Saturday, January 31, 2015

BSO — 2015/01/29-31

This week brings a guest conductor to the podium of the BSO, Asher Fisch. He's conducting three pieces: first the 2011 composition of Avner Dorman, "Astrolatry;" then Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto, with Julian Rachlin as soloist; and after intermission it's Symphony No.1, "Spring," by Schumann. "Astrolatry" is the first music by Dorman the BSO has ever performed. I hope they'll play it again, soon, and present others of his works.

I hope you'll be able to listen, and as preparation for the Dorman piece, I strongly recommend listening to Brian Bell's conversation with the composer, which is linked on the BSO's performance detail page. There you can check out links to more audio previews an program notes, as well as performer bios. They describe the program as follows:
Israeli conductor Asher Fisch makes his BSO subscription series debut with this diverse program. Opening the concert is the Israeli-born composer Avner Dorman's Astrolatry, a 2012 work inspired by the stars and constellations. These will be the first BSO performances of any music by Dorman, who is a former Tanglewood Music Center Composition Fellow. Lithuanian-born violinist Julian Rachlin returns to Symphony Hall for Serge Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2, a 1930s masterpiece with a breathtakingly beautiful slow movement. Robert Schumann's robust Symphony No. 1, composed in his so-called "symphonic year" of 1841, is one of his most energetic and optimistic scores.

It is "Astrolatry" that interests me most, although the Prokofiev is not hard to take, and the "Spring" symphony is a fine piece. The favorable Globe review, after praising the inclusion of new music in the program, spends most of its space on "Astrolatry." The Boston Musical Intelligencer has two items: an interview with Avner Dorman, and a review of the concert. Interestingly, in the interview, the composer downplays the narrative he gave in his interview with Brian Bell. But I found, as he says, that having that narrative in mind made the music easier to follow and enjoy than might have been the case without it. The review is detailed and respectful with some dissatisfaction with the playing and conducting in the Schumann.

As you can tell, I'm really enthusiastic for "Astrolatry." It is readily accessible as music, not the cacophonies which we sometimes get from contemporary composers, and, as I say, I think it's even more engaging when one is aware of the descriptions in the interview with Brian Bell or in the composer's own program note (included in the notes linked on the BSO performance detail page. If there were a repeat performance next Tuesday (as there is for about half the concerts, I'd get a ticket and go hear it again in the hall.

So if you're within range of WCRB, either by radio or on the web, I encourage you not to miss this concert, either the live performance this evening, January 31, at 8:00 p.m., or the rerun on Monday, February 9, also at 8:00 — or both. Better still, if you can get to Symphony Hall, go and hear it in person. I'm sure seats will be available: on Thursday, there were many empty seats on the sides of the balconies. On WCRB's BSO page, there is further information, including a link to an interview with the conductor about the concert (after you get through the bit about the orchestra's new gong).

Saturday, January 24, 2015

BSO — 2015/01/22-24

Ken-David Masur, the BSO's new Assistant Conductor (and son of Kurt Masur), steps in this week in place of the ailing Tugan Sokhiev, who was to have made his BSO debut. The Globe's review found no problem worth mentioning. As usual, the Boston Musical Intelligencer gives a much more detailed review, almost entirely laudatory. I liked Maestro Masur's conducting style, and found nothing in the music to dislike. In the Saint-Saëns it was distracting that the soloist spent a lot of time looking at the violins, much more than watching the conductor. Was he taking the beat from them, or did he have a crush on one of the violinists?

Here's what the orchestra says on their performance detail page.
*This week's scheduled conductor, Tugan Sokhiev, is suffering from influenza and a sinus infection, and cannot travel to Boston. BSO assistant conductor, Ken-David Masur, will take over the performances in his place. The program remains unchanged.Ken-David Masur is joined by the German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser for Saint-Saëns's Cello Concerto No. 1, a single-movement, fantasia-like work by turns fiery and charming. Opening the program is Hector Berlioz's Le Corsaire Overture, which, as was often the composer's practice, took shape from earlier sketches. The title is an incidental reference to James Fenimore Cooper's The Red Rover ("Le Corsaire rouge"). Rimsky Korsakov's orchestral masterpiece, the "symphonic suite" Scheherezade, masterfully spins out its Arabian Nights-inspired tableaux via transformations of an immediately recognizable musical motif. The work features a major solo violin part usually played by the orchestra's concertmaster.
(Some emphasis added.)
See that page also for links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios.

Listen over WCRB at 8:00 this evening or on February 2 for an enjoyable evening of good music-making, and see their BSO page for a preview with the conductor and other links.

Friday, January 16, 2015

BSO — 2015/01/15-17 — Updated

This week, the Boston Symphony gives us music of Mozart and Bruckner. I was in the hall on Thursday, and I definitely recommend this one. Here's how the orchestra's performance detail page describes it:
Acclaimed for his performances of the Classical repertoire, German pianist Lars Vogt returns to Symphony Hall as soloist with Andris Nelsons and the BSO in Mozart's proto-Romantic C minor piano concerto. Composed in the spring of 1786 and premiered by the composer in Vienna, the C minor is unique in its strangeness and restlessness, and features a fascinating theme-and-variations finale. Following intermission, Andris Nelsons conducts Anton Bruckner's magisterial Symphony No. 7, still probably the most popular of that composer's works. Bruckner wrote his Seventh Symphony, often likened to "a cathedral in sound," between 1881 and 1883, and it was premiered in Leipzig in 1884.
(Some emphasis added.)
Also, go to the performance detail page for links to performer bios, program notes, and audio previews.

There is a very favorable review in the Boston Globe, although I didn't notice the lack of directness or the "micro-inflections" the reviewer perceived in the Mozart. As of this writing, the Boston Musical Intelligencer hasn't weighed in yet. When they do, I'll let you know. *

My impression was that the Mozart was well done, if less angst-filled than the program notes had led me to expect. In the Bruckner, there was much beauty, much power, and never a problematic moment. There might have been one or two false notes from the horns, but nothing that interfered with enjoyment of the piece. Four members of the horn section played the Wagner tubas Bruckner called for, meaning that outsiders had to be added to cover all but two of the horn parts. Before the performance, Andris Nelsons spoke impromptu to the audience. He noted that this represents the beginning of a multi-season survey of Bruckner's work. He said many people think first of length of the works when they think of Bruckner. For him, though, he was "infected" with love of music at age five when he heard music of Wagner at a concert. From Wagner, he came to Bruckner and finds in Bruckner's music a channel to God (raising his right hand and pointing above). He hoped that he was infecting the orchestra and that we would have a similar experience to his and also become infected. (He must have mentioned the connection to God three times.) I really admire Maestro Nelsons for daring to speak of music, particularly this music, as drawing the listener to God. It reminds me of the story of Bruckner stopping his lecture and kneeling to pray when he heard the Angelus bell from a nearby church. But, talk doesn't matter if the music isn't well-played. My mistake in listening is trying to follow analytically, remembering all I can from the program notes and connecting it to what I'm hearing. Even so, this was perhaps the first time I've been at a performance of a Bruckner symphony without beginning to feel it was going on too long. The music held my interest all the way through. I wish the program were being given again on Tuesday: I'd get a ticket and go hear it again. As it is, I'm looking forward to hearing the Mozart on Saturday and the Bruckner on the January 26 rebroadcast.

Listen on radio or on line over WCRB beginning at 8:00 p.m. Saturday, Boston Time. And you can hear it also via the repeat on Monday, January 26, at 8:00 p.m. For the remaining schedule for BSO broadcasts and links to interviews about this concert (and the rebroadcast of last week's on January 19), go to the station's BSO page.

*UPDATE: The BMInt review has appeared. It was largely favorable, but the first comment was highly critical, finding that Maestro Nelsons "micromanaged" the Bruckner unhelpfully and that the brass had an off night.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

BSO — 2015/01/08-10

Aaannd they're back! The Boston Symphony has (have, for the Brits) returned to Symphony Hall to resume the subscription season. They are giving us a program of Brahms, Haydn, and Strauss. Although it is part of my subscription, I had to stay home and work on a project for church, so I'll be hearing it for the first time during this evening's broadcasts. So I can't offer my personal impressions, but there are other reviews. The Boston Musical Intelligencer offers a full report on the performances, finding no cause for complaint. Space limitations keep the Globe review shorter, but it was definitely admiring. It seems it will be worth hearing.

On their performance detail page, the BSO gives the following synopsis:
Andris Nelsons' two January programs focus on classics of the orchestral repertoire. In this first program of 2015 he is joined by French cellist Gautier Capuçon and BSO principal violist Steven Ansell for Strauss's rollicking, wide-ranging tone poem Don Quixote, which depicts musically several episodes from Cervantes's novel. Brahms's Variations on a Theme by Haydn, whose theme is the famous "Chorale St. Anthony" (likely not by Haydn after all), was originally composed for two pianos but is, in its orchestral guise, a major symphonic feat. Haydn himself is also featured in this program. Following the great success of the six so-called "Paris" symphonies, the composer wrote three more for his admirers in that city, nos. 90-92, in 1788-89. [Symphony] No. 90-a favorite of Maestro Nelsons'-includes a famous "false" ending in the first movement, one of Haydn's wittiest musical jokes.
(Some emphasis added.)
As always, the page also has links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios (click on the photos).

WCRB will broadcast and stream the concert virtually live beginning at 8:00 p.m. on January 10, and will offer a rerun on January 19. See their BSO page for more about the program and upcoming concerts. (Following their usual practice, on January 12, the station will retransmit the program from a week ago.)

Friday, January 2, 2015

December Hiatus — 2015/01/03

The "December Hiatus" includes the first weekend of January. WCRB's Boston Symphony page describes Saturday's rebroadcast/stream as follows:
Pianist Behzod Abduraimov is the soloist in Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and Charles Dutoit conducts Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, recorded at Symphony Hall in April of 2014.
(Some emphasis added.)

Go to that page also for links to interviews, the schedule for the remainder of the Symphony season broadcasts, and information about concerts available on demand.

The Monday evening broadcast/webstream will repeat last Saturday's Strauss/Rachmaninoff/Ravel concert from last summer at Tanglewood.

The shows begin at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time.