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.