Saturday, March 26, 2016

BSO — 2016/03/24-26

This week's concerts start with the American premiere performances of Dixi by Giya Kancheki and continue with the too often performed Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninoff, featuring Nikolai Lugansky as piano soloist. After intermission, we'll get Shostakovich's Symphony № 8. All is under the baton of Music Director Andris Nelsons. Go to the BSO's performance detail page for links to program notes, audio previews, performer bios, and a podcast. They describe the concert (in reverse order) thus:
Continuing the BSO's survey of the Stalin-era works of Dmitri Shostakovich, Andris Nelsons leads the composer's wartime Eighth Symphony. Written only a decade earlier, Rachmaninoff's perennially popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, here played by the Russian virtuoso Nikolai Lugansky, is a tour de force of compositional craft. Georgian-born Giya Kancheli, one of the world's most esteemed living composers, remained primarily in Tbilisi until 1990 but has developed a significant worldwide reputation. He developed a personal style that draws strongly on the music of the Christian Orthodox church. Dixi(2009) is a 22-minute work for chorus and orchestra setting fragments of Latin text.
(Emphasis in original.)

This concert wasn't part of my subscription, and it's just as well, since it's Holy Week, and I wouldn't have gone. I always attend the Holy Thursday evening Mass. So I can't give any personal observations. I won't even hear much or any of it during the live broadcast since I'll be in church for the Easter Vigil, and then there will be the weekly call from my brother in Japan. I did, however, buy a ticket for the concert next Tuesday, which will include the Kancheli and Shostakovich pieces, but will drop the Rachmaninoff and open with Shosty's Suite from the incidental music to Hamlet, which they played, and I heard, in February. I'm glad to be able to hear that unfamiliar music again, rather that having to sit through the Rhapsody once more.

The Globe reviewer leans more to describing the music than the way it was performed, but he finds elements of the latter to admire and nothing to criticize. He is bemused, however, by the Kancheli piece (unsurprisingly, given how it's described in this review and the BMInt's). The Boston Musical Intelligencer, as usual, has a longer review. Like the Globe, it is not highly impressed by "Dixi," but the reviewer has praise for elements of the performance, as well as for the playing in the Rachmaninoff. He saves his warmest praise, however for the orchestra's handling of the Shostakovich, section by section, and soloist by soloist. He is however mildly critical of the conductor for somehow failing to develop an overall cohesive approach to the symphony, despite his impressive handling of various sections.

In the light of all that, I'm prepared to be unimpressed by "dixi," when I hear it next Tuesday, and I'm looking forward to some impressive playing in the Shostakovich 8th. As always, you can hear the Saturday performance live over WCRB (broadcast or webstream) at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time (with a rebroadcast/stream on April 4, also at 8). Also, check out their BSO page, with its links to their weekly podcast (including an interview with the pianist) and other features.

Overall, then, I'd say this probably isn't quite at the level of "must hear," but it seems there will be some good playing and singing. Despite my carping, the Rachmaninoff will probably be the easiest to take for many listeners (myself included, probably, although I'm developing a tolerance for Shostakovich).

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