Saturday, October 12, 2013

BSO — 2013/10/10-12

This week's concerts are an interesting mixture of the traditional and the modern. One can read something of an "ocean" theme into the three works preceding the intermission. I'm not sure how useful that is, though. Anyway, here's how the BSO itself describes the program:
English composer-conductor-pianist Thomas Adès returns to the BSO podium with more music of his own. He composed his symphonic poem Polaris in 2010; subtitled "Voyage for Orchestra," it calls for a spatial arrangement of the brass around the auditorium. The program begins with another "voyage" piece, Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, which describes the composer's reaction to the Scottish seascape he visited on a tour of the British Isles. Charles Ives's Orchestral Set No. 2 is a series of smaller tone poems on subjects from New England and New York, featuring his inimitable use of quotation and collage of popular tunes. The Thursday and Saturday concerts also include César Franck's powerful Symphony in D minor-his most enduring orchestral work. (Emphasis supplied.)
The performance detail page, from which I copied the above, also has the usual links to performer info, program notes and audio previews. They don't mention there that the third section of the Ives piece also has an ocean connection: it is about the reaction of commuters in a train station to news of the sinking of the Lusitania.

I was at the concert on Thursday evening, and I really enjoyed it, especially the Ives and Adès. The Ives was so good (especially the brass section blaring "In the Sweet Bye and Bye") that I shouted "Bravo" as the applause was just starting. I like to think it encouraged more vigorous and sustained applause, leading to a second return to the stage for Maestro Adès — we'll see if he gets called back more than once this evening. In any event, I'm amazed that this particular piece has never been performed by the BSO before this week. I hope they'll do it again while I'm still able to get to Symphony Hall and enjoy it. The Globe reviewer also liked the concert.

It has occurred to me that my ability to enjoy the music of Ives (and other 20th and 21st century composers) owes a lot to reading program notes in advance to get an idea of what a composition is all about, how it works. So I definitely recommend following the links on the performance detail page when there's an unfamiliar piece.

You can hear it for yourself over the radio or the web on Classical New England. Their page devoted to the BSO includes, among others potentially interesting things, a link to an interview with the composer/conductor, in which he talks about all the pieces on the program. I haven't heard it yet, but I hope I'll have a chance to before tonight's broadcast.

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