Saturday, January 9, 2016

BSO — 2016/01/07-12

It should be a very enjoyable concert when the Boston Symphony Orchestra resumes its subscription series on January 7-12. Guest conductor François-Xavier Roth opens the concert with the Symphonie à 17 parties in F by François-Joseph Gossec (1734-1829), whose music has never before been played by the BSO. Then Elizabeth Rowe, flute, and Jessica Zhou, harp, are soloists in Mozart's Concerto in C for Flute and Harp. After intermission we will hear Beethoven's Symphony № 3, "Eroica." See the BSO program detail page for the usual links to performer bios, audio previews, program notes, and a podcast. Here's what they say about the program:
BSO principal flute Elizabeth Rowe and principal harp Jessica Zhou join French conductor François-Xavier Roth for Mozart's masterful Concerto in C for Flute and Harp. The Belgian-born François-Joseph Gossec (1734-1829), whose music the BSO has never played, was a Haydn contemporary who outlived both Beethoven and Schubert. Active in Paris during the Revolution and the rise of Napoleon, he composed virtually nothing in the final thirty years of his life. One of two noted exceptions is the ebullient 1809 Symphony for Seventeen Parts. By contrast, Beethoven's towering Eroica Symphony, composed five years earlier, ushers in seismic changes in the form, scale, and impact of the symphonic genre.

Reviews are tepid. In the Globe, the reviewer found the Mozart well played by the soloists, the Gossec given a perfunctory performance by the players, and the Beethoven lacking overall cohesion. The BMInt reviewer was much happier with the Beethoven and liked the Gossec. He was satisfied with the playing of the Mozart, but considers the music inferior Mozart.

I found the Gossec pleasant but not extremely inspired. Maybe hearing it again on Saturday will open it up more for me. Anyway, it should be enjoyable to listen to. The other two pieces are familiar, especially the Beethoven, and I found the performances satisfying. Personally, I was happy to see a couple of the new members of the orchestra take leading roles. Clint Foreman had the first chair in the flute section for the Gossec and the Beethoven, since Elizabeth Rowe had soloist duties in the Mozart, and he carried off his solos quite well, as far as I could tell, despite apparently being bothered by a cold. Wesley Collins was given first chair in the violas for the Gossec. At a couple of points, he seemed to smile approvingly at the second chair player after they played a passage, as if to say, "Yes! you/we nailed it!"

WCRB will broadcast and stream the Saturday performance live at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time and retransmit it at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, January 18. On their Boston Symphony page, there is a link to their podcast, "The Answered Question," with a preview and discussion of the program. That page also has a synopsis of the broadcast schedule for the remainder of the season.

Despite all the reservations expressed by the reviewers, I think it is a concert that everybody can enjoy hearing. I'd even call it a "must hear," so I cordially recommend that you listen.

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