Friday, November 14, 2014

BSO — 2014/11/13-18

Music Director Andris Nelsons is back on the podium this week with works of Tchaikovsky, contemporary Aussie composer Brett Dean, and Stravinsky — one of Tchaikovsky's least known works, the American premiere of the Dean, and one of Stravinsky's best known. Trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger solos in the Dean. Here are some details from the BSO's performance detail page:
Andris Nelsons is joined here by another close collaborator, masterful Swedish trumpet virtuoso Håkan Hardenberger, for the American premiere of Brett Dean's trumpet concertoDramatis personae. The Australian-born, Grawemeyer Award-winning composer wrote this concerto for Hardenberger, who gave its first performance in August 2013 in Austria. The idea of the title refers to the soloist's position as dramatic protagonist. Inspired by one of literature's most recognizable protagonists, Tchaikovsky's symphonic poem Hamlet, which opens the program, is one of the composer's several intensely Romantic works based on Shakespeare. Stravinsky's groundbreaking, still-thrilling ballet score The Rite of Spring, an orchestral tour de force, closes these concerts.
In addition to the usual links to audio previews, program notes, and performer bios, the page also has an essay discussing the music of "Rite of Spring."

I was there on Thursday and liked the concert. The opening and concluding pieces had places where soloists within the orchestra had a chance to shine, and shine they did, for which they were warmly applauded. Whole sections did yeoman duty as well. The Tchaikovsky "Hamlet" has been played five times by the BSO, the latest performances taking place in 1968. It may not be the finest thing Tchaikovsky ever composed, but it deserves to be heard more frequently that once in 46 years. There's plenty of good music in it evoking various elements of the play, and the orchestra seemed in good form for it. If nothing else, you should listen to the concert for this piece. Who knows when you'll get another chance?

After reading the program note, I was prepared to find the Dean concerto unpleasant and unlikeable. Well, it isn't pleasant in the way Haydn is, but I found it listenable, if gruff. The first movement at times seemed jazzy, and the second was mostly quiet and relaxed. Toward the end of the third movement, I was very much reminded of a certain American composer of an earlier generation. He's mentioned in the lukewarm Globe review, but not in the program note, and it was such a pleasant surprise to hear that part that I won't mention the name. So if you don't read the Globe review until after the concert, you can enjoy the surprise too. It's a really march-like bit, and you'll probably smile even if you don't catch the similarity. The Stravinsky was played clearly, so that one could hear everything that was going on, and I think the soloists as well as the sections and the whole orchestra earned the rousing applause and cheers they got — with Maestro Nelsons taking such care to acknowledge them separately that there was only one curtain call, lasting several minutes.

So I definitely recommend listening to this concert, at least up to the intermission, over WCRB radio or internet. It will probably help with the Dean concerto if you prepare for it by listening to the Brian Bell interview and reading the program notes from the BSO program detail page and listening to the Nelsons and Hardenberger interviews from WCRB's BSO page. Having some idea of what it was all about definitely helped me appreciate it. As usual, it will be available live on Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and recorded on Monday, November 24, also at 8:00 p.m.

Note: As of this writing, the Boston Musical Intelligencer hasn't yet published a review. When I see it, I'll edit this post to include at least a link. So if you see this note and are curious about what BMInt says, you can check back here later.

Edited November 19 to add: Here's the review in the Boston Musical Intelligencer, favorable to the Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, not to the Dean.

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