Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tanglewood — 2015/07/31-08/02

This weekend brings us a number of familiar works from the core repertoire, works that would have been familiar and well-received a century ago, along with a couple of more recent pieces.

Friday, July 31.  The Friday concert is in a traditional format, with a curtain-raiser followed by another, longer piece. The major offering follows the intermission. Here's the BSO performance detail page's description:
Boston Symphony Orchestra Assistant Conductor Ken-David Masur will lead a program opening with the overture to Weber's Der Freischütz, followed by Schubert's Symphony No. 4, Tragic,  and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor, with soloist Garrick Ohlsson.
(Some emphasis added.)

The page also notes that this is an "Underscore Friday," with a brief introduction from the stage by one of the musicians. It also gives the usual links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios.

The Weber overture is a thrilling piece containing some of the best themes from the opera — a very fine choice to open the concert. The Emperor concerto is one of Beethoven's greatest achievements, in my opinion. I have a dinner engagement that evening and I'll almost certainly miss the first half of the concert, but I hope to be home in time to hear the whole Beethoven concerto. It should all be enjoyable if you have a chance to listen.

Saturday, August 1.  For some reason, the BSO website isn't showing the program for this evening — although it was there when I began writing this post a half hour or so ago.* WCRB tells us:
Music Director Andris Nelsons leads the BSO in Beethoven's "Triple" Concerto, with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, violinist Renaud Capuçon, and cellist Gautier Capuçon, and the Symphony No. 10 by Shostakovich.
(Emphasis added.)

While the Triple concerto may not be quite at the pinnacle occupied by the "Emperor" — having been composed with Beethoven's piano pupil the Archduke Rudolf, a talented amateur, as the intended soloist, rather than Beethoven himself or a good professional — it is definitely worth hearing. I don't recall the Shostakovich specifically. I'll just say that Shostakovich's music can be powerful but challenging.

Sunday, August 2.  The BSO gives us the following on their performance detail page:
BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons will conduct Haydn's Symphony no. 90, Dean's Dramatis personae featuring trumpet player Håkan Hardenberger, and Strauss's Don Quixote with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violist Steven Ansell.
(Some emphasis added.)

There are full program notes and an audio preview of the Haydn linked on the BSO page. As noted there, Hardenberger was the soloist for the American premiere by the BSO last November. I reviewed it at the time** and liked it more than I had expected. I'm looking forward to hearing it again. The Strauss is being performed in observance of the 400th anniversary of the publication of Part II of Don Quixote.

The concerts can be heard via WCRB radio or web: Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m., Sunday at 2:30 — all Boston Time. Their BSO page, in addition to the description of the Saturday concert posted above, gives similar information about the remaining Tanglewood concert broadcasts along with an overview of the upcoming Symphony Hall season and various other interesting items and links.

* After drafting this post, I set it aside overnight, and now the BSO performance detail page is back, with the usual links to background material.

** "Spoiler" In my review of the Dean piece, I refer to a composer I was reminded of by the third part of the work. If you want to know who it is, it's Charles Ives.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tanglewood — 2015/07/24-26

This weekend the Tanglewood concerts will give us familiar music of familiar composers.

Friday, July 24.  This will be an all-Beethoven concert. Christoph von Dohnányi will be on the podium for Symphony No. 4 (in my opinion Beethoven's worst symphony) and the Violin Concerto. Vadim Gluzman makes his debut with the BSO as the soloist in the concerto. The orchestra's program detail page has links to audio previews, program notes, and performer bios.

Saturday, July 25.  Emanuel Ax solos in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 14. Michael Tilson Thomas is conductor for that and Symphony No. 5 by Mahler. Go to the program detail page for the usual links. They also list the New Fromm Players as performers in the concert, but that's a chamber music group, so I think it's a mistake. It seems much more likely that they'll be performing in the preview concert at 6:00 (not broadcast). We'll see.

Sunday, July 26.  Christoph von Dohnányi will return to conduct Mozart's last three symphonies (Nos. 39., 40, and 41 — the last nicknamed "Jupiter"). Program notes, audio previews, and performer bio (click on the photo) are available on the program detail page.

You can hear all three over the facilities of WCRB — either broadcast or webstream. Their BSO page gives the schedule for this weekend of BSO concerts and the remainder of the Tanglewood season. As usual, the Friday and Saturday concerts are at 8:30 p.m; and the Sunday concert is at 2:30 p.m.  all Boston Time.

As I suggested, I don't care very much for Beethoven's Fourth Symphony. Except for the second movement, it's too gruff. I found it okay when I encountered it for the first time, but I soon tired of the third and fourth movements. But the rest of the weekend's programming is music I want to hear, and your opinion of the Beethoven 4th may differ from mine. Enjoy.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Tanglewood — 2015/07/17-19

Just two composers' music is to be performed this weekend in the broadcast concerts: Mozart and Schumann. I think this is music we can all enjoy, although some may not be entirely thrilled with having vocal solos on Saturday. Anyway, I'll tell you about each concert.

Friday, July 17.  This evening we hear Schumann and Mozart under the baton of Christian Zacharias. We start and end with Schumann: the Manfred Overture and Symphony №2, respectively. Those are sandwiched around Mozart's Violin Concerto №5 in A, K. 219, and and the Rondo in C for violin and orchestra, K. 373, with Baiba Skride as soloist in both pieces. The BSO's performance detail page doesn't tell us whether the intermission will come between the Mozart pieces or follow them. I'm guessing the latter. As usual, there are links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios. They also inform us that it's an "Underscore Friday," meaning that there will be some sort of introduction from the stage — this time by double bassist Benjamin Levy. In addition,
Berkshire Night will take place on Friday, July 17. 

Tickets are distributed at the Tanglewood Main Gate Box Office on a first come first served basis. Once the allotment of Shed tickets are gone we will distribute Lawn tickets. Residents of Berkshire County must show a drivers license, utility bill, library card, or some other form of proof of residence in Berkshire county or adjoining towns in New York state.
So, if you live in the designated area, you might want to head on over.

Saturday, July 18.  Maestro Zacharias returns to conduct and play piano in an all-Mozart program described as follows in the performance detail page:
Mr. Zacharias leads an all-Mozart program with Sarah Connolly joining Mr. Zacharias as pianist in "Ch'io mi scordi di te…Non temer, amato bene," concert aria for soprano and orchestra with piano, K.505; Ms. Connolly will also perform "Deh per questo istante solo" from Act II of Mozart's La clemenza di Tito, on a program that will also include Mozart's Symphony No. 38, Prague.
(Some emphasis added.)
For some reason, they avoid telling us that the program opens with Piano Concerto №25 in C, K. 503.  As of this writing, there are no links to program notes or audio previews. But maybe they'll have posted them sometime before the concert. So keep checking, if you're interested.

Sunday, July 19 sees Sir Neville Marriner take the podium for a program that begins and ends with Mozart, with Schumann in the middle.  Sir Neville is so well known as a conductor in recordings with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields that it's exciting to be able to hear the BSO under his direction.
Sir Neville Marriner will be joined by pianist Paul Lewis for Schumann's Piano Concerto, on a program spotlighting the orchestra in two of Mozart's most beloved symphonies: Symphony No. 35, Haffner, and Symphony No. 36, Linz.
So we read in the performance detail page (with some emphasis added). The usual links to preparatory materials are there .

Our friends at WCRB will broadcast and stream all three concerts. Those on Friday and Saturday start at 8:30, and Sunday's is at 2:30 — all p.m., all Boston Time. Their BSO page tells what's on each program and who the performers are for this weekend and the remainder of the season (I'm really looking forward to July 31.) along with other information and an interesting link to an interview with Erich Leinsdorf which I want to listen to sometime.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Tanglewood — 2015/07/10-12 (Updated July 11)

This weekend we get a full schedule of concerts from Tanglewood. Mostly, it's music that's more or less familiar to classical audiences (and in some cases, the general public); but there are a couple of items that are new to me, at least, and that I look forward to hearing, along with most of the classics.

Friday, July 10.  The Friday concert features works for organ, with Cameron Carpenter as soloist, and frequent guest conductor Stéphane Denève on the podium. BSO assistant timpanist Daniel Bauch (who seems to play timpani at least a third of the time at Symphony Hall) will be the other soloist in the concerto. Here's how the BSO's performance detail page describes it:
Popular guest conductor Stéphane Denève leads a program featuring the BSO debut of superstar organist Cameron Carpenter performing Poulenc's Concerto for Organ, Strings, and Timpani and Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3, Organ, on a program with Barber's Adagio for Strings. Following his BSO appearance, organist Cameron Carpenter will give a short recital of virtuoso solo works, featuring his Marshall & Ogletree touring organ.
(Some emphasis added.)
See the performance detail page for links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios (click on the thumbnail picture), as during the Symphony Hall season.

The Barber seems to be the curtain-raiser. It's quite familiar, and deservedly so, IMO. I don't think I've ever heard the Poulenc, and I'm looking forward to hearing it — not that I like Poulenc all that much; I just wonder what it will be like. The Saint-Saëns organ concerto is given now and then at Symphony Hall to showcase the organ there, and it's not bad. I do wonder how the organ will sound outdoors and on what must be a smaller instrument that the one in Symphony Hall. It may well sound fuller over the radio than on the Tanglewood lawn. The show begins at 8:30 p.m., Pittsfield Time (same as Boston Time).

Saturday, July 11.  In an interesting bit of programming, the overture to Verdi's La Forza del Destino will precede a concert performance of the first act of Puccini's Tosca. The BSO performance detail page is concise in its description and has no audio previews, but does give program notes and performer bios along with the following:
Bramwell Tovey will lead an all-Italian program to include a concert performance of Act I from Puccini's Tosca featuring Bryn Terfel as Scarpia and Sondra Radvonovsky as Tosca.
(Some emphasis added.)
The Verdi overture is a good piece: a nice patchwork of music from the opera itself. It seems to me that if Maestro Tovey felt it necessary to precede the Puccini with something else, it would have made sense to go outside the operatic repertoire, rather than preceding it with something designed to precede a different opera. Maybe it will work, though. We'll see. On the other hand, Puccini isn't a big favorite of mine, and I may well listen to the Red Sox after the Verdi. (See edit below.)**

Again, the concert starts at 8:30.

Sunday, July 12. The concert begins at 2:30, with The Light That Fills the World, by John Luther Adams.* Next will be Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3, K. 216, with Pinchas Zukerman as soloist. After intermission, they'll perform Symphony No. 7 by Dvořák. Former BSO assistant conductor Ludovic Morlot, now Music Director of the Seattle Symphony, will conduct the performance. I've told you everything that's mentioned in the blurb on the BSO performance detail page, but it's still worth seeing for the links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios.

When I saw the Adams work on the program, I was curious about it, and I tracked down a YouTube video of a performance.

It turns out what I saw is the original version of the piece for a chamber ensemble. The composer decided to orchestrate it for a normal-sized symphony orchestra, and that's the version the BSO will play. I found it easy enough to listen to. If you're at all uncertain about contemporary concert music, I suggest reading the composer's description, which is included in the program notes, and listening to the video. I'm looking forward to hearing it again.

* Not to be confused with John Coolidge Adams, the composer of the operas "Nixon in China," "The Death of Klinghoffer," and "Doctor Atomic," among other things.

As always, you can listen to these concerts approximately live over WCRB — either via broadcast, if you're within range of their signal, or via streaming on the world wide web — at the times indicated. The station's BSO page gives a very brief synopsis of each program, as well as a listing of future concerts they'll carry from Tanglewood. Note also, on their home page, an opportunity to vote for concerts from the past year to be broadcast/streamed during the interval in August and September between the end of the Tanglewood season and the beginning of the Symphony Hall season.

**Edited to add: It turns out the "Forza del Destino" overture isn't the only Verdi work on the program. They'll also present his "Stabat Mater," followed by "Ella giammai m'amò" from Don Carlo — which I really like — and "Ehi! paggio! l'onore" from Falstaff — which I don't really know. Then there's an intermission, followed by the Puccini. With these additional pieces, the program makes a lot more sense than just the two pieces shown of the BSO program detail page. I don't understand why the BSO won't list all works in a program on the performance detail page.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Tanglewood — 2015/07/03-04

The Boston Symphony returns to Tanglewood this weekend. Opening night is Friday, with the concert and broadcast/webstream over WCRB beginning at 8:30, Boston Time. The BSO program detail page describes the program as follows:
For its first concert of the 2015 Tanglewood season, the Boston Symphony Orchestra celebrates our country's heritage during Independence Day weekend with an all American program of music by John Harbison, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, and Duke Ellington. The dynamic Jacques Lacombe conducts, with the exciting pianist Kirill Gerstein, equally renowned in jazz and classical repertoire, featured in Gershwin's Concerto in F. John Douglas Thompson will be the speaker in Copland's Lincoln Portrait. 
(Some emphasis added.)

The WCRB BSO page identifies the Harbison and Gershwin works as well.
Kirill Gerstein is the soloist in Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F, and John Douglas Thompson is the narrator of Copland's Lincoln Portrait in an All-American Tanglewood Opening Night that also includes Harbison's Remembering Gatsby and Ellington's Harlem, all with conductor Jacque Lacombe.
That page also has various links, including one to an interview with the pianist, and the remaining Tanglewood broadcast/stream schedule.

In the Saturday BSO time slot, WCRB returns to Boston to give us
The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular!

Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops - along with hundreds of  thousands of fans - celebrate the Fourth of July at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, with special guest vocalists Melinda Doolittle, Michael Cavanaugh, and Michelle Brooks-Thompson, vocal ensemble Sons of Serendip, the Boston Crusaders drum and bugle corps, and the USO Show Troupe, all hosted by Ron Della Chiesa and Laura Carlo.

There is a link to more info on the WCRB page.

Enjoy both evenings. Apparently Sunday afternoon broadcasts from Tanglewood begin on July 12.