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.

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