Saturday, April 30, 2016

BSO/Classical New England — 2016/04/30

The Orchestra is on tour, so there will be no live concerts from them until the Tanglewood season begins. In the 8:00 p.m. time slot this evening, WCRB will present a rebroadcast/stream of the concert of nearly a year ago — May 2, 2015 — with music of Schumann, Mozart, and Brahms. I wrote about it at the time, and here's a link to the station's BSO page for this rebroadcast, which also has information about future BSO rebroadcasts and Pops broadcasts/rebroadcasts until Tanglewood begins.

Friday, April 22, 2016

BSO — 2016/04/21-23

French orchestral music surrounds Russian vocal music in this week's BSO concert, the last of the current subscription season. The orchestra's performance detail page has the usual links to program notes, audio previews, performer bios, and their podcast. Here's their description of the program:
In the final concerts of the 2015-2016 season, Andris Nelsons and the BSO are joined by soprano Kristine Opolais for two Russian-language pieces: Rachmaninoff's lovely (sic) How fair this place; and the gorgeous Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin. The larger part of the program is devoted to French orchestral music. Henri Dutilleux's Métaboles continues the BSO's commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth. Dutilleux's music, though unique, drew strongly on that of his great predecessors, Ravel and Debussy. Debussy's La Merevokes the constant dynamic change of the sea. Ravel's dreamlike La Valse is a kind of elegy for Europe's Belle Époque, which ended with the onset of World War I.
(Some emphasis added.)

The concert begins with the Dutilleux, which was fairly innocuous for a piece composed in 1964. It wasn't melodic, but it wasn't really jarringly dissonant, either. Then we get the singing, with the conductor's wife as soloist. It was okay, but not especially memorable. After intermission, we get two "warhorses" of French Impressionism. I don't care much for the style, but most people seem to like it, and I thought it was well played, as was the first half of the concert.

The Globe reviewer was pleased. The review in the Boston Musical Intelligencer is very descriptive of the music, making it nearly must reading. The reviewer is dissatisfied with some elements of the playing.

You can hear it all over WCRB on Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and/or Monday, May 2, at 8:00, when it will be rebroadcast. The station's BSO page includes a link to their podcast, which includes an interview with conductor and singer. This coming Monday at 8:00 the rebroadcast will be last week's Mahler 9th, which I think is worth hearing. As noted, this is the end of the subscription season, so the page also give the schedule for the Saturdays from now until the beginning of the Tanglewood season. There will be three encore broadcasts of symphony concerts from this season, followed by three Pops concerts, then another four symphony encores.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

BSO — 2016/04/14-19

This week the BSO gives us a single work, Mahler's Symphony № 9 under the baton of Music Director Andris Nelsons. The orchestra's program detail page has links to a podcast with various features, performer bio, program notes, and audio previews. It also give the following description:
For the penultimate concerts of the BSO's 2015-2016 season, Andris Nelsons leads Mahler's Ninth Symphony, the work with which he made his debut with the orchestra in 2011, at Carnegie Hall. The composer's last completed work, the Ninth is a stunningly moving piece that has been interpreted as a meditation on death. On the boundary between the Romantic and the modern eras, it is doubtless one of the most beautiful symphonies in the literature.
Of course, whether it is "one of the most beautiful symphonies in the literature" is a matter of opinion, and you can judge for yourself.

The Globe reviewer gives a bit more detail about the conductor's first appearance with the orchestra, conducting this piece, five years ago. Overall the review is favorable. The lengthier review in the Boston Musical Intelligencer finds more fault with the performance, while giving more information about the piece. Still, for a full description you have to go to the program notes.

The BMInt reviewer had his criticism of the way the first movement was played. I'm not familiar with the piece, so I don't know if it was how it's supposed to be, but I didn't get a sense of development in that movement: there seemed to be good playing, and there were interesting musical themes, but somehow it didn't seem  to cohere. But I really liked the rest of it — especially the fourth movement — and at the end I was ready to shout, "Bravo!" but I had to wait because Maestro Nelsons held the audience in silence for what seemed an impossibly long time after the last, quiet notes faded away. Kudos to the audience for all respecting his body language as he held his arms motionless. (Aside: Tamara Smirnova, associate concertmaster; Cathy Basrak, associate principal viola; Martha Babcock, associate principal cello; and Rachel Childers, second horn, all had the night off. This put associate concertmaster Alexander Velinzon, Wesley Collins, Sato Knudsen, and fourth horn Jason Snider in the second chairs of their sections. Jason Snider leapfrogged Michael Winter because the second and fourth horns generally have lower lines and first and third, higher. What's more, associate principal horn Richard Sebring virtually never plays when the principal, James Sommerville is there, so they had to bring in freelancers for fourth horn and side horn. The side horn player has been there a lot, but the fourth was new to me.)

The orchestra will play it again this evening and Tuesday, April 19, at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time (EDT). Tickets may still be available. If you can't get there, you can listen live on the radio or web over WCRB this evening; and they will retransmit the concert at 8:00 on Monday April 25. At their BSO page, there's a link to their podcast, which includes an interview with Maestro Nelsons about the concert.

It's an interesting coincidence that it was filling in for Maestro Levine to conduct this work that led to Maestro Nelsons becoming his successor as Music Director of the BSO. Nelsons might never have been seriously considered for the position if that hadn't happened.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

BSO — 2016/04/07-12

We get two very different works this week: Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola, and orchestra, and Symphony №3 by Bruckner in the 1889 version. Boston Symphony principals Malcolm Lowe and Steven Ansell perform the violin and viola solos, while Music Director Andris Nelsons conducts the concert. The orchestra's performance detail page has the usual links to performer bios (click the thumbnail pics), podcast previews, audio previews and program notes. They also give the following description:
BSO concertmaster Malcolm Lowe and principal viola Steven Ansell join Andris Nelsons and the BSO for one of Mozart's greatest concertos, the Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola. Mozart wrote this exemplar of Classical form and style during a lengthy trip to Paris. Bruckner's Symphony No. 3 was originally composed in 1872 but was subjected to a number of revisions by the composer (the present version being the "1889 version"). The symphony everywhere reveals its deep debt to Richard Wagner, to whom Bruckner dedicated the work "in deepest reverence.
(Emphasis in original.)

I was there for the Thursday concert and, to my surprise, found both pieces enjoyable. It was no surprise with the Mozart. Watching the performers did add to the enjoyment. But I was expecting the Bruckner to become tedious. A colleague once quoted a critic as saying that Bruckner's symphonies are like a walk in the woods: you see many nice things, but nothing happens. But somehow on Thursday evening it held my attention and did not seem too long. It was interesting music. As far as I could tell, both pieces were well played. I was especially impressed by the solos by James Somerville on horn and Elizabeth Rowe on flute.

The review in the Boston Globe is favorable — faintly so for the Bruckner. The reviewer spends more time describing the Mozart. So far, there is no review in the BMInt.

I definitely recommend listening on WCRB at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday. It will be rebroadcast on Monday, April 18. (On the 11th the rebroadcast will be last week's Beethoven and Mahler.) Also see their BSO page for links to their podcast, "The Answered Question," including an interview with Maestro Nelsons, and other information about available BSO performances over the station.

If you're nearby, you might want to get a ticket for the performance this evening or the final one on Tuesday, the 13th.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

BSO — 2016/03/31-04/05

Another week: another big symphony. Last week it was Shostakovich's 8th; this week we hear Mahler's 1st; and in the next two weeks, the Bruckner No. 3 and back to Mahler for No. 9. The usual background material is linked at the BSO' program detail page, which gives the following brief overview of the concert:
BSO Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink and the great American pianist Murray Perahia collaborate with the orchestra in Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto. Completed in 1806, the concerto begins surprisingly with unaccompanied piano, and is cast in Beethoven's warm, relaxed mode. Mahler's Symphony No. 1, completed in his late twenties, is in a four-movement, mostly traditional form, but already hints at the expansiveness and innovation of his later symphonies.
(Emphasis added.)

There is a glowing review in the Boston Musical Intelligencer (with a couple of comments that are less enthusiastic). The Globe reviewer was less enthusiastic.

I enjoyed it all. Everybody seemed to play well. Still, on reflection, I understand the Globe reviewer's mild criticism. For all the beauty of the music, neither piece was performed in a way that was really gripping (if it should be). On the other hand, I was expecting the Mahler to be tediously long, but it wasn't, except toward the end of the last movement. It had moved along, holding my interest. Then came a point where the music had built up and seemed ready to conclude. Instead Mahler inserted a couple of minutes of quiet music which, to me, seemed to be superfluous and interrupted the progress toward the end. Overall, though, it was a pleasant evening in Symphony Hall.

The Saturday performance will be broadcast and streamed approximately live over WCRB at 8:00 p.m., Boston time, and retransmitted at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, April 11. Their BSO page has an interview with Bernard Haitink in the podcast which is linked there.