Saturday, September 29, 2012

BSO — 2012/09/27-29

As the detail page (with links for audio preview and program notes) of the BSO website informs us, this week they're giving us "Porgy and Bess."
Reprising a highlight of the 2011 Tanglewood season, English conductor Bramwell Tovey, the BSO, a distinguished cast of soloists-headlined by Alfred Walker and Laquita Mitchell in the title roles-and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus present concert performances of George Gershwin's great American masterpiece, the blues-and-jazz inflected Porgy and Bess. Described by the composer as an "American folk opera,"Porgy and Bess premiered on Broadway in 1935 and only slowly gained traction in the traditional world of opera. Three quarters of a century later, it has assumed its rightful place among the greatest works of America's music.

The show runs nearly three hours, and garnered a mixed review from the Boston Globe. I was shocked to learn after the fact that the singing of the soloists was amplified. Hitherto, management has assured us that they never amplify the music, so this represents an unsettling precedent. It also explains why the singing was ear-piercingly loud at times. If you listen on the radio or internet, you can adjust the volume, an option I didn't have in Symphony Hall on Thursday evening. I suppose it was worthwhile as part of the experience a cultured person should have, and it's good to know how the highlights I had heard work as parts of the overall drama — and it is effective as drama. I just can't get over my disappointment that they decided to artificially amplify those operatically trained voices in a supposedly acoustically perfect hall.

As always, you can listen to the broadcast or the webstream from Classical New England. But they say that on Sunday, instead of rebroadcasting/streaming it, they will reprise the John Williams 80th Birthday concert from last summer at Tanglewood.

Friday, September 21, 2012

BSO — 2012/09/22 Opening Night

Here we are at the verge of another Symphony Hall Season of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Opening Night is Saturday, September 22, with a program described as follows in the BSO website detail page:
Legendary Israeli-born violinist Itzhak Perlman joins the Boston Symphony Orchestra as both soloist and conductor to begin the 2012-2013 season with an all-Beethoven Opening Night at Symphony. The program starts with the composer's lyrical early Romances No. 1 and 2 for violin and orchestra. Completing the program is the dance infused Symphony No. 7 which the composer himself acknowledged as one of his finest works.
As usual, that page has links for program notes and audio previews.

I'll be attending most of the Thursday evening concerts in subsequent weeks, so I should be able to provide my own "review" as well as a link to the Boston Globe review. I'm even thinking of adding the Boston Herald review.

Again this season, Classical New England will be broadcasting and streaming the concerts live on Saturday evenings. Here's the page for their season overview. Usually the concerts begin at 8:00 p.m., with the "pre-game" show beginning at 7:00. But for Opening Night, it seems that the concert itself begins at 7:00, an hour earlier than usual. And another change from the usual practice is that this concert will not be rebroadcast/streamed on Sunday afternoon. We'll see if it becomes available for on-demand listening.

A big change in the broadcasts this year is that Classical New England has laid off Brian Bell, the long-time producer of the broadcasts. Here's their announcement. In addition to writing announcer Ron Della Chiesa's scripts, Brian conducted knowledgeable interviews with composers, conductors, soloists, and orchestra members and audio previews of works to be performed. It seems that Cathy Fuller will be sharing the announcer's booth with Ron Della Chiesa, which I suppose means that they won't be scripted. Ron is knowledgeable enough and a good enough raconteur that I think that format may work well. I also suppose that, given Ron's age, the station is wise to bring in a co-announcer as a potential successor to Ron. But Brian Bell's pre-concert and intermission features will be badly missed.