Sunday, February 26, 2012

BSO — 2012/02/23-25 (and March 6 in New York) Info and Reviews

Sorry to be late with this, although you still have a chance to hear the rebroadcast/stream or listen "on demand" over Classical New England, as well as to see some background material on the website. What with Ash Wednesday services, attendance at concerts and the Met live in HD, and wakes and funerals, I neglected posting about this week's BSO.

Anyway, there is a single work on the program, the Missa Solemnis by Beethoven. Kurt Masur was to have conducted, but after three rehearsals, he realized that he was not physically capable of cubducting the whole thing in live performance. So he bowed out, and John Oliver, the conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus stepped in.

As usual, here's something from the orchestra's website, with links available there for notes and discussion.
Beethoven's Missa Solemnis is one of the most significant works by one of the greatest of all composers. This monolithic late work stands with the Ninth Symphony, the late string quartets, and the late piano sonatas as the culmination of Beethoven's transformation of music. Beethoven intended the Missa Solemnis celebration of the election of his patron Archduke Rudolph as Archbishop of Olmütz in 1820, but didn't complete it until 1822. 

At the Thursday performance, I wasn't overly impressed. There were some good moments (notably the violin solo during the "Benedictus"), and none that I thought were actually bad, but overall, and especially in retrospect, nothing really grabbed me, and the performance as a whole was not inspiring and exalting, as I had expected and hoped it would be. The Globe reviewer liked it better. I should add that listening to the broadcast during dinner this evening, I found it more impressive. It seemed livelier somehow.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

BSO — 2012/02/16-21 Info and Reviews

This week we have Ravel, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich. In advance, it was completely unappealing to me, but I went because I had a ticket as part of my subscription. I was very pleasantly surprised: I really liked it all! And I credit the conductor for making it as outstanding as it was. Okay, here's the BSO website description (with notes and audio previews available at the link).
French conductor Stéphane Denève, who made his BSO debut in April 2011, shares this program with BSO assistant conductor Marcelo Lehninger. Stéphane Denève will conduct the February 16-18 performances, while Marcelo Lehninger will conduct the February 21st performance. They will be joined by a BSO audience favorite, the American pianist Peter Serkin, who performs Stravinsky's angular, Baroque- and jazz-influenced Concerto for Piano and Winds. Ravel's Mother Goose Suite makes musical magic from the old folk tales. The concert closes with the powerful Fifth Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich, which elevated the composer from brilliant wunderkind to the position of mature master.

What struck me most was the way Maestro Denève controlled the dynamics. The "Mother Goose" never seemed to rise above a mf, which gave it the proper fairy tale feeling. We had heard it just a few years ago, and I hadn't been looking forward to another performance, but this one was so much more attractive than the earlier that I'm glad I heard it.  Stravinsky had, as usual, written a lot of "wrong notes" into the concerto to keep it from being pretty, but Mr. Serkin played vigorously and Denève led the orchestra capably. Finally the Shostakovich. From previous encounters, I expected loud and louder, with thumping rhythms. They were on display, but there were also soft, lyrical sections which I hadn't recalled. Again, a piece I hadn't expected to enjoy which turned out to be worth hearing. I credit Maestro Denève for giving me a truly memorable evening when I had expected nothing special. The Globe's reviewer was less enthusiastic.

There are the usual opportunities to hear the program this evening, Sunday afternoon, and on demand from Classical New England.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

BSO — 2012/02/8-11 Info and Reviews

This week we have a couple of seconds, as the website tells us.
Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden, music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, makes his BSO debut with the beloved American pianist Emanuel Ax in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2. This work shows Beethoven putting his own personal stamp on the style he learned from the music of Haydn and Mozart. Van Zweden also conducts Rachmaninoff's gorgeous, highly individual, 20th-century-romantic Symphony No. 2.

There was nothing really wrong with the Thursday performance, IMO, except that Emanuel Ax played the slow movement of the Beethoven a bit too loud for my personal taste. But the whole thing never really excited me. Perhaps the Beethoven concerto deserves its comparative neglect among the five he wrote for piano. And the Rachmaninoff was easy enough to take, but it never goes anywhere. The Boston Globe reviewer liked the performances more than I did.

You can decide for yourself this evening, Sunday afternoon, or for two weeks "on demand" at Classical New England, which, in addition to the usual broadcasts/webstreams, offers background links, as does the BSO website.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

BSO — 2012/02/2-4

Sorry, I'm running late and have no time to add my own thoughts, but here's the info from the BSO website.

Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit leads this colorful Francophile program that begins with Strauss's charming quasi-ersatz 17th-century music to accompany a new version of Molière's play Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Joining Dutoit and the orchestra is French cellist Gautier Capuçon in his BSO debut, performing Henri Dutilleux's Tout un monde lointain…. The great French composer Dutilleux (b.1916), completed this shimmering concerto-like work in 1970 for the great Mstislav Rostropovich. Closing the program is Debussy's symphony-like La Mer, three musical pictures of the sea.

The Thursday concert wasn't part of my subscriptions, so I haven't heard it yet. I assume it's available for listening over Classical New England as usual. (See links from past weeks.)