Completing the BSO's three-program celebration of Shakespeare's work, Andris Nelsons and BSO English horn player Robert Sheena give the world premiere of New York-based composer George Tsontakis's Sonnets, Concerto for English horn and orchestra, inspired by several of Shakespeare's poems. Tsontakis's music is dynamically expressive and architecturally satisfying. Shakespeare's tragedies inspired the other three works on the program. Tchaikovsky's alternately aggressive and love-struck Romeo and Juliet needs no introduction; much less familiar is Strauss's overtly dramatic Macbeth, the composer's first tone poem. Dvořák's Othello Overture conveys the passions of love and its darker emotions.(Some emphasis added.)
As so often happens, they don't list things in the order they're performed. The concert opens with the Strauss Macbeth, followed by Dvořák's Othello. After the intermission we get the Tsontakis Sonnets, and the concert concludes with the Tchaikovsky.
I was there on Thursday and have no complaints. The Strauss Macbeth was worth hearing, as was the Dvořák Othello. While Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet is given too often, it isn't bad. All three seemed well performed. The Tsontakis Sonnets at a few points made me think of bits of Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, which I guess means that the musical style is fairly accessible. You won't mistake it for Haydn, but you won't run screaming from the auditorium, or wherever you radio or computer speakers are located. In each sonnet, the music is softer at the beginning, corresponding to the first quatrian, and it intensifies for the second, and more so for the third. The it calms down for the final couplet. Glancing at the texts in the program notes, I could see some connection between the music and the theme of the sonnet. The BSO has posted a video of a bit of the second sonnet. It gives as good an impression of the piece as you can in a short time.
There's a favorable review in the Boston Globe, with a bit more description of the new piece, as well as references to some elements of the festival outside the regular concerts. The Boston Musical Intelligencer reviewer is even more enthusiastic about the Tsontakis piece than the Globe. Additional information about the new piece is in this article from The Arts Fuse with some words from Robert Sheena.
So by all means, listen to the broadcast or the streaming of the concert approximately live over WCRB on Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, or the rerun on Monday, the 22nd, also at 8:00. On their BSO page, in addition to the list of the pieces being performed, there is a link to their podcast, "The Answered Question," this week featuring interviews with the conductor and the soloist. I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but I expect it to be interesting. There you can also find what is scheduled for the remaining broadcasts of the season.