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.

Friday, November 18, 2011

BSO — 2011/11/17-22 — Info and Reviews

From the BSO website:
French conductor Ludovic Morlot leads two colorful programs this season. His first features BSO principal flutist Elizabeth Rowe reprising her 2010 American premiere performances of Elliott Carter's Flute Concerto, a work co-commissioned by the BSO. Another esteemed soloist, the American pianist Richard Goode, plays Mozart's late Piano Concerto No. 25. Berlioz's rollicking Roman Carnival Overture is based on music from the composer's opera Benvenuto Cellini. Bartók's Miraculous Mandarin Suite, a truncated version of the full ballet score, is an astonishing feat of musical storytelling and brilliant orchestration.
The page also has links to information about the music — program notes and audio.

I enjoyed the first half — Berlioz and Mozart — more than the second, but there were some pleasant surprises after intermission. The Carter piece seemed to have some fragments of themes (repeated rising sequences of notes) although there was too much percussion and not enough music from the rest of the orchestra — or else the percussion distracted from anything else. The Bartók was interesting, with its woodwind solos and its powerful tutti. The Globe reviewer liked it even more than I did.

As usual you can listen on "Classical New England" on Saturday evening ("pre-game show" at 7:00, concert at 8:00) with rebroadcast at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, and on demand thereafter. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

BSO — 2011/11/10-12 — Info and Reviews

I've already heard this week's program, which is being played again this evening and broadcast/streamed live and retransmitted tomorrow afternoon. Worth hearing, IMO. But first, here's what they have to say about it themselves. (BTW, the BSO website will be offline from this evening until about 4:00 Monday afternoon, as they revamp it.)
Weber, Barber and Tchaikovsky

[Garrick Ohlsson]
Boston Symphony Orchestra 
November 12, 2011 8:00 PM
Symphony Hall
Boston, Massachusetts

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Featured Artists 
[Myung-Whun Chung]] 
Myung-Whun Chung 
[Garrick Ohlsoon] 
Garrick Ohlsson
Program Notes  Audio 
WEBEROverture to Der Freischützview pdf
BARBERPiano Concertoview pdf
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6, Pathétiqueview pdf
About the Music

Korean-born conductor Myung-Whun Chung, music director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and principal conductor of the Seoul Philharmonic, returns to the BSO podium for the first time since 1996. He is joined by the estimable American pianist Garrick Ohlsson for Samuel Barber’s robust Piano Concerto. The overture to the proto-Romantic German composer Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Der Freischütz opens the program with dramatic power. Tchaikovsky’s masterful Symphony No. 6 is full of intensely beautiful music, ending with a slow, deeply dramatic, and emotionally poignant finale.
 The Globe review may not quite be "scathing," but the reviewer was definitely dissatisfied.
As for me, in the first place I was very pleased to have the Weber piece played at all, so I gave a hearty "Bravo" at the end. The piano concerto was okay. But overall, the pieces I'm familiar with weren't as gripping as other performances I've heard, whether live or on record. They played the notes, and the conductor got some almost inaudible pianissimos from the orchestra, which is all to the good, but there wasn't quite enough menace or joyful surge in the "Freischütz" overture; and in the Tchaikovsky, the march wasn't stirring, and the finale somehow petered out rather than dying away.

But I'll still listen on the radio. I want to hear the Weber about as often as I can, and I'd like another shot at the Barber. Perhaps tonight's performance will be a notch or two above Thursday's. You can all listen at

Saturday, November 5, 2011

BSO — 2011/11/03-05 — Reviews

… As for the Haydn and Wagner program, I have a ticket for Thursday and expect to be there. It should be good.

It was very good. The two Haydn symphonies were elegantly played, and it was interesting to hear the development from No. 1 represented by No. 100. But to me at least, it sounded like the same composer, composing on a broader scale. Would I have thought so if I hadn't known already? And the Wagner was powerful. Unfortunately I made the mistake of reading the words in my program booklet while the chorus and James Morris were singing. I wish I had just basked in the glorious music and saved the reading for when I'd listen to the rebroadcast of Saturday's performance.

I strongly recommend listening in to the webstream Saturday evening, Boston time and the repeat Sunday afternoon. Click on Listen to Live Stream at 8:00 p.m. Saturday and 1:00 p.m. Sunday (Eastern Time). After that you can listen to it "on demand."

BTW, the Boston Globe's reviewer was less than thrilled — html — but he's paid to find fault. The audience was very enthusiastic.