Saturday, January 30, 2016

BSO — 2016/01/28-02/02

The Shakespeare Festival begins this week. We have three Midsummer-Night's-Dream-y pieces on the program. First up is Weber's "Oberon" Overture. Strictly speaking, this is only tangentially Shakespearian, since — although he is a character in the play — the opera has him involved in different action. But the music is worth bringing into the festival. Next comes Symphony № 8 by Hans Werner Henze, a BSO commission first performed in 1993. After the intermission we get Mendelssohn's Incidental Music to "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with actors and singers dramatizing bits of the music and performing bits of the play.

In addition to the usual links to performer bios, program notes, audio previews, and podcast, the orchestra's performance detail page offers the following take on the program:
Three weeks of BSO concerts-January 28 through February 13-led by Andris Nelsons focus on music inspired by the work of William Shakespeare, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death. This program's focus is the great comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream. Although Weber's German magical-romantic opera Oberon wasn't based specifically on Shakespeare, it shares its subject matter and sense of mystery. More explicit is Henze's Symphony No. 8, a BSO centennial commission premiered here in 1993. The symphony aims to illustrate certain moments of the play. Mendelssohn's Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night's Dream includes his youthful Overture-the play in a nutshell-as well as the familiar Wedding March, the most famous music Mendelssohn ever wrote.
(Some emphasis added.)

The show played to mixed reviews. The Globe was enthusiastic with minor unspecified reservation. The Boston Musical Intelligencer was dissatisfied with how the Weber was played, brought some astonishing associations to the music of the Henze symphony — completely disregarding the associations provided by the composer and presented in the program notes — and found the presentation of the Mendelssohn well done by some participants but flawed in concept.

I tend to agree with BMInt on the Mendelssohn. It makes sense to put music intended to accompany a play into context, but as constructed the whole seemed less than the sum of its parts. I wonder how it will all come across over radio or webstream without the action being visible. On Thursday, I was very satisfied with the Weber. James Sommerville nailed the horn solos. But I think I know what the BMInt reviewer meant. The Henze seemed to "sorta" fit the elements of the play that it was supposed to illustrate. For a modern piece, it wasn't too tough to take, but it isn't something I'd consider "must hear" music. It's unmelodic.

Listen and decide for yourself over WCRB — broadcast or webstream — at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time this evening and/or 8:00 p.m. on Monday, February 8. Also, visit their BSO page for their podcast about the current program as well as brief information about future BSO broadcasts/webstreams.

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