Thursday, October 25, 2012

BSO — 2012/10/25-27

Vocal pieces are on the program for this week. It's not part of my subscription, and I'll be out on Saturday evening, but I'll add a link to the Boston Globe's review (and any others I find) when I have a chance. Meanwhile, here's what the BSO website says about it.
Charles Dutoit takes the podium for a second week to lead the BSO, an international cast of vocal soloists, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in a compelling operatic double bill pairing Stravinsky's The Nightingale and Ravel's L'Enfant et les sortilèges(The Child and the Magic Spells). Stravinsky's 1914 opera The Nightingale-begun before, but completed after, his famous trio of ballets for Sergei Diaghilev-is based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about a Chinese emperor and two nightingales-one real, the other mechanical. Completed in 1925, Ravel's one-act opera L'Enfant et les sortilèges-the story of a child movingly taught the meaning of love and affection-is infused with whimsy and magic.
The performance detail page  has soloist info by clicking on their pictures. Classical New England broadcasts and streams live, beginning at 7:00 Saturday evening, with the concert scheduled for 8:00. Rebroadcast is a week and a day later, Sunday November 4 at 1:00 p.m., Eastern Time.

Edited Oct. 27 to add:

The Globe review was enthusiastic.

I also edited the line about the BSO performance detail page, because they have added written and audio material, as has Classical New England, since I wrote this and scheduled it for publication while I was away.

Friday, October 19, 2012

BSO — 2012/10/18-23

This week it's an interesting mix. I'm not really familiar with any of them. The BSO website performance details page gives the usual links to notes and audio material, as well as the following description:
Acclaimed conductor Charles Dutoit leads the BSO in a program overflowing with virtuosity. Soloist Nikolai Lugansky makes his BSO debut in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, a massive and daunting work that tests every aspect of a pianist's skill. Not to be outdone, the orchestra's first-chair wind players step to the front of the stage to demonstrate the orchestra's own resident virtuosity in Frank Martin's mid-20th-century Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orchestra. Opening the program is colorfully atmospheric music by Debussy: the rarely heard Symphonic Fragments from his incidental music to Gabriele d'Annunzio's mystery play The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian.
Bringing your cursor over the thumbnail photos identifies the performers, and clicking gets you fuller bios.

The first two pieces, those by Debussy and Martin, are infrequently performed. I think it's the first time I've heard either. Each was pleasant enough in its own way, and I wouldn't avoid either, but the thought occurred to me that they aren't really important, either. At intermission, another audience member remarked that it seemed that Dutoit was "conducting fog" in the Debussy. The music struck me as fairly static most of the time. There were not the slightly jarring harmonies and chord progressions I expect from Debussy. The Martin piece was definitely livelier. As for the Rachmaninoff, it's much better known, but I'm not familiar enough with it to rate the performance against a standard. As I listened, some passages in the piano seemed reminiscent of Chopin,  and at times the music seemed in the Tchaikovsky tradition. Certainly, the playing seemed flawless and energetic. The Globe reviewer liked the concert. So it could be your only opportunity to hear a couple of pleasant pieces and an energetic performance of a standard.

Again as usual, you can get scheduling info for Classical New England's broadcasts/webstreams, and on demand availability on their BSO page, and access the wbstream via the listen live button on their homepage.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

BSO — 2012/10/11-13

This week, the BSO program has two works: Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 4. Their website's performance detail page gives us the following description as well as providing links for program notes and audio previews.
Making his Boston Symphony debut, Vladimir Jurowski, principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, is joined by German violinist Arabella Steinbacher for Mendelssohn's sparkling Violin Concerto. The program concludes with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 4, a dark but powerfully majestic work the composer finished in 1936. He withdrew the work prior to its premiere due to fears of official condemnation, writing instead the universally acclaimed, heroic Fifth the following year. The Fourth waited another quarter-century for its first performance.
This concert is not part of my subscription, so I wasn't there on Thursday evening (or Friday afternoon).   The Boston Globe's reviewer found lots to like in the performance of the Shostakovich and gave mild criticism, in the space he had left, to the Mendelssohn. The review refers to the circumstances of the composition of the symphony and its being withheld from performance. More fully told, the 1930's were the height of Stalin's reign of terror. Musicians and writers were actually killed if Stalin thought that their work was somehow subserve. All art had to support the ideals of the Russian Revolution, and material that was insufficiently expressive of proletarian ideals (by being too formalistic — twelve tone or atonal, for example — or too inaccessible), which amounted to being not to Stalin's taste, was not tolerated. So having had earlier work criticized in Pravda and having seen what had happened to others, Shostakovich was justifiably fearful that presenting the symphony in 1936 could have cost him his life.

As always, you can listen on Classical New England — live this evening or retransmitted on October 21.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

BSO — 2012/10/06-08*

Music inspired by literature is on the first half of this week's program, with a Dvořák symphony to follow the intermission. Here's the description from the BSO's performance detail page, where you also find the links to program notes and audio previews:

Acclaimed for his previous Boston Symphony performances at both Symphony Hall and Carnegie Hall, BSO assistant conductor Marcelo Lehninger leads a program pairing the Romantic with the ruminative. American violinist Joshua Bell is soloist in Bernstein's Serenade inspired by Plato's Symposium, a dialogue on the nature and value of love. Also on the program are two audience favorites: Tchaikovsky's emotionally charged fantasy-overture Romeo and Juliet, and Dvoˇrák's bucolic Symphony No. 8.
I definitely recommend looking at the program note for the Bernstein Serenade (maybe even print it out for reference during the concert) and previewing the piece on audio if you have time.

I thought that the still youngish conductor brought out the detail in the Tchaikovsky, but maybe it was partly because I was listening more closely than I usually do to that piece. Maestro Lehninger is a very demonstrative conductor — not that you'll see it, but perhaps you can imagine him turning his upper body around to "wind up" for dome of the climactic moments, and making sweeping gestures when it's loud, and little finger movements for softer rapid passages. The Bernstein Serenade was interesting. It is fairly typical Bernstein music, I think — not conventionally melodic, but with broadway-like moments and jazzy moments. It represents the participants in Plato's "Symposium" by evoking what he considers the overall mood of their successive speeches. Of course, Joshua Bell played very well. (During intermission I happened to see him posing for pictures and signing autographs outside the stage door to the main corridor, and I got his autograph in my program.) As for the Dvořák 8th Symphony, it made for pleasant, sometimes exciting, listening, with Maestro Lehninger again gesturing very expressively. The Boston Globe's review was generally favorable, but without much detail. I couldn't find review on the Boston Herald or Boston Phoenix websites. I guess you'll just have to trust me that it's worth hearing.

As always, Classical New England broadcasts and streams the 8:00 concert, with pre-concert programming beginning at 7:00. With the departure of Brian Bell, it seems that they no longer have the sort of background material they used to link on their BSO-related page. But it still gives scheduling information. Surprisingly, they now do the Sunday 1:00 p.m. repeats eight days after the original performance. So, for example, if you miss this evening's concert live, you can catch the rebroadcast/stream on October 14.

* On October 9, instead of repeating the program, they will play the Tchaikovsky and Dvořák but put Ervin Schulhoff's Concerto for String Quartet and Wind Orchestra in place of the Bernstein. If you're in the area, you might want to get a ticket. It could be interesting. Notes and audio preview are available on the performance detail page for that evening.