Concert Review: Boston Symphony Orchestra – Ligeti, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky

On Saturday night, I enjoyed my first performance at Symphony Hall by the Boston Symphony Orchestra accompanied by my mother.  Assistant Conductor Julian Kuerti lead the orchestra on three lovely pieces by Eastern European composers:

Marc-André Hamelin performed on the piano for Shostakovich’s concerto and I really enjoyed Thomas Rolfs‘ trumpet on the same work.  I tend to be drawn to the timpani though, like Holden Caulfield, I like a good kettle drum player.

I can’t begin to make an informed review of a classical music performance, so here are some assorted reflections:

  • Our seats were in the third row of the 1st balcony, dead center.  I can’t imagine a more preferable place to sit at Symphony Hall.
  • The acoustics really are good.  I felt like I had violins all around my head.
  • Trying to find some commonalities among the composers I conjured up that two were Russian and one was Romanian.  Two lived in 20th Century and one in the 19th.  Two lived through World War II and the Iron Curtain and one under the tsar.  All incorporate some folk and traditional music motifs in their compositions.
  • I haven’t seen many symphonic conductors, but Kuerti is the first one I’ve ever seen raises his arm so far back that he strokes his shoulder blades.  It was like he was lashing himself on every upstroke.
  • Hamelin finished of the Allegro con brio movement of Piano Concerto No. 1 with some very animated hand gestures that reminded me of the piano player in a carnival shooting gallery.
  • The part of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 with the Chinese gong made me laugh allowed because it was so delightfully unexpected (although I should have noted that a gong on the stage would eventually be used).  It reminded me of a George Plimpton story where he participates with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.  He is given the gong because “he can’t mess it up” but hits it so enthusiastically that even the conductor notices.  I looked it up and the piece Plimpton played gong on was indeed Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2.
  • I need to take advantage of the <40 = $20 program again within the next three-and-half years.

Previously: Tour of Symphony Hall

Patriots’ Day 2010

Here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts we’re celebrating Patriots’ Day, or the 235th anniversary of the start of the American Revolution.  Today three generations of my family enjoyed watching the Boston Marathon as I went with my mother and son.  The fun started at Roxbury Crossing as we saw a pair of fighter jets fly over, presumably having kicked off the Red Sox game at Fenway Park.  Peter was more interested in the commuter train, Acela, and Orange Line trifecta below us.

The leading women's runner (and eventual winner) Teyba Erkesso at Cleveland Circle.

Our first frustration was when the 66 bus stopped at Brookline Village and the driver said we weren’t going any further.  So we hopped on the D-branch trolley and ended up watching the marathon from Cleveland Circle instead of Coolidge Corner as intended.  I got a workout holding Peter on my shoulders and he enjoyed seeing motorcycles, trolleys, a firetruck, bicyclists, dogs, and of course the wheelchair racers and eventually the runners.

Robert Cheruiyot and Deriba Merga are neck-in-neck at Cleveland Circle (Cheruiyot would finish first and Merga third).

We’d hoped to go down near BC to meet up with some friends but the police wouldn’t let us cross Commonwealth Avenue to get to the B-train.  So we took the C-train downtown instead.  It’s actually a fun way to watch the marathon.  At times, the trolley went almost as fast as the runners!

Peter watches the Marathon from the "ding ding trolley".

Well it’s been another fun Patriots’ Day.  If you live in one of the other 49 states and want to join in on the fun sign the Facebook petition to Make Patriots Day a Federal Holiday.