Tag Archive: Brahms

Scriabin lives again at Carnegie Hall! With Mendelssohn, Debussy, Brahms, and Schumann. Riccardo Muti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with Yefim Bronfman

Alexander Scriabin, Tatiana Schloezer and Leonid Sabaneev on the banks of the Oka

One can’t help feeling mildly shocked when one realizes that the Chicago Symphony is now alone among the great American orchestras in employing one of the great senior conductors as Music Director. Michael Tilson Thomas in San Francisco is close to him in age, but nowhere near him in authority. Franz Welser-Möst has something like authority, but not the age, and one might say that his conviction in following his own lights has not quite developed into the kind of authority conductors like Muti and Chailly command.

Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra Perform Brahms’ First and Third Symphonies

Think what you will about San Francisco, but nobody ever said it was Hungarian! You might have been fooled yesterday at Davies Hall, though, rubbing elbows with an enthusiastic elderly audience assembled for Iván Fischer’s Budapest Festival Orchestra. Sunday attendees do normally look a bit older, retired Stanford and Berkeley faculty perhaps, in from the suburbs. But during the week, a twenty-something dating crowd prone to show off its legs and neck in the corridors, leavens the age mix. This time the young were missing. (Their loss!) There was something very “1956” and central European about the crowd, right down to the fuzzy coats and orange hair.

Susanna Mälkki conducts the San Francisco Symphony in Griffes, Bartók, and Brahms, with Jeremy Denk, Piano

Susanna Mälkki. Photo Roni Rekomaa.

I had several motives in attending this concert. Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki is a fast rising star in the classical world, recently appointed Music Director of the Helsinki Philharmonic. I was eager to hear the rarely performed Griffes tone poem, a brilliant programming move. (We need to experience more “A” pieces from obscure composers of the past, I frequently argue.) And I was curious to see how Jeremy Denk would interact with Mälkki, since both musicians are of the brisk, sparky sort. The concert did not disappoint.

Extraordinary Brahms and Shostakovich from Tonu Kalam and the UNC Symphony Orchestra

Tonu Kalam Conducting the UNC Symphony Orchestra

It’s not our custom to review performances we post, but I will say a few words about this concert. Brahms’s Third Symphony is notoriously difficult to perform successfully. I have heard great conductors fail in it. The Toscanini story is famous. None of his NBC Symphony performances quite gel, and there was always much discussion about why this particular symphony, which seemed so well-suited to his temperament evaded him, until his splendid performance with the Philharmonia Orchestra became generally available as a recording many years after his last visit to London at the very end of his career. The puzzlement about Nelsons’ recent performance with the BSO is another case in point. Tonu Kalam has no such problem here. By adopting a gentle, lyrical approach to the work, Kalam achieves a performance that is musically and emotionally coherent—one of the finest I’ve heard.

Boston Symphony Orchestra—Life in Winter: Poga and Ohlsson, Eschenbach, and Haitink

Garrick Ohlsson with Andris Poga and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Photo Stu Rosner.

On January 25th the Boston Symphony Orchestra and assistant conductor Andris Poga completed a series of concerts that, to judge by that final evening, made for one of the season’s high points. Mr. Poga completes his term with BSO this year and moves on to take over the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra in his native Riga. He is an imposing figure onstage—vigorous but not flamboyant, authoritative in his gestures—and on this occasion showed a remarkable inwardness with all the music he conducted.

Brahms Classical and Romantic: Ian Hobson and colleagues traverse Brahms’ music for piano solo and chamber music with piano at the DiMenna Center

Ian Hobson

One of the most significant musical events of the autumn was a concert series of a scope and ambition rarely found anywhere, even in New York. The highly respected pianist-conductor Ian Hobson, who was born in England and educated at Cambridge University, the Royal College of Music, and Yale, and has been a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne since 1975, devoted his regular concert cycle to Brahms’ music for solo piano and chamber works for piano, strings, and winds. This took the form of fourteen concerts, all listed above, which spanned September, October, and the first half of November.

Nelson Freire at Alice Tully Hall

Nelson Freire

Readers of the Berkshire Review have read my grumblings about the standardized repertoire of the Boston Symphony concerts in the Music Shed at Tanglewood. With some miraculous exceptions, like Stéphane Denève’s Poulenc Stabat Mater this past summer, most of the programming comes from a narrow group of works which are the most securely seated in the canon. Hearing them year after year, the critic—or at least this critic—comes think of them as not the backbone of the repertory as much as its flab, its excess belly fat, as those unpleasant little ads say. (We shouldn’t forget that the predominance of this conservative programming—the concert hall as museum—is a post-war phenomenon.)

Andris Nelsons Conducts in Boston: BSO Fall Concerts Plus András Schiff Recital

Andris Nelsons conducts the BSO. Photo: Marco Borggreve.

Andris Nelsons has now made his first appearance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra since being appointed its new Music Director. He will return for one concert in the spring and then assume full duties next fall. On October 17th, he was welcomed very warmly with a standing ovation, and at the end of the evening received another, well deserved one for a very effective performance of Brahms’s Third Symphony.

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