second program this season, former BSO assistant conductor Ludovic Morlot leads Pulitzer Prizewinning American composer John Harbison's exciting Symphony No. 4. Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2 begins with an atmospheric evocation of dawn and ends with the stunning, breathless "danse générale." Mahler's Symphony No. 1 draws on melodies that reflect the folk music and natural environment of the composer's native central Europe.

As I mentioned above, I didn't want to cover the Harbison in my mind with the Ravel, so I left the auditorium after the Harbison symphony. But I went back after intermission and listened to the Mahler. It was a fine performance, IMO, with nothing that struck me as particularly noteworthy or different. I did notice some "faulty intonations," as I think they call it, from the horns, but they were loudly cheered, along with each of the sections when the conductor recognized them at the end. There was a standing ovation, which only lasted for two curtain calls! Adequately played, Mahler's First is definitely worth hearing, so I'd say this performance is worth listening to.

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