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.

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