Prom 51: Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons

Sunday 23rd August 2015, 3pm

Royal Albert Hall     

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor                  

Haydn – Symphony No. 90 in C major   (24 mins)                                               

Barber – Essay No. 2, Op 17 (11 mins)                

ShostakovichSymphony No. 10 in E minor Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op 93 (57 mins)

Encore – Shostakovich – Galop

About this event

Returning for a second appearance this summer, Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra bring a piece of America with them in Barber’s Essay No. 2 – a symphony in miniature, moving from lyrical loveliness through contrapuntal conflict to end with a radiant chorale. They pair it with Haydn’s Symphony No. 90, where ebullient mischief and dignity vie for supremacy in sunny C major. Joy gives way to high drama, however, in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 – a vivid portrait of Stalinist Russia.

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Review by Tim Ashley, Guardian:

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Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony has become something of a calling card for Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra since Nelsons took up his appointment as music director last year. Their recording, the first instalment of a series entitled Under Stalin’s Shadow, caused a considerable stir, and the symphony formed the main work of Nelsons’ second Prom with his new orchestra.

It was a remarkable achievement, exploring every facet of a complex score. The symphony is widely regarded as an act of self-vindication on Shostakovich’s part after Stalin’s death. Nelsons’ interpretation, however, embraces a wider frame of reference than political anger, although he views the final expression of triumph as one of unambiguous elation. In this performance the structure had an almost Brahmsian tautness, in which not a single note is wasted. Whatever its political subtext, the symphony also encoded Shostakovich’s unrequited love for his pupil Elmira Nazirova, and the third movement was done with extraordinary tenderness. It was immaculately played.”     …

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Review by Gavin Dixon, TheArtsDesk:

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…     “Barber’s Essay No. 2 for Orchestra felt like a bit of a box-ticker: a native work for the orchestra to bring on tour, as close as any American could manage to the European barnstormers that Nelsons is famous for. It’s an attractive piece, a 10-minute single movement, by turns dramatic and lyrical. The material is of appropriate scale for the modest duration, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome, apart from in the overblown coda, which is repetitive to point of redundancy, and beyond. Skilful orchestration though, ideal for showcasing the orchestra’s many strengths.

From the first note of the Shostakovich symphony, it was clear that this was going to be a very special performance. The quiet, winding cello line was presented with absolute precision and clarity, the tone rich but intensely focused. As the movement gradually grew, Nelsons gently urged the music on, giving each of the woodwind just enough space to phrase, but always fitting their solos into a clearly defined and elegantly articulated progression. He was in his absolute prime in the turbulent second movement, the music here ideal for his propulsive, sometimes verging on manic, approach.

Shostakovich’s humour is never black under Nelsons’ baton. He gives the music its full measure of irony, but never lets it wallow in despair.”     …

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Review by Ben Lawrence, Telegraph:

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There was a sense of apprehension when Andris Nelsons strode towards the Podium at the Royal Albert Hall for this, his second of two Proms with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Nelsons is the orchestra’s new music director and the shadow of past triumphs with his old colleagues at Birmingham’s CBSO loomed large.

In his previous job, Nelsons had developed such an intense connection with his players that you feared he wouldn’t have had time to elicit a response of any emotional depth from the Bostonians. Reassuringly, it was business as usual – those eagle-like swoops at moments of symphonic darkness, the playful hand puppetry, which teases out musical mischief – as he proved that, despite his intense theatricality, he is a conductor of exquisite technical nuance.

Haydn’s Symphony Number 90 was performed with a mathematical crispness that nevertheless switched effortlessly (in the double variation of the second movement) to something more profound. Nelsons slightly over-egged the famous false finale, in which the strings gallop to a four-bar silence before an extended coda in D Flat Major – here, four bars seemed to last an age, and Haydn’s musical joke subsequently felt heavy footed.”     …

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Review by David Truslove, BachTrack:

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The second of the BSO’s two London concerts began with Haydn’s Symphony no. 90 in C major. While in the opening movement there might occasionally have been cleaner horn sounds and a more rounded oboe tone there was no doubt about Andris Nelsons’ clear and invigorating direction. Perhaps supervision might be a more appropriate term, since from the Andante onwards there were moments when his left hand just rested motionless on the podium or, batonless, when he merely indicated to players when individuals were in the limelight. One such moment, in one of many chamber-style passages, was a winning partnership between flute and violins where their faultless musicianship caught the ear. In the finale, the high point of the entire performance, the violins seemed ablaze with animation with superbly articulated sforzando semiquavers. The work’s false ending was humorously achieved with Nelson jokingly closing the score during the four bars rest before the coda. Always alert and with some wonderfully spontaneous gestures, Nelsons was a joy to watch and appeared to be plugged into the national grid, such was the electrifying stimulus coming from the stand.

Andris Nelsons © BBC | Chris Christodoulou (Prom 49)

Andris Nelsons
© BBC | Chris Christodoulou (Prom 49)

Before the interval the BSO regrouped for Samuel Barber’s Essay no. 2. Written on the eve of the composer’s call up to the US army air force in 1942, and only once previously heard at the proms, the Essay is a colourfully orchestrated work. Its wistful moments, neatly drawn by expressive woodwinds at the outset, were countered by dramatic tensions in which timpani and brass made an impressive impact, and indicated that Barber is more than just an unabashed Romantic. A warm string tone also contributed to a fine, heartfelt performance, the Bostonians clearly at home with one of their own composers.”     …

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Review by Nick Breckenfield, ClassicalSource:

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…     “After the interval was Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony, Nelsons and the BSO’s current calling card, having recorded it for Deutsche Grammophon to release in time for the tour. Shostakovich could match Haydn with humour, but of a more sardonic type, especially in the abrupt second movement. First, though, the BSO’s mahogany-rich cellos and double basses responded to the resonant Albert Hall acoustic at the opening of the expansive first movement – just a bar was enough to convince of the quality of this new partnership. Nelsons is as lithe and athletic as ever: bending back on to the slatted wooden podium brought from home, then crouching with knees almost to the floor as he peers over his score for a pianissimo.

The poignancy of Shostakovich’s unrequited love for pupil Elmira Nazirova was given rapt life by James Sommerville’s magisterial horn solo against the woodwinds, chattering away with the composer’s oft-used monogram DSCH in the third movement, while the slow introduction to the Finale, makes way for the bittersweet culmination of the Symphony; accepting the Soviet world has changed following the death of Stalin, but in no way enough.

Playing to the Symphony’s musical rather than overtly political or emotional side, Nelsons is a direct and honest interpreter, though also aware of the composer’s contradictions. Eventually quieting the acclamation (having noticed the pair of prommers holding up a line of scarlet hosiery – Boston Red Sox; geddit?!) he told us they had one more piece of Shostakovich – a sarcastic ‘Galop’; immediately recognisable from Cheryomushki.

Finally, and incidentally, I was intrigued by the lavish Boston Symphony Orchestra press pack. With respect to the tour, although it gave the details of all the venues where the BSO is playing, it didn’t mention any of the summer festivals that had issued invitations: no mention of the Proms, the Salzburg Festival or the Lucerne Festival. And it’s the same on the Boston website: although the Salzburg Festival website is the one that it links to, the London link is to the Royal Albert Hall site not the Proms. What a peculiar world view they must have.”

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Review by Geoff Brown, The Times: ££

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Summer Concert

Thursday 23rd July, 7.30pm

Featuring

Programme

  • Tchaikovsky  Sleeping Beauty (highlights) , 30′

Part 1 – Introduction, Pas de quatre (Act III), Introduction, La Fée-Or, La Fée-Argent, La Fée-Saphir, La Fée-Diamant, Coda, Finale (Act I)

  • Barber  Knoxville, Summer of 1915 , 14′
  • Tchaikovsky  Sleeping Beauty (highlights) , 30′

Part 2 – Panorama (Act III), Entr’acte symphonique (Le Sommeil) et Scène (Act III), Finale (Act II), Valse (Act I)

  • Beethoven  Symphony No. 7 , 36′

Tchaikovsky’s tuneful ballet, Barber’s nostalgic memory of another summer’s day 100 years ago, and Beethoven’s most energized symphony: perfect music for a summer evening.

Tonight the CBSO is joined by an outstanding young conductor, fresh from her recent appointment as Assistant Conductor at the LA Philharmonic, for a programme sure to warm you up whatever the weather!

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “She also has the imagination to create her own take on programming, sandwiching Samuel Barber’s dreamlike Knoxville: Summer of 1915 between two huge chunks of Tchaikovsky’s equally dreamlike Sleeping Beauty ballet. The flow worked brilliantly, Talise Trevigne, soprano soloist in the Barber, sliding unobtrusively into position as the first slab of ballet ended, and taking her platform seat at the end of her performance as the second began.

Trevigne’s communication of James Agee’s nostalgic poem was enchanting, her delicate, perfectly-formed delivery smiling in its engagement as it conveyed all the text’s innocent, wide-eyed, childish wonderment.

For the Tchaikovsky Grazinyte-Tyla encouraged a forward orchestral sound, powerful and energetic, but also shaping a delicate lilt to phrasing.

That latter quality was very evident in the allegretto of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, coming after a forceful, forward-moving opening movement, and followed by a scherzo as poised as clockwork, and a finale of evident exhilaration, with, given the context, surprisingly understated body-language at the very end. The few bumps along the way didn’t matter very much.”     …

Friday Night Classics: Classics at the Movies

Friday 1 November 2013 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal  conductor

Claire Rutter  soprano

Barry Norman  presenter

Including music from:   Verdi: The Force of Destiny (Jean de Florette)

Catalani: Ebben? Ne andrò lontana (Diva)

Puccini: O mio babbino caro (A Room with a View)

Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (Black Swan & Billy Elliot)

Barber: Adagio for Strings (Platoon & The Elephant Man)

Herrmann: Salaambo’s Aria (Citizen Kane)

Sibelius: Finlandia (Die Hard 2)

Wagner: The Ride of the Valkyries (Apocalypse Now)

Korngold: Glück das mir verblieb (The Big Lebowski)

Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro (Trading Places)

Strauss: Blue Danube Waltz (2001: A Space Odyssey)

Britten: Playful Pizzicato (Moonrise Kingdom)

Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana (Raging Bull)

Puccini: Madam Butterfly (Fatal Attraction)

Saint-Saëns: Organ Symphony (Babe)

Encore: Rossini: William Tell Overture

You know that moment at the cinema when   you realise that you’ve heard that tune before – but you can’t quite put your   finger on it? Well, tonight, movie legend Barry Norman reveals all, in the sensational   3D-sound of the CBSO. You might think of the music of Sibelius, Puccini and   Barber as the soundtracks to Die Hard, Fatal Attraction and Platoon   – but it sounds even better when you hear it for real! www.cbso.co.uk

Summer Serenade

28 June 2012 at 2.15pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121-780 3333

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Laurence Jackson violin/director
Christopher Yates viola

Elgar: Serenade for Strings 12′
Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola 30′
Barber: Adagio 7′ Listen on Spotify
Dvořák: Serenade for Strings 27′

Some music just says “summer”. Elgar and Dvorák both loved the countryside, and in their lovely Serenades for Strings, you can practically smell the blossom and hear the bees. The CBSO’s leader Laurence Jackson takes his colleagues through the kind of music that musicians love to play – and plays one of the solo parts in Mozart’s magnificent Sinfonia Concertante. And as for Barber’s Adagio – well, there’s a good reason why it features in so many “Relaxing Classics” albums. Enjoy!

 

Article by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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“This afternoon sees Chris Yates, co-principal viola with the CBSO, join forces with the orchestra’s concertmaster, Laurence Jackson, for a performance of one of Mozart’s greatest works (and therefore obviously one of the greatest works ever written), the Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, K364.  […]

[…]    ““Now, what can I say about Andris’s time so far? It’s like a combination of his two predecessors for me. Flair, burning passion, exquisite intensity coupled with accuracy, hopefully. An unbeatable and almost unbearable sensory satisfaction. Could we ask for more?” “

Friday Night Classics: Classics at the Movies

Friday 28 October 2011 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121-780 3333

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal conductor
Simon Bates presenter
Ben Dawson piano

Including music from:
Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra (2001, A Space Odyssey)
Barber: Adagio for Strings (Platoon & The Elephant Man)
Wagner: The Ride of the Valkyries (Apocalypse Now)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 (The King’s Speech)
Mascagni: Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana (Raging Bull & Godfather III)
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (Manhattan & Gremlins 2)
Sibelius: Finlandia (Die Hard 2)
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Brief Encounter)
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (Black Swan & Billy Elliot)
Mahler: Adagietto (Death in Venice)
Saint-Saëns: Organ Symphony (Babe)
Rossini: William Tell Overture (Brassed Off & A Clockwork Orange)

Beethoven knew nothing of a future stammering king, and Rachmaninov didn’t compose with a great British screen romance in mind. Yet, from A Brief Encounter to The King’s Speech, classical music is synonymous with some of the most iconic moments on film, from the dramatic to the heartbreaking, the terrifying to the romantic. And played live, in 3D, in Symphony Hall’s incredible surround-sound, it’s even better without the pictures! www.cbso.co.uk

To listen to some of the music in this concert, and explore the rest of the season, using our Spotify playlists, click here.