Andris Nelsons demonstrates his thoughtful, adventurous programming with this wide-ranging selection of works. He and the BSO are joined by cellist Yo-Yo Ma for Prokofiev's Symphony-Concerto for cello and orchestra, whose title suggests the symphonic nature of the score. Nelsons also leads the BSO's first world premiere and BSO commission of the season, a new work ["Lakes Awake at Dawn"] for chorus and orchestra by the conductor's Latvian compatriot Eriks Ešenvalds, who has secured a strong international reputation especially for his choral works. Opening the program is John Harbison's choral scherzo Koussevitzky Said:. Written for the 75th anniversary of Tanglewood and premiered there in 2012, this short piece sets words about music by the BSO's great former music director, Serge Koussevitzky. Setting Konstantin Balmont's Russian translation of Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Bells, Rachmaninoff's work for vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra is considered one of his highest achievements. The BSO has only performed this great work on one other occasion, in subscription concerts in 1979.(Some emphasis added.)
The performance detail page also has the usual links to program notes (including texts of the three sung pieces), audio previews, a video podcast about the Prokofiev and the Ešenvalds pieces, and performer bios (including chorus and its conductor as well as soloists in the Rachmaninoff).
The Boston Globe review was almost entirely about the works, rather than the performances, but everything it does say about the performances is approving. So far, there has been no review in the Boston Musical Intelligencer. When I see one, I'll add the link.* While none of the music is "must hear" to my taste, none of it was a chore to listen to, either. The Harbison is a lot of fun (and the Globe reviewer thinks it is important in a way). The composer was in the audience and stood for a well deserved bow. I had heard it when it was broadcast from Tanglewood two years ago. The rest of the concert was new to me. "Lakes Awake at Dawn," receiving its world premiere, was calm in many places, earnest, and musically better than one would expect of new music. The Prokofiev concerto was quite powerful, not without its pleasant moments, vigorously played by Yo-Yo Ma. After intermission "The Bells" was a powerful setting of the poem in four sections, with a soloist for three of them and the chorus alone in the third section. The singers all did well, as did the chorus, and the music itself was fine.
As always, you can listen live Saturday evening at 8:00 or Monday December 1, over WCRB radio or streaming. The station's BSO page has the entire remaining BSO broadcast schedule for this season as well as links to interviews about this and other concerts and to concerts now available for on demand listening.
* Edited to add: The BMInt has a very positive and descriptive review. At least it's in time for the rebroadcast on Dec. 1.