Saturday, January 25, 2014

BSO — 2014/01/23-25

This week's concert presents works by Wagner, Lutosławski, and Shostakovich. Here's what the BSO's performance detail page says about it.
For his first full BSO subscription concerts, Latvian BSO Assistant Conductor Andris Poga is joined by eminent American pianist Garrick Ohlsson for the great Polish composer Witold Lutosłaswki's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, a rhapsodic work from 1988. Its only previous performances by the BSO were led by the composer himself at Symphony Hall in October 1990. Opening the program is Wagner's boisterous overture to his early opera Rienzi, composed partly in Poga's hometown of Riga, Latvia, and premiered in 1842 in Dresden. Shostakovich's utterly characteristic final symphony, No. 15, closes the program. The Russian composer wrote this big piece in 1971.
Emphasis added.

See that page also for the usual links to background material.

I was at the Friday matinee and really enjoyed it. In the first place, the Rienzi overture is a stirring piece of music which I am always happy to hear. The BSO at one time frequently began its concerts with a "curtain raiser," often an opera overture or concert overture. Recently these brief starters for the concert have become less common, but I think they are a good way to begin. The Lutosławski concerto was performed in substitution for the originally programmed world premiere of the piano concerto by Justin Dello Joio, which the BSO  had commissioned. Apparently it wasn't completed in time to be rehearsed and presented at these concerts. The Lutosławski was not unpleasant to listen to, although it seemed kind of disjointed. After intermission, the Shostakovich symphony was quite enjoyable (with quotes from the William Tell Overture in the first movement, and the "fate" motive from Wagner's Ring Cycle in the fourth, and a wonderful conclusion featuring unusual percussion). There were numerous solos or duets from various instruments, and the composer did a good job of quieting the orchestral accompaniment so that they could be clearly heard. All seemed very ably performed. The Globe's review was largely positive.

As usual, you can listen in to the Saturday evening performance (8:00 p.m., Boston Time) on Classical New England. It will be broadcast and streamed again on February 3, again at 8:00 p.m. Also as usual, CNE's page devoted to the BSO has a link to an interview with the conductor, a schedule of the remaining BSO concerts this season (including a reminder that last week's Mozart/Bruckner concert will be rebroadcast/streamed on January 27), and various other links.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

BSO — 2014/01/16-18

It's Mozart and Bruckner this week. More from the BSO performance detail page, where you also get the links to performer bio (click on the photo) and links to audio previews and program notes:
German conductor-pianist Christoph Eschenbach returns as both soloist and conductor for Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12, a work of chamber-musical understatement and surpassing elegance that Mozart wrote for his own Vienna performances in late 1782. On the other end of the symphonic scale is Bruckner's magisterial Symphony No. 9, a work left incomplete (in just three movements) at the composer's death in 1896. This cathedral-like symphony shows the continuing influence of Wagner in its harmonic language and scope, with the particular Austrian lyricism and gift for counterpoint for which Bruckner was known.
(Emphasis added)

I was there for the Thursday performance and was figuratively blown away by the Mozart. It may be partly the heightened attention in the hall, but it was as if there were parts of the concerto I'd never heard before. I think it's at least in part because of the performance itself. I tried to get a standing ovation going for Eschenbach, but everybody else waited for the Bruckner.  The Globe reviewer also found it remarkable. He and I were also pleased with the Bruckner. It was very satisfying, although I'll confess that maybe I hadn't got enough sleep the night before or taken a long enough nap that afternoon, because toward the end I became somewhat dozey.

You can hear for yourself with the concert broadcast/webstream over Classical New England beginning at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, with the encore on January 27, also at 8:00 As with the other concerts, it will also be available on line for on demand listening. There's an interview with the maestro as well as a performance by him and oboist Keisuke Wakao of the BSO linked on CNE's BSO page.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

BSO — 2014/01/09-11

This week Robert Spano leads a few members of the Boston Symphony and several other ensembles in Alejandro Golijov's Pasión según San Marcos. Go to the BSO performance detail page for links to background material and an interview with the composer. They describe it as follows:
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra music director Robert Spano, whose ties to the BSO go back two decades, returns to lead a work given its United States premiere by the BSO under his direction in 2001-Osvaldo Golijov's La Pasión según San Marcos("The Passion According to St. Mark"). The Jewish, Latin American-raised Golijov was one of four composers from different religious and musical traditions asked to compose a Passion setting to mark the 250th anniversary of Bach's death and the end of the second millennium. Golijov's vibrant, immediate, pan-Latin American approach draws on multiple musical and Christian traditions in presenting this universal narrative. The BSO is joined by a cast of stylistically diverse performers central to the original creation of this remarkable piece.
I was there for the Thursday performance. I found that the loud percussion and Latin rhythms were at times a distraction from the actual meaning of the text. Others who are more accustomed to that style of music may find it easier to relate to. But there were definite moments of beauty as well, especially a couple of soprano arias: one as Jesus at the Last Supper and the other as Peter weeping over his betrayal of Jesus. Much is made of the fact that the composer is Jewish, but I saw nothing in the text or the music to give the work the character of "a Jew looks at the Passion according to Mark," except the final piece, which is a setting of an Aramaic translation of the mourner's Kaddish — which is perfectly appropriate at that point, and could even have been thought of by a Christian composer.

Anyway, it seems a straightforward, if spectacular,  presentation, in Latin American musical forms, of the St. Mark Passion. The Globe review was more factual than opinionated — certainly finding no real fault. IMO it's worth hearing. It would be very worthwhile to listen to the podcast linked on the BSO performance detail page and to read the program notes in advance. I haven't been able to locate the full text online, but if you can find it, that would also be good to have.

As usual, the performance can be heard over Classical New England, beginning at 8:00 p.m., with preliminary show at 7:00, a rebroadcast/stream on January 20 at 8:00, Boston time, and on demand availability thereafter. Check out their BSO page for a link to another interview with the composer.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Classical New England — 2014/01/04

For the last Saturday before the Boston Symphony resume their concerts, Classical New England has decided to repeat a concert from last summer's Tanglewood season, specifically, August 17, 2013. As they put it:
In an encore from the 2013 Tanglewood season, soprano Camilla Tilling joins the BSO for the Symphony No. 4 by Gustav Mahler, and Isabelle Faust is the soloist in Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5, with conductor Bernard Haitink.
(Emphasis added)

Their BSO page, in addition to the above, has their schedule for the rest of the BSO's season, including rebroadcasts, and other links. The BSO's own performance detail page has links to program notes.