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.

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