Saturday, April 30, 2011

BSO — 2011/04/28-30; Met — 04/30

As I write, the Met is broadcasting "Il Trovatore," by Verdi. Give it a listen if you can.

This is the next to last week of BSO concerts for the season. Quoth the website:

The young Macedonian pianist Simon Trpčeski makes his Boston Symphony Orchestra debut under the baton of frequent guest conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos performing Liszt’s exciting Piano Concerto No. 2, an innovative, sparkling, one-movement work. 2011 marks the bicentennial of Liszt’s birth. Two orchestral showpieces bookend the concerto. The German composer Max Reger (1873-1916) was a transitional figure between the Romantic and the modern eras, but had a strong sense of the Germanic musical tradition. His Variations and Fugue employ a theme from one of Mozart’s most beloved piano sonatas, the A major K.331. Ravel’s familiar but exotic Boléro completes the program.

The Globe liked it, especially Mr. Trpčeski's performance, as did the Boston Musical Intelligencer. I wasn't there on Thursday, so I can't add my own impressions, but it sounds as if it's worth listening to on WCRB.

And, as usual there are resources you can use to preview of follow up, both at the BSO website, and at WCRB.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

BSO — 2011/04/21-23

As usual, here's info from the BSO website.

Featured Artists 
[Masaaki Suzuki] 
Masaaki Suzuki 
[Hana Blazikova] 
Hana Blažíková 
[Ingeborg Danz] 
Ingeborg Danz 
[Christoph Prégardien] 
Christoph Prégardien 
tenor (Evangelist and arias)
Hanno Müller-Brachmann 
bass-baritone (Jesus and arias)
J.S. Bach's great St. John Passion returns to the BSO repertoire after an absence of thirty years. The esteemed Japanese conductor Masaaki Suzuki, is a noted period-performance scholar and director of the Bach Collegium Japan. He brings his historically informed approach to these performances of one of Bach's greatest achievements. Bach revised the work several times after its first performance in 1724, but the "definitive" 1749 version, restores much of the original score. Joining Mr. Suzuki, the BSO, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus is a terrific cast of soloists including the Czech soprano Blažíková in her BSO debut. 

It's an unusual thing for a modern orchestra and chorus to perform baroque pieces nowadays, but Bach's St. John Passion is well worth hearing, and Maestro Suzuki is certainly one who knows the music. So I think it's worth hearing. Sadly, the reviews were mixed. The Globe was not thrilled(but see the comments on the article for a rejoinder from a member of the chorus). The online Boston Musical Intelligencer was, with commenters both agreeing and disagreeing with the rave review. I was at an open rehearsal Wednesday evening, and the tenor was having vocal trouble. But just listening to it for the text and the music, rather than specifics of the performances, made it a worthwhile experience.

As usual, the BSO website offers their "Media Center" for additional information, and the Program Notes, available through that page or directly, give an English translation of the text, as well as a whole lot of other info.

The usual pre-concert features will be on WCRB at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time, and the Performance is scheduled for 8:00.

You might also be interested in watching and hearing the videos WCRB is offering on their site of a performance of Handel's Israel in Egypt. I attended a performance, and liked it pretty well.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

BSO — 2011/04/14-16

Today there's another BSO concert to be streamed over WCRB. The website of the BSO has the following to say.
French conductor Stéphane Denève, music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and chief conductor designate of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, makes his Boston Symphony debut substituting for Sir Colin Davis in these concerts. As originally planned, acclaimed American pianist Jonathan Biss is soloist in Beethoven’s epic Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor, the last and most powerful of Beethoven’s concertos. Replacing the two originally scheduled works by Sibelius are two works from the French repertoire for which Mr. Denève has an inborn affinity—Albert Roussel’s Symphony No. 3 and Maurice Ravel’s La Valse. Commissioned for the BSO’s 50th anniversary, Roussel’s multi-faceted and colorful Symphony No. 3 was premiered by Serge Koussevitzky and the orchestra in October 1930. Completed in 1920, Ravel’s brilliantly atmospheric masterpiece La Valse, which closes the program, was the composer’s unsettling musical farewell to the golden era of Vienna.

The Globe liked it. I particularly enjoyed the Roussel symphony. As I commented elsewhere, I had been looking forward to the Sibelius (5th Symphony and Tapiola) which had originally been scheduled for after intermission. But Sir Colin Davis had to withdraw, and the conductor taking his place is more familiar with Roussel and Ravel. But after hearing the Roussel symphony on Thursday, I'm glad that the change was made and I got a chance to hear it. I also found the pianist in the Beethoven not forceful enough: the piano got swallowed by the orchestra too often. But it's still the "Emperor" Concerto, and worth hearing.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

BSO — 2011/04/06-12

As usual, we start with the BSO website description of this week's program (with my highlighting of composers, works, and conductor/soloists).

Johannes Debus, music director of the Canadian Opera Company, made his BSO debut last summer at Tanglewood, replacing James Levine to lead a concert performance of Mozart’s delightful opera "The Abduction from the Seraglio." Mr. Debus now makes his BSO subscription series debut, stepping in to lead Sir Colin Davis’s originally planned program of music by Mozart and Haydn, with BSO principal William R. Hudgins as soloist in Mozart’s serenely beautiful Clarinet Concerto, one of his last completed works. Opening the program is Mozart’s rarely heard Symphony No. 32, a single-movement, eight-minute piece that’s more like an overture than a symphony, and which has not been played by the BSO in Symphony Hall since 1974. In contrast, Haydn’s Symphony No. 97, premiered in London in 1792 at the height of his international reputation, is a full-fledged four-movement symphony demonstrating the wealth of Haydn’s wit and craft. 

The Globe reviewer liked it, but didn't exactly "rave." I enjoyed the Thursday performance also. But it didn't excite me. I had wanted to jump up and shout, "Bravo!" after the clarinet concerto and the Haydn symphony, but neither was thrillingly enough played to warrant such a reaction. So I sat in my seat and applauded vigorously for the thoroughly enjoyable performances.

As always, you can listen to the webstream on WCRB (this site also has a link for "Concert Previews and Interviews) — concert at 8:00, with "pre-game show" at 7:00. There is also introductory material available at the BSO website. Go to this page, and click the "Launch" button for the Media Center.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

BSO — 2011/04/02

Sorry for not posting for a while. The BSO was on tour two weeks ago, and I was away last week.

Anyway, as I write, the pre-concert show on WCRB has already begun. Here's what the BSO says about this week's program.

Having appeared with the BSO several times at Tanglewood, the veteran American conductor John Nelson makes his subscription series debut joined by Evgeny Kissin as soloist in two contrasting concertos. Chopin wrote both of his piano concertos—the First in E minor and No. 2 in F minor—within a year of each other as vehicles for himself, then barely out of his teens and having barely finished his formal studies. Grieg’s concerto—one of the most popular of all time—is also an early work, exhibiting both a Romantic bent and a hint of the folk-music influence that would inform Grieg’s later music. Also on the program are two contrasting orchestral works by Franz Liszt, the 200th anniversary of whose birth is being marked this season. The Mephisto Waltz—which exists also in a version for solo piano—depicts a village wedding at which Mephistopheles seizes a strolling fiddler’s violin and strikes up a wild, diabolic dance. Orpheus, one of the dozen symphonic poems that typified Liszt’s orchestral output in the 1850s, is a contemplative work inspired by the poet-musician famous from Greek mythology for calming the wild beasts with his singing.

Interestingly, Ron Della Chiesa said at the beginning of the broadcast that they will be playing a recording of one of the performances earlier this week rather than broadcasting tonight's performance live. The Globe's review was lukewarm, but favorable enough to indicate it's worth hearing.