Sunday, April 27, 2014

BSO — 2014/04/25-26 — A Review

The Boston Musical Intelligencer has published this extensive review of the Friday concert, which included the Glinka and Berlioz which were part of the Saturday broadcast/webstream. So far, nothing more from the Globe.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

BSO — 2014/04/25-26

It's last night at Symphony. Strangely, the program yesterday and today is not all the same as what they played on Tuesday and Thursday. Maybe it has to do with the upcoming tour — wanting to prepare some pieces for it. Anyway this evening, Charles Dutoit leads the orchestra in the Overture to Russlan and Ludmila by Glinka, followed by Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with Behzod Abduraimov as soloist. After the intermission, the orchestra will play the Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz. The BSO performance detail page gives the usual links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios (click on the pics). It describes this concert as follows:
Post-Concert Reception!
Join us in Higginson Hall for a free post-concert reception immediately following the performance for snacks and beverages.
To close the BSO's 2013-14 subscription season, Charles Dutoit leads another program showcasing the orchestra's stylistically wide-ranging virtuosity. These concerts open with the breathless overture to Glinka's 1842 opera Ruslan and Ludmila, followed by Rachmaninoff's ever-popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, again featuring the young Uzbek-born pianist Behzod Abduraimov. The program closes with a work central to the BSO's repertoire, Berlioz's innovative Symphonie fantastique. Berlioz's orchestral depiction of a disturbed lover dreaming of his inamorata is a seminal work of musical Romanticism.
On Thursday, I was there for a program which had the Rachmaninoff, but began with Moussorgsky's Night on Bare Mountain and ended with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. The Boston Globe's review of that program has more background than actual review, but does have a favorable impression of the soloist in the Paganini and seems content with the rest. As is often the case, the Boston Musical Intelligencer went into greater detail. The reviewer articulated my vague feelings, especially about the Moussorgsky seeming somehow tame.

As of this writing, neither the Globe nor the Intelligencer has published a review of the Glinka and the Berlioz, so you can listen to WCRB, beginning at 8:00 this evening, without having your expectations for those pieces colored by a review, but looking forward to a treat with the Paganini. If I notice reviews of this program, I'll post links either here or in a fresh post. WCRB's BSO page has a link to an interview with the young Uzbek pianist Bezhod Abduraimov. As usual, the rebraodcast of this concert will take place in nine days, on Monday, May 5.

This coming Monday will provide a rebroadcast/stream of the concert of a week ago. After a rebroadcast of last year's season finale, they'll give us the concerts of March 8 (on May 10 and 19) and March 14 (on May 17 and 26). Meanwhile, the Boston Pops will have been performing at Symphony Hall, and Saturdays and Mondays beginning after these final BSO broadcasts will give us recordings of some of those concerts until the Tanglewood season begins on July 5.

Happy listening.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

BSO — 2014/04/17-19

"The days dwindle down to a precious few." Next week is the final week of this symphony season. But first, we have this week's program. I wasn't here on Thursday, and I won't be listening this evening because it's Holy Week, and I was/will be in church. Here's what others have to say about the program — Symphony No. 38 "Prague" by Mozart, and Symphony No. 5 by Mahler, with Charles Dutoit conducting in place of the injured Lorin Maazel. The BSO's performance detail page, with all the usual links to preview material, says:
Charles Dutoit conducts the final three weeks of the BSO's 2013-14 season. On April 17 and 19, he leads Mozart's elegant Prague Symphony, a work the composer wrote as a kind of "thank you" to the city of Prague upon its overwhelmingly positive response to his opera The Marriage of Figaro. Anchoring these concerts is Mahler's Symphony No. 5. Composed in 1901-02 following Mahler's intensive study of Bach's counterpoint, the Fifth was the composer's first completely instrumental symphony since No. 1.
Eminent Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit has graciously offered to lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the orchestra's final programs, April 17-26, stepping in for Lorin Maazel who has been obliged to interrupt his conducting activities due to an accident and on the advice of his doctors until the third week of May. In addition to the BSO concerts at Symphony Hall, Maestro Dutoit will now also lead the BSO on its tour to China and Japan, May 1-10.
The Globe review was generally favorable. As is generally the case, with the Boston Musical Intelligencer, less is more. That is, less restriction on the length of the review yields more description of the music and the performance. The reviewer was mildly disappointed with the Mozart, but quite pleased with the Mahler.

You can listen live over WCRB this evening at 8:00 p.m., or to a rebroadcast/webstream on Monday, April 28 at 8:00 p.m. Their BSO page doesn't seem to have any background material for this concert, but it does have links to other items relating to the orchestra and past performances, including the on demand listening feature; and they remind us the the April 21 rebroadcast/stream is of last week's Bach, Stravinsky, Beethoven concert with François-Xavier Roth's BSO debut.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

BSO — 2014/04/10-12

This week's Boston Symphony concerts and broadcast/webstream feature the BSO debut (and North American conducting debut) of François-Xavier Roth, filling in for Daniele Gatti, who has shoulder problems. Maestro Roth will conduct the originally scheduled program, described as follows on the BSO's program detail page:
The BSO presents a diverse program featuring BSO players as oboe, horn, and violin soloists in Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, one of the great works of the Baroque era. The BSO will be joined by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus for two works: Stravinsky's austerely beautiful Symphony of Psalms and Beethoven's Elegiac Song, originally for solo mixed voices and string quartet. Never previously played by the BSO, Elegiac Song will be performed here by full chorus with strings. Closing the program is Beethoven's Symphony No. 4, one of his most consistently good-natured symphonies.

Conductor Daniele Gatti-on the advice of his doctors-with deep regret cancels all his professional engagements for the next two months, including his performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, April 10-12, 2014. He will be replaced by François-Xavier Roth in his BSO debut. 
(Some emphasis supplied) See that page also for the usual links: performer info, program notes, and audio previews.

The program, unusual as it is, fits well with Maestro Roth's experience in conducting everything from baroque to contemporary music with orchestras he has founded, so even though he hadn't planned he, he was a natural to take it over unchanged.

I was there on Thursday, and I thought the Bach worked well on modern instruments. The Stravinsky piece is beyond my powers of description — I advise reading the program notes and listening with the text available if you're not already familiar with it. And I do recommend listening. It is clearly a heartfelt piece, and it seemed well performed, as far as I could tell. The Beethoven Elegiac Song is a little gem, also worth having the text available. As for the 4th Symphony, it is my least favorite among Beethoven's symphonies: while the first movement is okay and the second is gorgeous, the last two are altogether too brusque and coarse for my taste (sort of like the scherzo in the 9th). But the performance on Thursday smoothed out the last two movements enough that they actually seemed musical to me. Of course, the fast and loud ending brought the obligatory standing ovation from most of the audience.

The Boston Globe's reviewer's description of the Beethoven 4th performance suggests what there was that let me like it better than I had expected. He was non-committal about the Stravinsky, and less than thrilled with the Bach. On the other hand, the reviewer in the Boston Musical Intelligencer was happiest with the Stravinsky, liked the Elegiac Song, and found the opening and closing pieces a mixture of good and not-so-good. BTW, the review also has some good pix.

You can listen on WCRB, Classical New England, at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, this evening, and again on April 21 (thereafter streamed on demand). A schedule of their remaining BSO broadcasts/webstreams of this BSO season and links to other features (including an interview with the conductor) are on their BSO page. On Monday, April 14, the rebroadcast/stream is of last week's concert, which included the new concerto for piano and orchestra by Bernard Rands.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

BSO — 2014/04/03-08

A world premiere is being given in Symphony Hall this week, The actual premiere was on Thursday, and I was there. The Saturday broadcast (and webstream) is the "broadcast premiere." It's worth listening to, IMO. First, Robert Spano leads the orchestra in two of the three Nocturnes by Debussy. Then Jonathan Biss joins them for the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra by Bernard Rands — a piece commissioned by the BSO and composed with Mr. Biss in mind. After intermission the orchestra will play Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances. Here's a link to the BSO's performance detail page, where you'll find the usual links to performer bios, podcasts, and program notes. Their description follows:
Robert Spano leads the orchestra's final world premiere of 2013-14, Bernard Rands's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, a BSO commission composed for the probing American pianist Jonathan Biss. Claude Debussy's Nuages and Fêtes are two contrasting movements from the impressionistic orchestral Nocturnes. Rachmaninoff wrote his colorful final work, Symphonic Dances, in 1940 for the Philadelphia Orchestra.
As noted above, I was there on Thursday, and as the new piece was being played, I had the thought that this was something that could well enter the standard repertory* — it is pleasant to listen to, even if not as melodious as the music of the baroque, classical, and romantic eras; it avoids the unpleasant dissonances and general incoherence (as I hear it) of many recent compositions. The Globe's reviewer liked it as well, and gives a fuller description of what it's like than I could. On the other hand, the Boston Musical Intelligencer's reviewer was disappointed in the Rands piece, as well as the first of the two Nocturnes, only waxing enthusiastic for the Rachmaninoff.

You can judge for yourself. The WCRB/Classical New England broadcast/webstream begins at 8:00 p.m., Eastern Daylight Savings Time, with a rebroadcast/stream at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, April 14. Their BSO page has links to interviews with the composer and the conductor, as well as a video of Jonathan Biss playing Schumann in the station's studio.

On Monday, April 7, the rebroadcast will be last week's program of Vaughan Williams, Prokofiev, and Rimsky-Korsakov.

*During the intermission, I encountered Robert Kirzinger, one of the program annotators for the BSO, and expressed my opinion that the Rands work could become a standard. He replied that it might be helped in that direction by the fact that it's already scheduled to be performed in three more places, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Toronto, and a third which he couldn't call to mind at the moment. Since Maestro Spano directs the Atlanta Symphony I suggested Atlanta as the third. He said that would make sense, but he didn't say that was it. Maybe Atlanta will be a fourth.