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:
- György Ligeti, Concert Românesc
- Dmitri Shostakovich, Piano Concerto No. 1
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 2
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