Saturday, June 24, 2017

BSO/Classical New England — 2017/06/24

This week's BSO rebroadcast by WCRB is the concert of November 26, 2016, the one that came right after the Brahms mini-fest we've been hearing the past three weeks. Here's the program, as "printed" in the station's encore broadcasts page:
Moritz Gnann, conductor
Menahem Pressler, piano
MENDELSSOHN Overture, The Hebrides (Fingal's Cave)
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 27
DVORAK Symphony No. 9, From the New World

Of course I posted about it when it was originally performed, so you can check the link to see what I and the reviewers thought about it. As I mentioned in my post at the time, the Mozart concerto is a favorite of mine. It was the first thing I played when my great aunt gave us a new record player in the 1950's and I fell in love with it.

It's a very fine concert, and I'm confident you'll enjoy it. As always, the show begins at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, June 24.

Friday, June 16, 2017

BSO/Classical New England — 2017/06/17

As noted in the previous two posts, last fall's Brahms mini-fest included performances of his two piano concertos and four symphonies. The concertos and symphonies 2 and 4 were programmed for Fridays and Saturdays, while the concertos and symphonies 1 and 3 were on the bill for Tuesdays and Thursdays. So the odd-numbered symphonies didn't make it to the Saturday concerts. But WCRB recorded them in performance and broadcast them on March 4 of this year, when the orchestra was away on tour. This week, those recordings will be the "encore broadcast" while we wait for the Tanglewood season to begin. Of course, I posted about it at the time.

Here's a link to the page which gives the programs of all this spring's encore broadcasts; and here's one for WCRB's home page, where you have the button to listen live to the webstream at 8:00 p.m. on June 17 if you can't, or don't want to, listen via radio at 99.5 FM in the Boston area.

Enjoy, Brahms lovers!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

BSO/Classical New England — 2017/06/10

This evening's BSO rerun continues the Brahms mini-festival from last fall. The WCRB encore broadcasts page tells us:
Andris Nelsons, conductor
Hélène Grimaud, piano
ANDRES Everything Happens So Much (world premiere; BSO commission)
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4

That page also tells us what's coming up on the next two Saturdays. The concert was originally given on November 19, 2016, and I posted about it at the time. As you can see, the Globe reviewer and I both liked the new work that opens the concert, as well as the rest pf the show.

You can hear it all over WCRB Saturday evening , June 10, at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time (= EDST).

Saturday, June 3, 2017

BSO/Classical New England — 2017/06/03

Last fall the BSO gave a Brahms "mini-fest" consisting of all four symphonies and both piano concertos over a two week period. Each week's concerts also had a curtain raiser composed for the occasion on commission from the orchestra. This week WCRB gives us the first broadcast of the mini-fest, originally performed and recorded on November 12, 2016. WCRB's encore broadcast page lists the pieces and performers:
June 3
Andris Nelsons, conductor
Hélène Grimaud, piano
NATHAN the space of a door (world premiere; BSO commission)
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2
I posted about it at the time.

The broadcast and webstream will begin at 8:00 this evening, June 3, over WCRB.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

BSO/Classical New England — 2017/05/27

This week the encore broadcast gives us Charles Dutoit and Yo-Yo Ma in music of Walton, Elgar, and Holst. Here's the listing from WCRB's Encore Broadcasts page, which also tell us what's coming up in June.
Charles Dutoit, conductor
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Women of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus
WALTON Portsmouth Point Overture
ELGAR Cello Concerto
HOLST The Planets
As usual, I posted about it when it was performed, on October 22, 2016. As you can see, although I didn't care much for the Elgar concerto, I quite enjoyed the Walton overture and the Holst, particularly the ending. The reviewers were much more favorable. So give it a listen on WCRB on air or online at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. The program notes will add to the enjoyment of the Holst, but aren't necessary.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

BSO/Classical New England — 2017/05/20

In this week's BSO broadcast/webstream, as WCRB tells us on their homepage:

Nelsons Conducts Bruckner

May 20, 2017: In an encore broadcast, Music Director Andris Nelsons conducts the Symphony No. 3 by Bruckner, and Concertmaster Malcolm Lowe and Principal Violist Steven Ansell are the soloists in Mozart's Sinfonia concertante.

(Emphasis added.)
The Mozart comes first, the Bruckner after intermission. The concert was given on April 9, 2016, and I posted about it at the time. I enjoyed both parts and recommended listening. You can check the original post for specifics and links,

The concert will be broadcast and streamed on May 20 at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time (no Monday repeat).

The schedule of remaining encore broadcasts is here.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

BSO/Classical New England — 2017/05/13

The Boston Symphony 2016-17 season ended last week, and Tanglewood will begin on July 7. Meanwhile, WCRB will fill the Saturday time slot with rebroadcasts. This week it's the concert of March 5, 2016 — with music of  Ravel and Falla — which I posted about at the time. Check out the station's schedule of May and June BSO "encore broadcasts," and listen on air or on line at 8:00 p.m., May 13 over WCRB. There will not be a Monday repeat.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

BSO — 2017/05/06

This concert is the season finale for the BSO. The remaining Saturdays of May and those of June will have the time slot filled with "encore broadcasts" of concerts previously given. Here's a complete list; I'll have something to say about each on its weekend. But today the concert being broadcast and streamed is live. Here's the description from the orchestra's program detail page (going in reverse order of performance):
Soprano Kristine Opolais returns to Symphony Hall as soloist in Mahler's mellifluous Symphony No. 4, a musical journey from earth to heaven that is also the last of Mahler's symphonies to use words from the folk poetry collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn (Youth's Magic Horn). On this same program, Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes performs Rachmaninoff's last piano concerto, the Fourth, which the composer worked on over the course of ten or more years before giving the premiere in Philadelphia in 1927. Even after that he revised the piece extensively twice, creating the final version in 1941. Opening the concert is a suite of orchestral music from Shostakovich's score for Grigory Kozintsev's 1941 stage production of Shakespeare's King Lear, to be recorded for the BSO's ongoing Shostakovich cycle under Andris Nelsons for Deutsche Grammophon.
(Some emphasis supplied.)

The usual links to background information are available on the program detail page.

The review in the Globe is very enthusiastic and points out a number of elements which the reviewer found especially good. The Boston Musical Intelligencer gives a lot of information about the music, as well as the performance, and is generally quite favorable.

Due to a slight indisposition, I decided not to go to the Thursday performance. The reviews have me wishing I had been there; and I'm looking forward to hearing it this evening at 8:00 over WCRB, which will rebroadcast the concert on May 15, also at 9:00. Check out their website for links to other information, including the podcast in which conductor and pianist talk about pieces on this program.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spring Orgy® Period 2017

This year's Spring Orgy® on WHRB has begun with the Warhorse Orgy, which started at 1:00 and will run to 10:00 this evening, Boston Time.

Subsequent orgies will be:

  • Monteverdi — May 2
  • Beach (Mrs. H.H.A. Beach) — May 3
  • Telemann — May 4-7
  • Ravel — May 7-9
  • Dinu Lipatti — May 10
  • Vienna Philharmonic — May 12-14

In most cases, they run from 1:00 to 10:00 p.m. (with some irregularities) on the days noted. There are other orgies, featuring rock and jazz music, during other hours. Most notably, there is an Ella Fitzgerald Orgy from 5:00 to 11:00 a.m. on May 10, 11, and 12. For more specific information as well as for listings of works and performers, go to the station's program guide.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

BSO — 2017/04/29

This week's concert was definitely okay, and I'll listen to the broadcast this evening; but I'm not at all tempted to get a ticket and go back and hear it again in the hall on Tuesday. Here is how the orchestra's program detail page describes it (with a notable omission):
Continuing Andris Nelsons' and the BSO's traversal of the complete Shostakovich symphonies is the composer's Symphony No. 6, composed on the eve of World War II and following on the unmitigated success of his Symphony No. 5. Although overshadowed by the Fifth and Seventh (Leningrad), the Sixth is unmistakably Shostakovich in its sardonic humor and melancholy slow movement. The superb German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter opens the concert with Tchaikovsky's evergreen Violin Concerto, among the most popular works in the repertoire. Known for her exploration of contemporary repertoire, Ms. Mutter also performs Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu's 1987 homage to the phenomenal Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky [Nostalghia (In Memory of Andrej Tarkovskij)]. Takemitsu, himself a celebrated film composer, titled this atmospheric piece for violin and strings after one of Tarkovsky's late masterpieces.
(Most emphasis added.)

The omission is that the blurb fails to mention the Shostakovich Festive Overture, which opens the program. I guess the curtain raiser was an afterthought. It is, however, listed at the bottom of the page as part of the program. The page contains the usual links to podcast, performer bios, program notes, and audio previews.

The generally favorable reviews in the Globe and the Boston Musical Intelligencer, although differing on certain points, at least give a good idea of the music itself.Overall, though, I just didn't enjoy most of it. The opening Festive Overture was fun — nothing too serious, just loud, lively, and cheerful. In the Tchaikovsky, I found Ms. Mutter's tone harsh much of the time, especially on the lower strings, except in the second movement. The familiar sections often seemed strangely played, and the surrounding parts didn't seem related to them. I think the BMInt reviewer had the same feeling.

After intermission, the Takemitsu piece was better than I expected. I think of his music as unpleasant, but "Nostalghia" was calm and almost beautiful. But to me it was also dull and overlong. The first movement of the Shostakovich was also dull and overlong. The rest was livelier. Some of, as suggested by the program note sounded like "Rossini meets Prokofiev." So, while it had its moments, overall it was a disappointment.

As I said at the beginning, I will be listening to this evening's performance over WCRB at 8:00 Boston Time (EDT) and/or the rebroadcast/webstream on Monday, May 8. Maybe it will sound better the second time around. Listen in and see what you think, although I wouldn't blame you for deciding at some point that you've  heard enough and switching to something else. Maybe listening to the station's podcast in advance will make it more enjoyable.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

BSO — 2017/04/22

Mozart is our composer this week. The orchestra's performance detail page gives the essentials (typically not listing the pieces in the order in which they will be played):
Andris Nelsons leads this all-Mozart program featuring four acclaimed vocalists in Mozart's transformative Requiem, which he began in response to a mysterious commission. The work remained incomplete at his death in 1791, but at Constanze Mozart's request, Mozart's pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayer finished it with remarkable fidelity to the master's style. Opening the program, the great Romanian pianist Radu Lupu plays one of Mozart's most unusual piano concertos, No. 24 in C minor. Composed in the spring of 1786 and premiered by the composer in Vienna, the proto-Romantic C minor is unique in its strangeness and restlessness, and features a fascinating theme-and-variations finale.
(Emphasis added.)

See the performance detail page  also for all the usual links to background material.

The reviews in the Globe and BMInt are favorable, if slightly mixed in the Globe's case. Like the reviewers, I found the concerto cleanly performed and, for a piece in minor mode, placid. The Requiem had its loud and forceful moments, which I felt as more earnest than desperate. I'd like to hear it all again, but unfortunately I'll be tied up both this evening and on May 1, when it is to be rebroadcast.

As always, you can hear it on air or on line through WCRB at 8:00 p.m., EST, this evening, with a rerun on May 1, also at 8:00. Check the website for links to other information. Enjoy the concert.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

BSO — 2017/04/15

Although this week's program was part of my subscription, I didn't go because I was attending the Holy Thursday Mass. The BSO program detail page gives the usual links, including this week a video podcast about Bruckner. And here's what they say about the concert:
Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida, one of the foremost Mozart pianists of  our age, plays the composer's mysterious, stormy, proto-Romantic D minor piano concerto, a work owing much to the composer's sensitivity to operatic drama and emotion. Bruckner's seldom heard Symphony No. 6, written between 1879 and 1881, was the work he considered his boldest, though only the second and third movements were performed during his lifetime. Gustav Mahler led all four movements-but with cuts-in 1899, in Vienna; the first complete, uncut performance was given in 1901, in Stuttgart. Energetic, lyrical, and expansive, the Symphony No. 6 is a uniquely absorbing example of the composer's monumental symphonic style.
(Some emphasis added.)

Music Director Andris Nelsons will be on the podium.

We have the clash of the reviewers. The Globe found a lot of fault with the way both pieces were performed, whereas the Boston Musical Intelligencer was very pleased.

So, it's up to you to decide for yourself. You can listen this evening on WCRB at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. I probably won't be home from church in time for the Mozart, and my brother will probably call from Japan while the Bruckner is on, so I'll have to listen to the rerun on April 24 (also at 8:00). As you surely know if you're a regular reader, the 'CRB website has lots of material linked to the home page — including a podcast about this concert and other offerings on the station. You also know that within broadcast range, you can hear them at 99.5 FM, otherwise via webstream.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

BSO/Classical New England — 2017/04/08

This week the orchestra isn't playing in Symphony Hall (or anywhere else that I can see on their website). So WCRB is giving us a rerun of a concert from 15 months ago. Here's the description on their Upcoming BSO Broadcasts page, where you can also see the broadcast/webstream schedule for the rest of the season:
Saturday, April 8
Johannes Moser is the soloist in Dvorák's Cello Concerto, part of an All-Czech program that also includes "The Moldau," from Smetana's My Country, and Martinu's Fantaisies symphoniques (Symphony No. 6), all conducted by Ludovic Morlot, in a concert recorded on January 23, 2016.
Ludovic Morlot, conductor
Johannes Moser, cello
SMETANA “The Moldau” from Ma Vlast
MARTINU Fantaisies symphoniques (Symphony No. 6)
DVORAK Cello Concerto
Of course, I posted about it at the time of the performance. Unfortunately, I neglected to include a link to the review in BMInt. Here it is.

Anyway, this should be worth tuning in or listening on line on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time. It doesn't look as if they're planning to play it again on Monday the 17th.

BTW, while I was looking up the BMInt review of this week's rebroadcast, I noticed that there is an extensive, and fascinating to me, discussion about conducting in the comments on the review of last week's concert.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

BSO — 2017/04/01

This week we have a French guest conductor leading an all French concert. See the BSO's performance detail page for the usual links to background information. There, the program is described as follows:
French conductor Alain Altinoglu, making his BSO debut, leads this all-French program and is joined by his countryman, the violinist Renaud Capuçon, for Édouard Lalo's Symphonie espagnole, written for the great Spanish virtuoso Sarasate in 1874 and a brilliant concerto in all but name. Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture, by turns romantic and exuberant, opens the program. Albert Roussel's Suite No. 2 from his 1930 ballet Bacchus et Ariane was strongly championed with the BSO by Charles Munch. It was also Munch who introduced Henri Dutilleux's music to the orchestra and called for the commission of his atmospheric Symphony No. 2, Le Double, to commemorate the BSO's 75th anniversary.
(Some emphasis added.)

The reviews are favorable. The Globe finds no fault. The Boston Musical Intelligencer, with no space limitations, goes into more detail, but only has a couple of minor faults to find. I didn't go because I seemed to have a bit of a cold, but I'm looking forward to hearing the first half this evening, before my brother calls from Japan, and the rest in the rebroadcast on Monday, April 10.

As always, you can hear it tonight at 8:00 p.m. EST over WCRB on line or on air. And there is the usual rebroadcast at 8:00 p.m. on April 10. Their website has much information about their programming, including this page devoted to the concert, with a link to a podcast.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

BSO — 2017/03/25

This week we have a world premiere between two works from the early 19th Century, one a staple of the repertory and the other somewhat less familiar. Here's the description from the orchestra's performance detail page:
American cellist Alisa Weilerstein joins French conductor François-Xavier Roth for the world premiere of the BSO-commissioned un despertar, for cello and orchestra by German composer Matthias Pintscher, with whom Weilerstein has collaborated in the past. Pintscher, also a noted conductor, is a major figure in classical music in both Europe and the U.S. Opening the program is Hector Berlioz's alternately romantic and swashbuckling Le Corsaire Overture, which, as was often the composer's practice, took shape from earlier sketches. The title is an incidental reference to James Fenimore Cooper's The Red Rover ("Le Corsaire rouge"). Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, Pastoral, is his only explicitly programmatic symphony, a fundamentally cheerful work illustrating a sojourn in the countryside.
(Some emphasis added.)

See that page also for links to program notes and audio previews, performer bios and a podcast.

On Thursday evening, I enjoyed the Berlioz overture — a pleasant piece. I thought they did a good job with the Beethoven. As can happen with a good conductor and orchestra, there will be details which become noticeable in the performance which are usually covered by other instrumental lines. In this case, I heard wind parts in the first movement which normally are obscured by the strings. What makes this desirable is that I get to see a bit more of how Beethoven composed. I shouted bravo at the end to get the audience started on the deserved applause, since the symphony doesn't end with the sort of loud and fast music that guarantees a standing ovation.

On the other hand, it is hard to find something good to say about the cello concerto which received its world premiere on Thursday and will have its broadcast premiere this evening. For one who is not a music professional it was not possible to see any connection among the things that were played. Notes succeeded notes, phrases succeeded phrases, but without any apparent relation to one another. The good things were that it was not too terribly dissonant, it was pretty calm and mostly quiet, and even the loud parts weren't ear-splitting. So even though it had no apparent value, it wasn't unpleasant to listen to. It was apparently a workout for the cellist in places, and she and the orchestra deserve credit for carrying it off, but IMO no credit to the composer. Nevertheless, I'll listen to the broadcast and see if I can find more value in it on a second hearing.

The reviews (Globe here, and Boston Musical Intelligencer here) have no substantial criticism of the Pintscher piece, and only minor complaints about the opening and closing works. So we agree thar rhe concert is worth hearing when WCRB broadcasts and streams it at 8:00 p.m, Boston time, with a repeat on Monday, April 3 (although I wouldn't blame you for going to the fridge during the Pintscher — the Beethoven won't begin until after 9:00). As always, there's other good material about the concert and other programming available on the 'CRB website.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

BSO — 2017/03/18

This week we enjoy a concert of music from before the 20th Century. I'll let the orchestra's performance detail page describe it:
BSO Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink leads the first BSO performances in thirty years of Joseph Haydn's 1774 Symphony No. 60, The Distracted, which was fashioned in six movements from music Haydn wrote for a play by that name. The women of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus are a provocative, wordless presence in the "Sirens" movement of Debussy's three-movement orchestral suite Nocturnes. Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, premiered at the end of 1813, has been an audience favorite ever since. Wagner called it "the apotheosis of the dance"; its entrancing second-movement Allegretto, one of the most familiar movements in Beethoven's symphonies, was encored in its first performances.
(Some emphasis added.)

As usual, that page also has links to various informational material.

The reviews are favorable. The Globe's reviewer saw some room for improvement in the Haydn, but was otherwise pleased. The review by the musicologist at the Boston Musical Intelligencer nitpicks over a couple of details in the Debussy and suggests that the finale of the Beethoven was too fast, but in general is approving.

Both reviews note the immediate standing ovation for the Beethoven, but it's normal. Beethoven wrote a real crowd-pleaser with a guaranteed applause-catching finale. It would have been remarkable if the audience members hadn't given that ovation. I was quite happy with the whole thing. The Haydn was fun. Although I generally don't care for the French Impressionists, the "Nocturnes" were serene and the typical dissonances of the style were not annoying. The Beethoven 7th was performed just last spring, and normally that would be enough to set me off on my "don't keep playing the warhorses at the expense of other deserving rarely heard compositions" rant. But for Haitink I'll make an exception. It was definitely worth hearing, especially since fourth chair horn player Jason Snider did the "bullfrog" low notes in the 3rd movement perfectly every time.

So by all means listen in the the broadcast or webstream over WCRB at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time this evening (repeated at 8:00 on March 27 and subsequently available on demand for a year). This concert's a keeper. As always, the WCRB website is worth exploring for related information, such as their podcast and schedule of BSO broadcasts, as well as information about other programming.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

BSO — 2017/03/11

The Boston Symphony has returned to Symphony Hall just over a week ahead of the swallows' return to Capistrano. Unfortunately, they weren't back in time to play on Thursday, so I haven't heard the abbreviated week's very full concert under the baton of Finnish guest conductor Sakari Oramo. The show opens with Symphony № 3 by Sibelius. Then, after intermission, orchestra and conductor are joined by pianist Kirill Gerstein and the men of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus for the Piano Concerto of Busoni. That's right. There's a men's chorus in the fifth(!) movement of this 70-75 minute work. The orchestra's performance detail page provides the usual links and this description:
Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo and Russian pianist Kirill Gerstein return to Symphony Hall, joining the BSO and the men of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus for the visionary Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni's monumental Piano Concerto, a fascinating but rarely heard work of Mahlerian scope dating from the first years of the 20th century. These are the first BSO performances. (Future BSO conductor Karl Muck led the premiere in Berlin in 1904.) Opening the program is a very different sort of piece from the same era, Jean Sibelius's Symphony No. 3, a sunny, open work with numerous touches of folk-music simplicity.
I generally like Sibelius, and this symphony should be enjoyable. I don't know what to expect from the Busoni. I've heard the audio preview linked on the BSO page, and what's there sounds okay; but will the whole thing be engaging, or too much of an okay thing?

Surprisingly, there is already a review in the Globe. It's quite favorable and gives a fair amount of description of the music. The reviewer praises both conductor and pianist, and finds no fault with anything. (On the other hand, there are no raves such as "best performance ever.")

This sounds like a pretty good one to listen to on WCRB radio or internet, at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time Saturday, with a rerun available at 8:00 on Monday, March 20. There is a link to a podcast on one of the interior pages. Browse the site for other information about the station's offerings.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

BSO/Classical New England — 2017/03/04

The orchestra is on tour this week, so WCRB is playing the Brahms Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3, which were performed in concerts last November. We were not scheduled to hear them on Saturday nights, though, because of an unusual scheduling decision. The BSO played Symphony No. 1 on Tuesday and Thursday, Nov. 8 and 10, and No. 3 on Tuesday and Thursday, Nov. 15 and 17. In the Friday and Saturday concerts of those weeks, they played the even-numbered symphonies. (But then the pianist had to cancel for Saturday, Nov. 15. The orchestra responded by replacing the concerto with Symphony No. 3. WCRB, however, decided to broadcast a recording of the Thursday concert  instead of the live concert that evening.)

My posts for those weeks include my impressions of the 1st and 3rd Symphonies and links to reviews etc. So you can track them down for more info. Back then, a review hadn't appeared in BMInt for the 3rd Symphony. Soon after I posted, one did. All it says about the symphony is, "Nelsons then led the orchestra in a thrilling and a tuneful reading of Brahms’s  Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90 (1883). For all the music’s inherent excitement, I missed the careful attention to inner voices, the contrapuntal building blocks of Brahms’s compositional rhetoric. Leaping from peak to peak obscures value when the valleys disappear. While many in Symphony Hall reveled, I  left craving more."

I asked my brother, who is an amateur horn player, about the business in the horn section which I noted in my preview of the Nov. 19 concert, and he said that by Brahms' time, composers would indicate in the score which horn was to play which notes. So at least some of what I saw was probably specified by Brahms himself.

Note that in November the symphonies were played after intermission, with a new work and a piano concerto before the intermission. Those works will not be in the broadcast/stream this week, but they were also played on the Saturdays back then.

So, if you like Brahms, you're in for a treat this evening at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, as WCRB gives you two symphonies, recorded in concert last November. And the show will be repeated on Monday, March 13, at 8:00.

Happy listening.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

BSO — 2017/02/25

This week's concert includes the broadcast premiere of a work the BSO gave its world premiere on Thursday. After intermission comes a massive symphony from Shostakovich. The BSO performance detail page has this to say:
The Russian-born Sofia Gubaidulina, acclaimed as one of the most significant composers in the world today, was encouraged in her career early on by Dmitri Shostakovich. She wrote her Triple Concerto (a BSO co-commission receiving its world premiere at these concerts) for the unusual combination of violin, cello, and bayan, a type of accordion often employed by Gubaidulina and a mainstay of Russian folk music. Joining Latvian violinist Baiba Skride are Dutch cellist Harriet Krijgh and Swiss bayanist Elsbeth Moser, both making their BSO debuts. Shostakovich wrote his Seventh Symphony, Leningrad, as a tribute to the peoples' fortitude in the face of the German Army's long and destructive siege of that city during World War II. Serge Koussevitzky led the first U.S. concert performances of the piece with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in August 1942, following the NBC Symphony's radio broadcast premiere under Toscanini the previous month. The present performances continue Andris Nelsons' and the BSO's survey of the complete Shostakovich symphonies, which are being recorded for Deutsche Grammophon.
(Most emphasis added.)

Go to that page for links to musical previews, program notes, performer bios, and a podcast.

I was in the hall for the Thursday concert. I'm always inordinately happy to be present for a world premiere. Sometimes the work is terrible, sometimes tolerable, sometimes worthwhile and interesting, and occasionally very enjoyable. What I found very interesting in the Gubaidulina piece is how she shifted from on instrument or group of instruments. Rarely did the whole orchestra play together. One result was that the soloists didn't get drowned out by the full orchestra. And what they played sounded to me mostly like music, not noise. There wasn't a lot of development that I detected, more a series of musical bits which were ot obviously related to one another. It's not going to drive Beethoven's Triple Concerto from the repertoire, nor does it deserve to be as frequently performed, but I hope they'll perform it once in a while.

As for the Shostakovich, if I hadn't already known that it was supposedly in response to the Nazi siege of Leningrad, I don't think I'd have guessed that it was about war. Full disclosure: after the first movement I began to get drowsy, and I may have missed portions of the third and fourth (that's how riveting it was).

The reviewer for the Boston Musical Intelligencer and Mass Live were much more interested in the Shostakovich than the Gubaidulina world premiere, and they spent a lot of time describing the symphony, although the Boston Musical Intelligencer gives a fair amount about the performance also, as well as a description of the triple concerto. The Globe is more balanced. I didn't notice any complaints from the reviewers about anything, but they weren't exactly wildly enthusiastic, either.

Listen to WCRB radio or web this evening at 8:00, Boston time, and decide for yourself about the new piece and the "warhorse." If you miss it this evening or want to hear it again, they'll transmit it again at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, March 6. Note also the link to their podcast on the homepage and the other information on other pages of the site.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

BSO — 2017/02/18

You can't go wrong with Mozart and Beethoven, and the Gunther Schuller piece which precedes them in this week's Boston Symphony isn't as "advanced" as some of his stuff. Here's a synopsis from the BSO's own program description page:
Andris Nelsons and Emanuel Ax team up for one of the pianist's favorites, Mozart's gregarious, large-scale Piano Concerto in E-flat, K.482, composed in late 1785 when Mozart was also working on his comic opera The Marriage of Figaro. The American composer Gunther Schuller wrote his kaleidoscopic Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee in 1959. Each of its movements is based on a different Klee work, inspiring from the composer a wealth of styles ranging from the blues to mysterious modernism. Closing the program is Beethoven's revolutionary Symphony No. 3,Eroica, which radically expanded the boundaries of the symphonic genre.
(Some emphasis added.)

That page also has the usual links to background material.

I was there for the Thursday performance, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy to take the Schuller was; I really liked Emmanuel Ax's playing in the Mozart: and I found the Beethoven adequately performed. It will be interesting to hear it again this evening.

The reviews — Globe here, and Boston Musical Intelligencer here — are favorable, but each reviewer finds fault with some details — a good concert, maybe even very good, but not flawless, in their opinion. The BMInt reviewer makes the Schuller sound a bit less accessible than I found it, and my metaphorical eyes figuratively glazed over at his extended discussion of tempi in the Beethoven. The good acquaintance who gave me a ride to the subway garage thought Nelsons slowed things too much in the ritardandi in the Beethoven; and the man who sat across the aisle from me stormed out during the applause saying vehemently several times that he found it horrible. The rest of the audience seemed to love it.

Near me were maybe 20 B.U. students. Before the concert several of them exchanged cheerful waves with schoolmates in the opposite balcony. Some left during the intermission. I guess they were there mainly for the Schuller, but anyway it was nice to have a good sized contingent of young people in attendance.

As always you can hear it on radio or over the web through the facilities of WCRB at 8:00 p.m. this evening and rerun on Monday, February. Their website has links to other information about this and other programming, including their podcast, "The Answered Question." See what you think. It will probably help a lot if you've looked at the program note for the Schuller before the concert, and the podcasts from the orchestra and WCRB would also help explain what it's all about. At one time, the BSO had pre-concert lectures, which I found very useful, especially for new works. These podcasts are a pretty good replacement, and you don't have to be in Symphony Hall in order to hear them. The WCRB website also has a gallery of the seven paintings, which could be good to see while the associated music is being played.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

BSO — 2017/02/11

This week we get two more or less familiar works, well established in the repertoire but not overly played by the orchestra, sandwiched around a new one. The program opens with two short pieces; after intermission comes a full length symphony. Here's more information from the orchestra's program detail page, where you also can find the usual inks to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios:
Andris Nelsons is joined by countertenor Bejun Mehta and the Boston-based Lorelei Ensemble in the BSO's first performances of esteemed English composer George Benjamin's Dream of the Song, commissioned by the BSO for the 75th anniversary of the Tanglewood Music Center. Opening the program is Ravel's colorful orchestral version of his solo piano suite Le Tombeau de Couperin, inspired in part by the French Baroque composer François Couperin. Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, his first masterpiece, is innovative in form, remarkably forward-thinking in its use of the orchestra, and quintessentially Romantic in its depiction of an artist's unrequited love.
(Some emphasis added.)

I had a ticket for Thursday's concert, but management, in an excess of caution, cancelled the performance because of the weather which they hardly ever do. In any case, I can't tell you anything about it. The Boston Globe has a favorable review with an interesting description of the Benjamin piece. The reviewer liked the Berlioz and notes some unusual placement of instruments. Unfortunately, the Ravel wasn't played on Friday, so even this review can't tell us how it was done. Presumably they won't ruin it tonight. So far, the Boston Musical Intelligencer hasn't published a review.

You can hear for yourself and form you own opinion. WCRB will broadcast it over 99.5 FM and stream it over the internet at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, and presumably give a rerun on February 20, also at 8:00 p.m, and then make it available for on demand listening. Their website contains other material, including a link to their podcast "The Answered Question," which has an interview about this evening's program.

Happy listening.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

BSO — 2017/02/04

This week's BSO concert is a single work, the B Minor Mass by Bach, with Andris Nelsons conducting, Unfortunately, my browser is working very slowly, and I'm afraid I won't have time to get everything lined up for a regular review. Suffice it to say, the work is a masterpiece, and the performance on Thursday satisfied me and the reviewers. Nowadays, modern symphony orchestras don't perform much baroque music: they generally leave it to the specialists. So this is something of a rarity. It's certainly a break for listeners from the usual music from Mozart to contemporary. So by all means, listen in, if you can.

When I have a chance to add links to reviews and the orchestra's page, I'll do so, but that may be after the concert is over. Meanwhile, enjoy!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

BSO — 2017/01/28

A brief new piece and by two familiar ones make up today's concert. The orchestra's program detail page gives further information.
Juanjo Mena leads the American premiere of the fine English composer Julian Anderson's Incantesimi, co-commissioned by the BSO, the Royal Philharmonic Society, and the Berlin Philharmonic, which gave the world premiere in June 2016. Incantesimi is a study in long lines, using "five musical ideas that orbit each other in ever-differing relationships." French pianist/composer Jean-Frédéric Neuburger-introduced to BSO audiences in the 2014-15 season via the world premiere of his composition Aube-makes his BSO debut as piano soloist in Robert Schumann's passionate, lyrical Piano Concerto, which began life as a single-movement work and was written for Schumann's wife Clara, one of the great pianists of the age. Franz Schubert wrote his towering orchestral masterpiece, the so-called Great C major symphony, toward the end of his short life. Its exact dates have never been established, but he composed this formally and harmonically innovative piece at around the same time Beethoven wrote his Ninth Symphony.

Christoph von Dohnányi, upon the advice of his physician, cannot travel at this time due to the flu and has regretfully cancelled his engagement to lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra, January 26-28. Conductor Juanjo Mena will replace Mr. Dohnányi for these concerts, also featuring pianist Jean-Frédéric Neuburger, as well as the American premiere of Julian Anderson's Incantesimi, a BSO co-commission. The program remains the same.
(Some emphasis added.)

The reviews are very favorable, both in the Globe and in the Boston Musical Intelligencer. I was there on Thursday and greatly enjoyed it. The Anderson piece is certainly modern, but with the help of the BSO podcast and the program notes, it made sense. I didn't catch all the elements that they talked about, so I'm definitely looking forward to the chance to hear it again. The Schumann was pleasant throughout. I had been afraid that the Schubert would be too much, but it never was. At some point in the fourth movement, I realized that the conductor had kept it light throughout. It kept moving, and remained interesting, never dragging. The reviewers say the same thing in their own words.

I definitely recommend listening over WCRB at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. Check out their website for all sorts of information about their BSO programs and other features.

Friday, January 20, 2017

BSO — 2017/01/21

This week's Boston Symphony concert begins and ends with familiar works. In the middle is one that is much less well known, one that the BSO has never played before. In fact, they've never played anything by this composer. Here's how the BSO performance detail page summarizes it:
The great Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer joins Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena and the BSO for the Polish-born Soviet composer Moisey Weinberg's Violin Concerto. Weinberg-whose music has never been performed by the BSO-moved to the Soviet Union at the start of World War II, becoming a friend and protégé of Dmitri Shostakovich, who intervened with authorities when Weinberg was arrested on political grounds. Weinberg's Violin Concerto (1959) is a substantial work with a strong stylistic kinship to Shostakovich's music. Opening the program is Prokofiev's brief and delightful Classical Symphony, modeled on the symphonies of Haydn and Mozart. Tchaikovsky's emotionally intense Fourth Symphony, completed in 1878, represents the culmination of a traumatic period in the composer's life.
(Most emphases added.)

Also check out the links on that page for program notes, audio previews, performer bios (click on the thumbnail pictures), and podcasts.

This concert wasn't part of my subscription, so I can't give you any opinions of my own. The reviews in the Boston Globe and the Boston Musical Intelligencer found no fault with any of the music or the playing, except for one item mentioned by the Globe reviewer. As noted, though, the Weinberg piece inhabits the same musical universe as Shostakovich, so it could be a bit challenging, but why not give it a whirl?

You can hear the performance Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m., EST, over WCRB, radio or internet. Check out other pages on their website for further information about their programming and their podcast.I'll be out celebrating my birthday during the first part of the broadcast, and talking to my brother in Japan after I get home, so I'll have to wait for the rebroadcast on January 30 to hear how it was.


Friday, January 13, 2017

BSO — 2017/01/14

This week's Boston Symphony concert is unusual in that the two works preceding intermission feature the organ. Here's how the BSO describes it on their performance detail page:
English conductor Bramwell Tovey is joined by virtuoso American organist Cameron Carpenter, who makes his BSO subscription series debut in a work written for him, At the Royal Majestic, by the innovative American composer Terry Riley, a founding father of musical minimalism. Himself an organist, Riley created this eclectic large-scale concerto "shifting, as its title suggests, from sounds reminiscent of the Mighty Wurlitzer housed in the grand movie palaces, to fragments of Calliope, Baroque Chorales, occasional craggy dissonance of clashing pipes, and boogie." To open the concert, Carpenter is soloist in Samuel Barber's 1960 organ-and-orchestra work Toccata Festiva, by turns exuberant and lyrical. The English composer Edward Elgar's tour-de-force of orchestral and expressive imagination, the EnigmaVariations, is a series of widely varied portraits of his friends achieved via transformations of a common musical theme.
(Some emphasis added.)

See that page also for links to performer bios, program notes, and audio previews.

The reviews are favorable. The Globe describes things concisely and identifies the two! encores, each of which was spectacular in its own way, and good for giving us a chance to hear the organ unimpeded by sounds from the orchestra. Of course, if there is an encore or two on Saturday, it/they will not necessarily be the same, but I'm sure you'll recognize "Fly Me to the Moon," if he does it. The Boston Musical Intelligencer has more space available for its reviews, and this review describes the music and the performance in greater detail — including noting that Cameron Carpenter played the (optional) organ part in the Elgar.

The concert was enjoyable to listen to. Seeing the organist playing, especially watching his feet on the pedals, certainly added to the experience. He frequently changed the stops, but most of the time, I didn't notice any change in the sound of the organ. But I think it'll be worth hearing even without the added visuals. So I definitely recommend going to WCRB on air or on the internet at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. If you miss any of it on January 14, they will rebroadcast/stream it at 8:00 p.m. on Monday January 23. Their podcast, "The Answered Question" includes a useful discussion of this week's program during the first 15 minutes.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

BSO — 2017/01/07

The orchestra returns to Symphony Hall this week with an unusual program, featuring wind players of the orchestra as soloists in generally unfamiliar works. The BSO performance detail page describes it as follows:
Soloists from the ranks of the Boston Symphony Orchestra take center stage in this highly unusual, far-ranging program led by BSO Assistant Conductor Ken-David Masur. BSO piccoloist Cynthia Meyers performs Vivaldi's delightful Piccolo Concerto in C. BSO principal clarinet William Hudgins and clarinetist Michael Wayne are soloists in Mozart-contemporary Franz Krommer's Concerto No. 2 for two clarinets. BSO principal trumpet Thomas Rolfs is soloist in French composer André Jolivet's Concertino for trumpet, piano, and strings, a dynamic, three-movement work from 1948. BSO principal trombone Toby Oft plays the Trombone Concerto of Italian composer Nino Rota-best known for scoring Coppola's The Godfather but a versatile and prolific composer of concert and stage works as well. Finally, Robert Schumann's Konzertstück ("Concert-piece") for four horns provides an exhilarating showcase for principal horn James Sommerville and his virtuoso colleagues Rachel Childers, Jason Snider, and Michael Winter.
(Most emphasis added.)

I was there for the performance on Thursday, and I found it all pleasant enough — except for the Jolivet, which I'd call "not unpleasant." As originally programmed, the Jolivet concerto was to finish the first half, but I guess they decided it would be better not to have the Vivaldi and Krommer adjacent. I thought everybody played very well, except for a couple of wobbles in the horns. The Jolivet trumpet concert was "modern." The others, including the Rota, were normal music. But none of them were particularly memorable. In the Krommer clarinet concerto, I imagined the Hudgin's tone was a bit brighter, and Wayne's a bit mellower. The BMInt reviewer suggests something similar. So it was a great night for the wind players to have some time in the spotlight. I'm glad I was there for it, and I think you be glad to have listened, if you do.

The reviews are favorable. The Globe noted the occasional problems with the horns. The Boston Musical Intelligencer gives a fairly good synopsis of the music (and likes the Jolivet much more than I did).

The horn soloists in the Intelligencer photo are, l.-r., Snider, Winter, Childers, and Sommerville. Clint Hutchinson, flute player, is in the center, just slightly behind Ms. Childers. In the back, behind Mr. Hutchinson, is assistant tympanist Daniel Bauch. The conductor, Ken-David Masur, is standing on the right, and in the back row behind him are two trumpeters, but I'm never sure which is which.

Anyway, you can listen, beginning at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, over WCRB. There's another page on their website which has a link to their podcast, with interviews with three of the evening's soloists. It also has a link (fine print upper left, to the remaining broadcast schedule for the season. I'd have expected this concert to be rerun on January 16, but they don't say they will.