Saturday, January 16, 2016

BSO — 2016/01/14&16

In a desperate — but not really necessary, IMO — attempt to attract new audiences, the BSO will be giving a different program on Friday from that on Thursday and Saturday — an amalgam of last week and this week's regular programs. They'll be giving last week's Mozart and this week's Stravinsky at 8:00 p.m. They call it a "Casual Friday," which is laughable, because every concert is casual as far as acceptable dress is concerned: shirts and shoes are required for "gentlemen" but t shirts will do, and hats are permitted indoors. What is different from normal breaches of etiquette is that the use of electronic devices will be permitted, nay, encouraged, during the show. As they put it on their program description page for Friday:
This evening's concert is the first of three in our "Casual Fridays" Series. There are two more concerts this season- one in February and one in March. Tickets range between $25 to $45, include a complimentary pre-concert reception and patrons are invited to wear their favorite casual attire. This series also includes the use of tablets in a designated area in the rear of the orchestra floor where you can view customized content, designed to enhance the concert experience, to include an in-depth look at the conductors and soloists, and informative notes on the program. Then, immediately after the performance, head to Higginson Hall in Symphony Hall's adjacent Cohen Wing, where, besides enjoying live music, snacks, and a cash bar, you are invited to mingle and share what you've just experienced at the BSO concert.
For the more stodgy among the audience, the program on Thursday and Saturday, includes music by Debussy, songs by Dutilleux and Canteloube sung by Renée Fleming, and Petrushka by Stravinsky in the 1911 version — all with François-Xavier Roth on the podium. The program detail page for this concert provides the usual links to the podcast, performer bios, audio previews, and program notes, as well as the following (out of order) description of what they'll perform:
François-Xavier Roth returns for a second week of concerts at Symphony Hall with a French-leaning program. These BSO performances of Henri Dutilleux's song cycle Le Temps l'Horloge ("Time and the Clock") mark the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth. An important figure in BSO history, Dutilleux wrote these songs for Renée Fleming as a BSO co-commission for the orchestra's 125th anniversary. Fleming gave their American premiere with the BSO in 2007. She also sings selections from Canteloube's ravishing, folk-song-based Songs of the Auvergne. Opening and closing the program are ballet scores composed for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes-Debussy's luminously orchestrated Jeux ("Games"), an abstract ballet about a game of tennis, and Stravinsky's Petrushka, which follows the travails of a hapless living puppet at a Shrovetide Fair in Russia.
(Emphasis added.)

The reviewer in the Boston Musical Intelligencer, being a musicologist, observed a lot in all four pieces that escaped my notice, and found it all quite satisfying. The Globe review was less detailed on musical fine points, but generally laudatory.

I was there on Thursday. I thought Ms. Fleming sang beautifully, but the songs themselves were nothing to write home about. The Canteloube, after the intermission, at least had the benefit of music that fit the text, so if you listen, it would be a good idea to read the program notes and the texts. I didn't notice any real connection between the words of the Dutilleux songs and the successions of notes to which they were sung. Petrushka is not so brutal as Rite of Spring, and it has a couple of nice tunes that keep coming back, so it's listenable. As for the Debussy ballet which opens the program, although I didn't catch all the stuff the BMInt reviewer did, it wasn't too bad, especially for Debussy.

As always, you can hear it live on January 16 (this evening) at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time (EST) over WCRB's broadcast and streaming facilities. As always there will be a "rerun" 9 days later, January 25, also at 8:00 p.m. Their BSO page includes the usual link to their Podcast, "The Answered Question." This time it's 44 minutes long and includes an interview with the conductor in which he talks about his enthusiasm for the works he's leading. I haven't heard it yet, but I think it will be well worth hearing as an introduction to the concert, as will the program notes over at the BSO site.

In summary, I found the program listenable enough. As I said to someone who hadn't been there, "I'm glad I heard the pieces, but I don't need to hear any of them again." You might like some or all of it better. So, while I wouldn't call it a "must hear," I think it's worth a listen. I'll be out this evening, but — despite what I said about not needing to hear it again — I expect to listen to the repeat, especially to see if I can get more out of the first half than I did in the hall on Thursday.

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