French conductor Stéphane Denève returns for this program of works all premiered in Paris in the early 1920s. Canadian violinist James Ehnes is soloist in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1, which begins with an amazingly long-breathed, lyrical melody, and also features a brilliantly exciting scherzo. Stravinsky's Pulcinella and Poulenc's Les Biches were both composed for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Stravinsky's score reworks music mostly from the Baroque era for an effect both contemporary and out of time; Les Biches was completely au courant, a light and frothy tableau of a swank party in the south of France. Milhaud's seminal, lively ballet score Creation of the World is an important mainstream example of Paris composers' fascination with American jazz in the years after World War I.(Some emphasis added.)
The blurb above doesn't list the works in the order they are to be performed. For the performance order, see the rest of the page. Of course, there are also links to good audio previews, program notes, and performer bios on the page as well.
The beginning of "Pulcinella" — which is the only piece on the concert I'm at all familiar with — seemed slower than what I'm used to, and I don't think that's a good thing. I think it should feel livelier than it did on Thursday. Apart from that, I have no criticism of the way any of the music was performed. The violin concerto was inoffensive. "The Creation of the World" was enjoyably jazzy; and "Les Biches" felt a bit too impressionistic for my taste and maybe a bit overlong (perhaps as a result of coming after all the rest). All in all, though, it was a pleasant concert. Unfortunately, as in the previous couple of weeks, the audience was sparse. Sections of the balconies were nearly or entirely empty. I suppose the travel conditions had something to do with it, but people who might have attended and didn't missed a nice evening at Symphony.
The Globe review provides a bit of description of how the violin concerto was played, and reminds me that there was a nice encore by the violinist — no telling whether there will be one this evening or, if so, what it will be. The Boston Musical Intelligencer review gives a fuller description of the music, including a rave for the violinist in the Prokofiev.
So tune your radio or your computer or other web listening device to WCRB this evening at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time for some pleasant listening without much heavy lifting for the listener. Their BSO page includes a link to an audio preview with the conductor and the violinist (which runs over 28 minutes). If you miss the concert this evening, there will be a rerun on March 2 at 8:00 p.m.
The rerun on Monday the 23rd will be last week's concert of Debussy, Birtwistle, Liadov, and Stravinsky.