There were many children in attendance at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s first Saturday evening concert of 2018. The performance featured two key elements that could have been of special interest to them — or their parents. The soloist was the deft 25-year-old pianist Benjamin Grosvenor in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, one of the composer’s most personable works. And the second half was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. Those quintessential four notes and what follows are pretty much synonymous with the word “symphony” in the public imagination. If you need further proof of that, just look at the name above the Symphony Hall stage.
“Former Boston Ballet principal dancer Yury Yanowsky, last seen with BLO as the condemned man in Philip Glass’s “In the Penal Colony” last season, slicked down his hair and donned a baggy beige suit and spectacles to represent Stravinsky himself. The character provided some moments of physical comedy, such as when tenor Ben Bliss as Tom stood in a kiddie pool in a thunderstorm and Yanowsky hurried to hold an umbrella over the hero’s head. However, the scene in which Tom loses all his fortune and possessions (“Ruin! Disaster! Shame!”) was transformed into a tour of Stravinsky’s supposed internal torment. The chorus, wearing short white wigs and beaked Venetian plague-doctor masks, held up tabloid newspaper front pages with headlines such as “Sell Out!” and “Stravinsky: Finished?” — needlessly diverting attention from the main arc of the drama. Most telling, the Stravinsky character was nowhere to be found during the most affecting scenes.”
For the Boston Globe. March 14, 2017.
“The evening’s final moments belonged to Martinson alone. The stage lights were tinted blue for the lonely Passacaglia, its descending four-note phrase providing both a foundation for harmonies and a launching pad for virtuosic runs. Time stretched out with each repeat. It seemed an eternity since we had embarked on this journey together, yet I sensed that if it continued, we all would have followed her anywhere.”
For the Boston Globe. March 13, 2017.
“It seemed a new universe was being born onstage, a cosmic egg crisscrossed with intervallic paths. Set against passages of chromatic haze, consonances and triads resounded with extra luminosity.
I momentarily looked around for what I thought was a collective sigh from the crowd only to find that the cellos had slid downward en masse, and later I mistook a trombone’s high keen for a yawn or a cry. The music created the illusion of human voices, the purest representation of breath, and time seemed to expand and contract with the spectrum of sounds.”
For the Boston Globe. February 24, 2017.
Colin Currie’s knack for storytelling was evident even before he stepped onstage Wednesday night. The Scottish percussionist included his own engaging, poetic notes in the program for his solo recital at Longy School of Music’s Edward J. Pickman Hall, presented as part of of Celebrity Series of Boston’s 2016 Debut Series. Many program notes are either laundry lists of facts or needlessly flowery, but Currie’s writing struck a satisfying balance of informative, colorful, and personal, with numerous striking turns of phrase (“magnificently murky marimba bath”). His words set expectations high, and his performance exceeded them.
“These ear-footfalls came to mind Tuesday night at the Goethe-Institut, where Dutch pianist Reinier Van Houdt performed Michael Pisaro’s “Green Hour, Gray Future” in an intimate salon, presented by the Boston new-music series Non-Event. Pisaro is perhaps the most notable American representative of the Wandelweiser Group, an international collective and ensemble known for creating atmospheric, expansive music that unfolds slowly and weaves silence into its scores. For some, such music is more effective than NyQuil for drifting off to dreamland. For others, it invites the listener into an untethered state of hypersensitive listening, where time becomes amorphous and the entire body tunes in to a piece’s sound world plus whatever ambient noise may slip in. The creak of doors elsewhere in the building, the whoosh of cars on Beacon Street, and the breathing of fellow concertgoers mingled with Pisaro’s hazy landscape.”
Reinier Van Houdt plays Michael Pisaro, Dec. 7 2016. For the Boston Globe. The off-periods of the BSO (which must be reviewed every week) sometimes allow me to venture further afield in what I write about.
Emerson String Quartet at Jordan Hall. For the Boston Globe, Nov. 22, 2016.