Saturday, February 22, 2014

BSO — 2014/02/20-22

Manfred Honeck comes from Pittsburgh to conduct the BSO in music of Dvořák (with Anne-Sophie Mutter as soloist) and Beethoven. More specifically, the BSO performance detail page tells us:
The peerless German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter joins the BSO and Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck, music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, for two works by Dvořák: the composer's Violin Concerto, originally conceived for Brahms's friend, the great Joseph Joachim, but never performed by him; and the Romance for violin and orchestra, which began life as the slow movement of the composer's F minor string quartet. Honeck also leads Beethoven's groundbreaking Eroica Symphony, inspired by Napoleon's rise to power.
(Emphasis added.)

You can also find the usual links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios (click on the photos) on that page. There is also a wide-ranging and in-depth interview with Maestro Honeck on the Boston Musical Intelligencer's site. I definitely recommend reading it. (I've taken a bit of extra interest in Manfred Honeck because I have an internet friend in western Pennsylvania who occasionally attends Pittsburgh Symphony concerts, so I was pleased to see this interview — the more so since the BSO does not provide one with the maestro.)

I was at the Thursday performance and especially enjoyed the Beethoven: for me it was the highlight of the evening by far. There wasn't any one element in the performance that struck me as especially unusual or noteworthy, but it all seemed just right. As for the Dvořák, it was okay. Ms. Mutter's playing was spectacular, but the music itself, not so much so. The Romance wasn't very interesting. During intermission I encountered an acquaintance to whom I remarked that the first two movements of the concerto seemed quite unfamiliar, whereas I recognized the third movement instantly. She replied that this was a good insight: the first two movements are quite forgettable.

The Globe gave the performance a generally favorable review. Without the space limitations of the newspaper, the BMInt's review was much more thorough — unlike the BSO performance detail, it does not make the mistake of treating the Beethoven as an afterthought.

As usual, Classical New England will broadcast and webstream it virtually live over WCRB at 8:00 p.m., Boston time, with a rebroadcast/stream at 8:00 p.m. and Monday, March 3. I definitely recommend listening in. The station also gives a link to an interview they conducted with Maestro Honeck on their own BSO page.

(This coming Monday, Feb. 24, since they aren't allowed to retransmit last week's "West Side Story," "In an encore from the 2013 Tanglewood season, Gil Shaham is the soloist in the Violin Concerto by Jean Sibelius, and Christoph von Dohnányi conducts the Boston Symphony in Johannes Brahms's Symphony No. 2."
That concert took place on August 9, and I posted about it then, including a link to the BSO page, which may still be active.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

BSO — 2014/02/14-16

Tonight, tonight won't be just any night./
Tonight they play "West Side Story."

That's right, folks: under the baton of David Newman the orchestra will be accompanying the movie. The performance detail page, with its links to notes and spoken audio, explains further:
Experience a thrilling new presentation of this iconic film and winner of ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The Boston Symphony plays Leonard Bernstein's electrifying score live, while the newly re-mastered film is shown on large screens in high definition with the original vocals and dialogue intact.  This classic romantic tragedy, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, and with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is one of the greatest achievements in the history of movie musicals. It features Robbins' breath-taking choreography and a screenplay by Ernest Lehman based on the masterful book by Arthur Laurents.
(Emphasis added.)

One is entitled to wonder why. Not having heard the audio podcasts, I'm guessing that they thought it would fill the seats for St. Valentine's Day weekend. I truly wish them well, even though I'm not very interested. Of course listeners via radio or internet won't see the screen, but I gather we'll hear the sounds of the movie, including the singing, along with the live orchestra.

Since they did not do the show on Thursday — instead there's a Sunday matinee, so there's still time to go see it if you live around here — I can't offer an opinion as to how good it was. I can't find a review in the Globe, either, although they offered a preview, focusing mainly on Marni Nixon, whose voice was used in the movie in place of Natalie Wood.

As usual, you can hear it live over Classical New England's radio station or webstream, beginning at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, but tonight, tonight will be the only night you can listen on the air. There will not be a rebroadcast on February 24, or any other time. I'm not sure whether it'll be available over the web on demand; I wouldn't count on it, but you can always try. Their BSO page has a link to an interview with the conductor, and the usual information about future broadcasts.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

BSO — 2014/02/06-08

Bernard Haitink is back to conduct a second week of concerts (again with no performance on the following Tuesday). Let's see what the orchestra says about it on their performance detail page.
BSO Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink is joined by revered American pianist Murray Perahia for the powerful and lyrical Piano Concerto of Robert Schumann. Schumann wrote this piece over several years. Schumann's protégé Johannes Brahms waited until his forties to complete a first symphony, but all four of his works in the genre remain central to the orchestral repertoire. In characteristic understatement, Brahms downplayed the intense, minor-mode Fourth. Opening the program is a wind ensemble re-composition, created by the American, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky of the 17th-century Englishman Henry Purcell's funeral music for Queen Mary.
(Emphasis added)
Visit that page for the usual links to various types of background material.

I was in the hall for the Thursday performance, and I found the Stucky arrangement of the Purcell delightful. I'm not so familiar with 17th Century Music that I could have been sure that it was a modern arrangement: it simply sounded like baroque music to me. The favorable reviews in the Boston Globe and in the Boston Musical Intelligencer both picked up on the line in the program note which said that in  the third episode, "Stucky uses sustaining instruments—piano and metallic pitched percussion—as well as added chromaticism and multiple tempos to “smear” the surface of the music, giving it a kind of mysterious glow." I was looking for it and didn't detect the smearing and the glow, but the reviewers found it. I guess that's why they write reviews for publication and I don't; but I can't help wondering if they'd have noticed it if the program note hadn't said it was there. At any rate, I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to listening to this evening's broadcast. Maybe I'll get the smearing and the glow, but even if not, it will be good. The Schumann was pleasant enough as well. As for the Brahms, I will have no comment, because I avoided it by leaving at intermission. I find Brahms's orchestral music unpleasant — too forced-seeming, as if the musicians are straining to push it out — and with too much dissonance. The early works don't share those qualities. Several years ago James Levine led the orchestra in a performance of Brahms' Serenade No. 2, and it was delightful. But I know most people don't find most Brahms so unpleasant, so don't let me dissuade you from listening to the second half of the concert.

As always, Classical New England is your headquarters for the broadcast and webstream over WCRB. The concert is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Boston Time. There are indications that they begin programming for the concert with preliminaries at 7:00, but the past few times I've listened, I haven't heard references to the upcoming concert in the 7-8:00 hour. They have their own BSO page, as I always note, with links to material about this concert and earlier ones and the schedule of upcoming concerts. The rebroadcast/stream will be on Feb. 17th at 8:00 p.m. EST, and it will also be available on demand, as noted in that page.

This is music I think most people will like. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

BSO — 2014/01/30–02/02

This week it's all Ravel with the BSO. On the orchestra's performance detail page, in addition to links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios, we get the following detail about the performance:
BSO Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink leads two consecutive weeks of concerts this season, beginning with an all-Ravel program featuring the dazzling mezzo-soprano Susan Graham as soloist in the atmospheric orchestral song cycle Shéhérazade. The composer's Spanish-tinged, pictorial Alborada del graciosoopens the program, and the work Ravel considered his best, the complete "symphonie choréographique" Daphnis and Chloé, concludes it. Ravel wrote this cornerstone of musical impressionism for the famous Ballets Russes, which gave the premiere in Paris in 1912.
(Underlining added)
I'm not sure why they neglect to mention that the Tanglewood Festival Chorus sings (wordlessly) in the "Daphnis and Chloé," as always, from memory.

Thursday's concert was favorably reviewed in the Boston Musical Intelligencer and had a mixed review (okay, but they've done better) in the Boston Globe. I'm not enough of a musician, musicologist, or aficionado of these pieces to be able to offer an opinion on the niceties of the performances. I can say that I thought the prominent instrumental solos were impressive and that the Ms. Graham's singing had no apparent flaws. Unfortunately for me, though, I just don't like Ravel very much. The opening "Alborada" was boisterous and amusing in light of the inappropriateness of the style to the presumed situation in which it would be performed (as recounted in the program note). So that was enjoyable. "Shéhérazade," although beautifully sung, was nothing really impressive to my personal taste. Worst of all — and again, this is just me — I found "Daphnis and Chloé," in my grandmother's word, "boresome." By the time it was about half over, I was completely ready for it to be done. Sitting, as I was, in an aisle seat in a back row, adjacent to a door, I actually considered slipping out rather than sitting through the tedium to the end. But I was polite and stayed and stayed until it was finally over. If it appears on the program again, I'll know enough to avoid it. But you might like it. As Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said about a book whose author asked him to recommend it, "It will be greatly enjoyed by all who like this sort of thing." So give it a try. Most people like Ravel.

As usual, it will be broadcast and streamed over Classical New England/WCRB beginning at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time (= Eastern Standard), and repeated on February 10 at 8:00 p.m. On February 3, the repeat will be of last week's Wagner/Lutosławski/Shostakovich concert. Check out CNE's BSO page for the season broadcast schedule and links of various sorts.