Saturday, November 7, 2015

BSO — 2015/11/05-10

This week we have one work that is considered standard repertory but one I don't often hear, Liszt's Totentanz, one piece getting its American premiere in these concerts, Mannequin by Unsuk Chin, and an old favorite, Symphony No. 3, "Rhenish," by Schumann. Indulging their penchant for describing the pieces in an order other than that in which they'll be performed, the writers of the BSO program description page, describe the concert as follows:
BSO Assistant Conductor Ken-David Masur leads the second BSO co-commission of the season, Korean composer Unsuk Chin's Mannequin in its American premiere. Mannequin was inspired by a short story by the great 19th-century German music critic and fantasist E.T.A. Hoffmann. Opening the program is Franz Lizst's dark and virtuosic Totentanz, played by French pianist Louis Lortie. Totentanz is considered among the most difficult pieces in the standard repertoire for piano and orchestra. Closing these concerts is Robert Schumann's innovatively structured paean to the Rhine River, the composer's Symphony No. 3.
Join the conversation online by using #BSOLiszt 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.)

As always, the performance detail page has links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios (click on the thumbnail pictures), and — new this year — the BSO Media Center with its own podcasts and notes. The video excerpt from "Mannequin" gives a bit of the gentler portion of the piece, but it gives you some idea of what it's like. You get a bit more in the audio preview which follows the video.

Reviews were mixed. The Globe's was generally favorable, but found Maestro Masur's conducting in the older pieces unexciting. The Boston Musical Intelligencer really liked the "Totentanz," and found no fault with the conductor there, while joining the Globe in disappointment with his leadership in the Schumann. As for "Mannequin," the reviewer found little difference between the four movements.

I was there on Thursday and found the Liszt spectacular. The Chin piece was suitable as a depiction of a frightened frame of mind, but apart from the music-box-like elements in the first movement, there didn't seem to be much difference between the four — at least not at first hearing. I'll listen tonight over the radio and see if there's more distinction between the scenes. I wonder if the large variety of percussion, including some unconventional items, was really necessary. Still, since it was suitable as a depiction of a frightened mood, I applauded the composer enthusiastically. As for the Schumann, it's really enjoyable music to listen to, and I didn't find any fault with how it was conducted: I just liked hearing it.

So I think it worth your while to listen this evening, November 7, at 8:00, Boston Time (EST), and/or Monday, November 16, also at 8:00, over the radio or internet streaming of WCRB. As you know if you've been following my posts on the BSO, WCRB also has a BSO page of their own. This year, they embed their concert preview interview in a longer podcast called "The Answered Question." This week, the whole thing runs to 53 minutes. I haven't heard it yet, but somewhere it includes an interview with the conductor about the program — no doubt interesting, if you get a chance to hear it.

Anyway, I was glad to be at the concert, and I'm looking forward to hearing the first two pieces this evening before my kid brother's call from Tokyo and the "Rhenish" during the rebroadcast on the 16th. As is usually the case, I recommend listening to this one.

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