Concert Reviews

Exploring the Boston Scene

The Boston Scene

After a couple of weeks without concerts and opera I am finally starting to explore the Boston music scene (again). So far, most of the non-campus events were disappointing:

1) Boston Symphony Orchestra under James Levine played Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto (with Christian Tetzlaff) and Mahler’s 9th Symphony. This concert was a let-down: the orchestra (and the soloist) had major intonation problems in the Violin Concerto and in addition to that they were not playing together most of the times. This can happen, of course, but what should not happen is what happened in the Mahler where the brass section was constantly too loud! What did the trumpet player think when he totally overblew his instrument at an obnoxious volume? And what is more: shouldn’t Levine have changed this imbalance? Or was that his interpretation of the work?

2) Boston Musica Viva honoring Elliott Carter presented a program with pieces that were dedicated to Carter. An interesting idea, but it really didn’t take off that well. The pieces on the program seemed too diverse for me and it was difficult to relate them to Carter’s music. I’m looking forward to BMV’s “Hands Across the Seas” program in May, though, that will feature music by Chen Yi, William Kraft, and Osvaldo Golijov (who seems to be a some kind of a new music star over here).


3 comments for “Exploring the Boston Scene”

  1. I lived in Berlin as a music student in the 80’s and live in Maine now. I attended the Nov. 9 BSO Berg/Mahler performance and felt as you did. Sloppy, unbearable slow, slack, and the brass were terrible. The Nov. 8 concert was apparently good, based on the the Globe critics article. On the 9th, however, the trumpet player injured his lip in the Mahler and tried to force his way through the concert, yet still sounded painfully bad. I love the Mahler 9, and thought Levine was terrible. It is probably my favorite piece, if I can name just one, but I was bored within the first 15 minutes…It looked as though half the string section was bored too.

    On the 19th I attended Berlin and Rattle in Boston performing Das Lied von der Erde. I am not a huge admirer of Rattle (he conducts moments, not lines), but it was an excellent concert. Heppner and Quasthoff…. The orchestra is so different than in the 80s under Karajan. The winds are so expressive, the brass are more virtuosic. I love the new BP sound, but do miss that rich, deep string sound the Karajan cultivated. Today’s strings are great, I am not being critical, I just miss the old sound…. From these two concerts, it is clear that Boston has a long way to go to catch up to the Philharmoniker.

    On Nov. 11th, Tetzlaff came up to Maine after his Boston Berg concerts and performed a solo recital on unaccompanied Bach and Bartok at a small church in downtown Bangor. He performed for no fee, to make up for a concert he had to cancel through no fault of his own. It was one of the greatest musical events I ever had the honor to hear. I am a very critical listener, but after a few moments I was so affected by the beauty of his playing that just let it was over me. His performance of the Chaconne in the D minor partita and a Karajan/Berlin Bruckner 5th in the Philharmonie in 1981 are the two greatest live moments I have ever experienced.

    I enjoy the blog.

    Jack Burt

    Posted by Jack Burt | November 25, 2007, 1:58 am
  2. Hi Jack!

    Thanks for your message! It is exciting that someone else is interested in the Boston-Berlin music connection!

    Yes, I heard about the trumpet player injuring himself on the 9th. I was actually in the performance on the 8th and I guess I would disagree with the colleague from the Globe then :-)

    I wish I could have gone to the Berliner Philharmoniker concert in Boston, but alas, the tickets were too expensive for my taste.

    I completely agree with what you are saying about Rattle: he does conduct for those shiny moments only. Whenever I heard the Berlin Phil play under Rattle they were great for those special moments but just ok for the rest of the pieces. When Welser-Möst conducted them, though, they were absolutely breath-taking. I think he is a great conductor (Welser-Möst).

    Yes, I agree that Boston “has a long way to catch to the Philharmoniker”, but which orchestra doesn’t? ;-)

    Best wishes from Boston!

    Posted by Matthias Röder | November 26, 2007, 7:29 pm
  3. I am not a Tetzlaf fan, but am a BSO fan. The 9th Mahler was one of the great performances. The Phoenix critic said they sounded like the best in the world. I sat in the 3rd row orchestra to hear the glorious Boston Symphony under a great conductor. Berlin has slipped a lot. Their winds are awful, and have no beauty whatsoever. Their strings do not play together. Under Rattle, the Berlin has slipped considerably. Most honest critics ad musicians will agree with me.

    Posted by MARC WIDERSHIEN | November 2, 2009, 2:54 pm

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