Saturday, January 28, 2012

BSO — 2012/01/26-31 Info and Reviews

This week we have just one piece on the Boston Symphony program, Lobgesang, or "Song of Praise," by Felix Mendelssohn.

Here's a bit from the BSO website, with more available at the link.
Conductor Bramwell Tovey will lead the orchestra January 26-31 in Mendelssohn's Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise), for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, with sopranos Carolyn Sampson and Camilla Tilling, tenor John Tessier, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

Mendelssohn wrote this big work in 1840 for a three-day festival in Leipzig celebrating the 400th anniversary of Gutenberg's movable-type printing method. This will be only the second time the BSO has performed the complete work at Symphony Hall; the fist was under Seiji Ozawa in 1988. The BSO's only performance prior to that took place in Pittsburg, PA, under Arthur Nikisch in May of 1890! 

I really enjoyed the performance on Thursday evening. Mendelssohn's music is very "accessible." Like me, the Boston Globe's reviewer found it well performed by chorus and orchestra. I'd even call it exhilarating.

So I think you're in for a treat if you listen to the broadcast/stream on Classical New England this evening or tomorrow afternoon or on demand over the next two weeks. The link also gives access to an interview with the conductor.

(I suppose at the time Mendelssohn wrote the piece, he thought of the "night" which Gutenberg helped dispel with his invention of movable type as being the pre-Reformation era, but that was then and this is now.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

BSO — 2012/01/19-24 Info and Reviews

This week's scheduled conductor, Ricardo Chailly, bowed out because of health reasons. Giancarlo Guerrero takes over conducting duties for "The Rite of Spring," by Stravinsky, which concludes the concert. But the orchestra threw out the pieces originally scheduled for before the intermission, and chose instead to play four pieces without a conductor — two for the brass section and percussion, one for woodwinds and horns, and one just for strings. The BSO website lists them as follows:
The Boston Symphony Orchestra itself will be showcased on the first half of the BSO program of January 19-24, originally to have been conducted by Riccardo Chailly, when it performs-without a conductor-music for brass, for winds, and for strings: Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man and the "Procession du Vendredi-saint" ("Good Friday Procession") from French composer Henri Tomasi's Fanfares liturgiques for brass and percussion; Richard Strauss's Serenade in E-flat, Op. 7, for winds; and Tchaikovsky's Serenade in C for Strings, Op. 48. Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero will then step in for Riccardo Chailly on the second half of the program to lead Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, which was originally scheduled to conclude these concerts. The works on the first half of the program will be introduced by members of the BSO's brass, wind, and string sections.

Visit this page for links to additional information.

I was there on Thursday, and found it all pretty good. They kept together pretty well without a conductor, I thought, and the pieces before intermission were worth hearing. Of course, we know the Copland and Tchaikovsky. Tomasi was  born in 1901, so he's a contemporary of Copland. Someone near me remarked that his piece for a procession is similar to Respighi's piece in "The Pines of Rome" depicting the march of Roman Legion on the Appian Way. "The Rite of Spring"  is no longer really shocking, and I thought it was done cleanly. The Boston Globe reviewer had some criticism of a couple of details, but was overall favorable.

Listening opportunities on Saturday and Sunday are as usual.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

BSO — 2012/01/12-17 Info and Reviews

Three Warhorses and a World Premiere

This weeks Boston Symphony program begins with the Overture to "Euryanthe", by Carl Maria von Weber, followed by Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, with Leif Ove Andsnes as soloist. After the intermission we have the world premiere performances of John Harbison's Symphony No. 6, which was commissioned by the BSO and is dedicated to former Music Director James Levine, who secured the commission. Soloist in the first movement is Paula Murrihy, mezzo-soprano. The final work on the program is "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks", by Richard Strauss. Conductor is David Zinman.

As usual, the BSO website has additional info, including the program notes for the four pieces and audio previews of the three "warhorses." There are also previews with the conductor, the pianist, and the composer at WCRB/Classical New England.

Broadcasts/webstreams are Saturday at 8:00 and Sunday at 1:00 p.m., with the concert available On Demand for two weeks after that. And there are the usual pre-concert features at 7:00 on Saturday.

I was there for the absolute premiere of the Harbison 6th on Thursday evening and again on Friday afternoon. I liked it better than his 5th symphony, which was played earlier this season. The singing in the first movement seemed a bit more lyrical, and although there were cacophonous moments here and there throughout the symphony, there was more that was not unpleasant, with musical figures or themes being repeated, given changed pitch, and developed. I won't be able to listen to the broadcast tonight, but I hope to hear the rebroadcast tomorrow afternoon and record it.

Here's the Boston Globe reviewer's take on the concert, and here's a feature about the Harbison symphony that was published a week ago.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

BSO — 2012/01/05-07 — (Back to Normal) Info and Reviews

This week the Boston Symphony resumes its weekly concerts in Symphony Hall, and Classical New England resumes broadcasts and webstreams. The BSO website isn't offering the brief synopsis we've been used to, but the page on the website devoted to the concert has links to the program notes for each piece. A page on the Classical New England website includes a link to an interview with the conductor, Marcelo Lehninger, an assistant conductor of the BSO, who had two weeks' notice that he would be conducting in place of Andris Nelsons.

The concert consists of Haydn's Symphony No. 88, a 15-minute trumpet concerto titled "From the Wreckage" by British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage (getting its American premiere at these concerts), and "Also Sprach Zarathustra" by Richard Strauss. The trumpet soloist is Håkan Hardenberger, for whom the work was commissioned, and who gave the world premiere in 2005.

The Boston Globe reviewer wasn't ecstatic but he seems to have liked the new piece, as well as the performance of the Haydn. Reading between the lines, he seems to have thought that the Strauss didn't go perfectly. I enjoyed the Haydn and found the Turnage interesting. Shortly before the end of the first section, the phrase "easy listening" came to mind. Later bits were less so, but it wasn't unpleasant. The Strauss is what it is — overwhelming beginning, then it meanders along, and I was ready for it to be over five or ten minutes before they stopped playing. I thought the conductor did a great job, given his unfamiliarity with both the Turnage and the Strauss.

So give it a listen, at least the first half, tonight at 8:00 with pre-concert features beginning at 7:00 and/or Sunday at 1:00 p.m. (just the concert).

P.S.  WHRB is giving a Bruno Walter Orgy this month. The first part will be on Sunday, January 15, from 3:00 to about 10:30 p.m., and the second part will be the following Sunday, January 22, from 2:30 to about 10:30 p.m.