Saturday, March 29, 2014

BSO — 2014/03/27-29

This week Sir Andrew Davis conducts the BSO in Symphony No. 6 by Vaughan Williams, Piano Concerto No. 2 by Prokofiev — with Yuja Wang as soloist — and Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio espagnol to conclude the program. Go to the orchestra's performance detail page for the usual links to background info. There they also give this description of the program:
English conductor Sir Andrew Davis returns to the BSO podium with music by his great 20th-century compatriot Ralph Vaughan Williams-the dark and powerful Symphony No. 6, composed at the end of World War II. Sir Andrew and the BSO are then joined by the exciting, Beijing-born pianist Yuja Wang for Prokofiev's youthful Piano Concerto No. 2. Closing the concert is the scintillatingly orchestrated, romantic Capriccio espagnol by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
I can't offer my own comments on the performance, since it wasn't part of my subscription, and I chose to hear Trio Cleonice at the Harvard Musical Association that evening. The Globe's reviewer was generally positive, especially about the Vaughan Williams, while at the Boston Musical Intelligencer, the reviewer raved about the Prokofiev and found the Vaughan Williams less successful, particularly in the last two movements. I guess we'll need to listen and decide for ourselves about both works.

For new readers, if any, I'll note that WCRB/Classical New England broadcasts and streams the Saturday concerts live at 8:00 p.m., Eastern (Daylight) Time, and reprises them on the Monday evening nine days later, subsequently making them available for on demand listening over the web. They also provide a schedule of remaining BSO broadcasts/streams and links to background material on their own BSO page. (On Monday, March 31, the rebroadcast/stream will be of the final all-Beethoven concert, which I reported on a week ago.)

Friday, March 21, 2014

BSO — 2014/03/20-22 — Updated

(Updated to include link to the BMInt review. See second paragraph italics.)

Now we come to the wrap-up of the Beethoven mini-festival at the BSO, as they present his Leonore Overture No. 1, the Triple Concerto, and Piano Concerto No. 5, "Emperor." Christoph von Dohnányi conducts; Yefim Bronfman is the piano soloist, and Guy Braunstein and Alisa Weilerstein sit in on violin and cello, respectively, in the Triple Concerto. Go to the performance detail page for links to audio previews, an interview, program notes, and performer bios.

The Globe reviewer liked it. Boston Musical Intelligencer provided a thorough description. The reviewer was quite pleased.

Overall, I enjoyed the performance on Thursday. The overture was quite different from the other two, but very satisfying. The Triple Concerto is one I've thought highly of since I first heard it decades ago. Somehow, this performance was mildly disappointing. For one thing, the cellist's tone seemed harsh and forced. For another there were points where the orchestra and string soloists weren't playing as softly as Mr. Bronfman and made it difficult, if not impossible at points, to hear the piano. When I was a college freshman, my roommate had a record of the "Emperor" concerto with Van Cliburn. He'd play it every Sunday morning, but his record player would loop back to a point about one inch in from the edge after the first side had been played, so for hours I'd hear the last 3/4 of the first movement over and over — it was wonderful. Eventually, he'd turn the record over and I'd hear the second and third movements. Ever since, the piece has been one of my great favorites. I was not disappointed with the performance on Thursday. Van Cliburn's playing may have had a bit more fluidity, but I have no complaints with Bronfman. Again, the other players would have done well to adjust their dynamics to match his in a couple of the softer passages. Overall, though, I thought the performance deserved the standing ovation it got. In fact I'd have liked it if there had been another curtain call or two.

Be sure to listen over WCRB Classical New England. If you can't do so for the live broadcast/webstream on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time, the rebroadcast will be on Monday, March 31, also at 8:00. (On the 24th, it'll be the repeat of the program from March 15.) At some point it will also become available for on demand listening over the web. See the station's BSO page for interviews with Mr. Bronfman as well as access to the on demand concerts, among other information and links.

IMO this one is not to be missed.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

BSO — 2014/03/15-18, Reviews; H&H — 2014/03/14-16

H&H — 2014/03/14-16. On Sunday afternoon, I trekked in to Boston to hear the Handel and Haydn Society's "Bach and Byrd" concert in Jordan Hall. The Boston Musical Intelligencer gives a very thorough description and review, and the Globe gives another favorable review. I thought it was very good from beginning to end, with the conclusion of "Singet dem Herrn" raising the mood to sheer joy — a great feeling to head home on. The program note told the story that Mozart attended a performance of "Singet dem Herrn" in Leipzig, and a few bars into the rousing first sections he sat up and said, "What is this?" After it was finished he said, "Now this is something one can learn from."

BSO — 2014/03/15-18, Reviews. I heard the second of the BSO's three Beethoven programs on Tuesday, March 18. The Saturday performance had been reviewed favorably in the Globe and even more favorably in the Boston Musical Intelligencer. I can't add much to those reviews, but it was a very enjoyable evening at Symphony Hall. Hearing the Leonore Overture No.2 so soon after the No. 3 made it easier to notice how different it is from the later version, even while it uses much of the same material. There were points in the piano concerto fast movements where I was reminded of the 4th Symphony (which is not a compliment to the composer). The music seemed overly gruff and insufficiently melodic. But the slow movements made them worthwhile, and Bronfman played everything well. He is not given to excessive movement: no swaying, bobbing of his head, or raising of hands high off the keyboard to show the audience he's just finished an important bit. He just makes music as it's supposed to sound. As with the earlier program, the musical forces were well balanced, so that no section drowned out the others.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

BSO — 2014/03/13-14; 15-18

There are two separate concert programs to cover in this post. The BSO is performing all five of Beethoven's piano concertos and all three of his "Leonore" overtures, plus the triple concerto in two weeks. Here's their overall description:

Over the course of three programs, the orchestra presents all five Beethoven piano concertos with Yefim Bronfman as soloist, along with the composer's Triple Concerto and all three Leonore overtures under the direction of Christoph von Dohnányi.
These concerts trace the evolution of Beethoven as a pianist-composer over 15 years, from the early period influenced by Mozart and Haydn to the middle, so-called "heroic" period, culminating in the Emperor Concerto in 1809. For the final program of the festival Thursday, March 20-Saturday, March 22, Mr. Bronfman will be joined by violinist  Guy Braunstein (BSO debut) and cellist  Alisa Weilerstein in Beethoven's Triple Concerto.
Program 1
Leonore Overture No. 3
Piano Concerto No. 1
Piano Concerto No. 2
TICKETS: MAR 13 8PMTICKETS: MAR 14 8PM(March 14 is an UnderScore Friday Evening)
Program 2
Leonore Overture No. 2
Piano Concerto No. 3
Piano Concerto No. 4
Program 3
Leonore Overture No. 1
Triple Concerto
Piano Concerto No. 5, EmperorTICKETS: MAR 20 8PMTICKETS: MAR 21 1:30PMTICKETS: MAR 22 8PM

As indicated above, March 13 and 14 heard the first of the programs: Leonore Overture No. 3 and Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, with Yefim Bronfman as soloist and Christoph von Dohnányi at the podium. I was at the Thursday performance. The performance detail page for that program doesn't tell us any more about the concert, but it does have the usual links to program notes, audio preview material, and performer bios (click on their pictures).

My reaction was that it was a well played performance. It didn't seem to me that the performers did anything especially unusual with the music. (I've heard other pianists seem to "swing" a couple of phrases, and Mr. Bronfman didn't.) But they played it straightforwardly, with only one or two seemingly missed notes in the piano. The sound was transparent, meaning that it seemed to me that no instruments seemed to drown others out. This may be partly because of the small number of orchestra members needed in the concertos, and no doubt partly the doing of the conductor. The clarinet solo in the first concerto was particularly impressive, and it was good that the horns played softly when appropriate (often they have seemed to overpower the rest of the winds). There's an enthusiastic review in the Boston Musical Intelligencer. In the (shorter) Boston Globe review, there is less opinion, with a heavier proportion of factual description, but the opinions expressed are favorable.

Because this program isn't being given on a Saturday, it won't be broadcast just now. It has been recorded for later broadcast (date so far unannounced). I'll try to alert you when it's coming up. I think it's definitely worth hearing.

This week's broadcast and webstream is the program scheduled for today and next Tuesday, the Leonore Overture No. 2 and Piano Concertos Nos. 3 and 4. Again, check the performance detail page for links to notes, bios, and audio previews.

As usual, the Saturday concert will be broadcast and streamed virtually live over WCRB, Classical New England, which also has the schedule for the rest of the season and various links on its BSO page. I'm sure this concert will be worth hearing live this evening at 8:00 p.m., in the rebroadcast/stream on March 24 at 8:00 p.m., or on demand when it becomes available. I'll attend on Tuesday, and give my impression and links to reviews some time after that.

This Monday, March 17, the rebroadcast/stream will be of the March 6 "Salome."

Saturday, March 8, 2014

BSO — 2014/03/06 (Broadcast of 3/8)

This evening, at the usual time, and again on March 17, WCRB/Classical New England will broadcast/stream a recording of the March 6 Symphony Hall concert performance of Richard Strauss's Salome under the baton of Music Director designate Andris Nelsons. The BSO's performance detail page has this to say about it:
BSO Music Director Designate Andris Nelsons leads a stellar cast in this special, one-night-only concert performance of Salome, Richard Strauss's 1905 leap into modernism. The libretto is a nearly exact German translation of Oscar Wilde's lurid amplification of the well-known Biblical story of Herodias' young daughter Salome, who dances for King Herod and in return demands the head of John the Baptist. The opera's highly innovative music matches the psychological ambiguity and intensity of the plot.
You can also go there for the usual links to performer bios, program notes, and audio material.

I wasn't there on Thursday (having exchanged my ticket for one to the all-Beethoven concert on Tuesday, March 18), so I can't give you my impression. The Globe's reviewer was very pleased with it. Without the space restrictions of a print newspaper, the Boston Musical Intelligencer's reviewer gives more detail about the performance, and an interesting vignette about the cast and some grad students at the end of the review. He was also very pleased with the performance.

When "Tosca" was new, a critic (G.B. Shaw?) called it "a tawdry little shocker." I tend to feel the same way about "Salome," so I'm not sure I'll listen in. But if you're at all interested in hearing the favorably reviewed performance, tune in to Classical New England or pull them up online at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. Their BSO page has links for material about this and other BSO concerts.

As I mentioned last week, their Monday, March 10, repeat will be of an all-Beethoven concert given at Tanglewood last summer. They haven't yet announced when they will air tonight's Symphony Hall all-Mozart program, but they are recording it so we should get to hear it sometime.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

BSO — 2014/03 Hiatus/Rebroadcasts

The Boston Symphony Orchestra is not performing in Symphony Hall this week, and in the three following weeks they are presenting five different programs. This means that there will be a fair amount of juggling by WCRB/Classical New England. They'll have to do a rebroadcast tonight, and they'll do a mix of live and rebroadcasts for the next five concerts. You can read all about it on their BSO page. I'll try to summarize it here:

March 1  The concert of January 31-February 5, 2013: Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky (BSO performance detail page no longer available)

March 3 The concert of February 22, 2014 (the usual rebroadcast time): Dvořák and Beethoven

March 8 The concert of two days earlier, March 6, 2014: Strauss

March 10 The Tanglewood Concert of August 11, 2013: Beethoven (BSO performance detail page no longer available)

March 15 Live Beethoven (with usual rebroadcast March 24)

March 17 The concert of March 6 (= broadcast of March 8) — usual time

March 22 Live Beethoven (with usual rebroadcast March 31)

This means one of the next five Symphony Hall concerts of the BSO will be recorded and broadcast on the 8th, and those of the 15th and 22nd will be live as usual; but the concerts of March 8 (Mozart) and March 13-14 (Beethoven) will be recorded for broadcast sometime later (perhaps between Symphony Hall and Tanglewood seasons).

As usual, the broadcasts/webstreams all begin at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. Daylight Saving Time (Summer Time) begins here on March 9.