The Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša, making his BSO debut, is joined by acclaimed German violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann for Béla Bartók's scintillating Violin Concerto No. 2, a 1938 work strongly influenced by Central European folk music. The other three works on the program are based on Slavic myth and legend. Smetana's Šárka, a tone poem from his large cycle Má Vlast ("My Country"), is named for a legendary Czech maiden warrior and illustrates an episode from her life. Mussorgsky's famously scary Night on Bald Mountain (depicted in Disney's Fantasia) seems to have originated in plans for an unrealized opera on the subject of a witches' sabbath, in part inspired by the great Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. Based on a Gogol novella, Janáček's 1918 orchestral rhapsody Taras Bulba is one of his most familiar works-but has never been performed by the BSO.(Some emphasis added. As is often the case, this note mixes up the order of the pieces. Šarka is first, followed by the concerto. After intermission, it's Mussorgsky and Janáček, as stated.)
This concert wasn't part of my subscription, so I can't give you my impressions, but the reviews were favorable. The Globe's reviewer was very happy with how Maestro Hrůša conducted the pieces but not entirely satisfied with Mr. Zimermann's playing in the outer movements of the Bartók. The Boston Musical Intelligencer thought Mr. Zimmermann was fine (but found minor fault with the woodwinds in the concerto). The reviewer was also pleased with the playing and the conducting in the remaining pieces. He did, however, wish that the conductor had chosen Mussorgsky's own, "raw" version of his piece over Rimsky-Korsakov's tamer orchestration. He was also displeased with the nationalism of the Janáček — not a musical complaint, but still one which a listener to a narrative piece of music is entitled to have.
I'm looking forward to hearing this concert this evening, and catching up on what I miss during my brother's phone call when it's rebroadcast and streamed on the 24th. It should make for an exciting evening of music. Listen over WCRB, and consult their specialized pages for the remaining broadcast/webstream schedule as well as links to other background material, such as their own weekly podcast.