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.

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