Saturday, October 31, 2015

BSO — 2015/10/29-31

This week's Boston Symphony is pleasant music throughout — nothing challenging for listeners or, I suppose, performers, with music by Tchaikovsky, Elgar, and Schubert.  We read, on their performance detail page:
Violinist/conductor Pinchas Zukerman returns to the BSO podium in both roles in two short, beautiful Tchaikovsky works for violin and orchestra [Mélodie and Sérénade Mélancolique], and to lead the composer's famous Serenade for Strings. Edward Elgar's warmhearted Chanson de nuit is one of two brief pieces originally for solo violin and piano (the other being Chanson de matin), later rescored for orchestra. Franz Schubert wrote his charming, four-movement Symphony No. 5 when he was just nineteen. Its balance of materials and control of the orchestra show the influence of Mozart and Beethoven.

Join the conversation online by using #BSOZukerman for this concert series or #BSO1516 on your social networks to discover the excitement of the season and connect with one another!
(Some emphasis added.)

See that page also for links to audio previews, program notes, their new "media center," and performer bio for Mr. Zukerman. Surprisingly, two of the five pieces are getting their first performances by the BSO — the two curtain raisers by Tchaikovsky — and the Elgar was never played by them in Symphony Hall.

As of this writing, there is no review yet in the Boston Musical Intelligencer. The Boston Globe has an unflattering review, finding the leadership of Maestro Zukerman uninspired and recalling superior performances of the main works by the orchestra in recent years. I was there on Thursday evening, and I found no fault with how anything was played. There's a lot to be said for a concert that's all "easy listening." But I was extremely annoyed by Zukerman's gesture when taking his bow at the end. He raised his hands about to shoulder level and made beckoning gestures with his fingers. The reviewer writes,
Taking his bows at the end of the night, Zukerman gestured to the crowd with his hands, as if to raise the level of the volume of the applause. There are other ways to do so.
I agree completely. The audience responded at once with cheers and much louder applause. I immediately walked out of the auditorium in disgust at the uncouth and unprofessional action. In my annoyance, I thought that Mr. Zukerman may have realized that his choice of unspectacular music didn't give the audience anything to go wild about, and maybe he thought the orchestra deserved a warmer ovation. (I later had the uncharitable thought that he chose pieces within his current capabilities as a violinist and as a conductor.) But it's an insult to the audience to tell them that they aren't applauding enough. I'm sorry many in the audience fell for it, and I wish I had had the presence of mind to boo the gesture before I left. Fortunately, if he does it again on Saturday, you won't see it over the radio or the internet.

Despite the unfortunate extraneous business at the end, I think the concert is worth listening to. You can do so over the radio and streaming facilities of WCRB — as you know by now, unless you're new to this blog. As usual, the live broadcast/webstream is on Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, with a rerun on Monday, November 9, also at 8:00. The station's BSO page includes a link to an audio piece which, after looking back to the "Elektra" of two weeks ago, includes interviews with Mr. Zukerman and, unrelated to the BSO, with the mandolinist who will take over as host of "A Prairie Home Companion," Chris Thile.


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