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.