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December 29, 2016

BSO Leads: Steppin’ Out in ’17

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Henry’s band going strong

The most self-effacing team-member orchestral musicians still like to shine once in a while, so select Boston Symphony players will be featured as soloists in a wide-ranging concerto program led by assistant conductor Ken-David Masur January 5-7. The selections, Baroque to modern, feature concertos by Vivaldi, Krommer, Schumann, Jolivet, and Rota. To ring in the New Year, three concerts are dedicated to the artistry of nine BSO musicians performing as soloists. The program includes Vivaldi’s Piccolo Concerto in C, featuring Cynthia Meyers; Krommer’s Concerto No. 2 for two clarinets and orchestra, featuring William R. Hudgins and Michael Wayne; Jolivet’s Concertino for trumpet, piano, and strings, featuring BSO principal trumpet Thomas Rolfs; Rota’s Trombone Concerto, featuring principal Toby Oft; and Schumann’s Konzertstück for four horns, featuring James Sommerville, Michael Winter, Rachel Childers, and Jason Snider.

Antonio Vivaldi was the king of concertos, writing more than 500 that we know of for all kinds of solo instruments as well as groupings. Three are for flautino, a high-pitched small recorder that had a range similar to the piccolo. The delightful Concerto in C, RV443, is extraordinarily virtuosic, even when compared with Vivaldi’s other concertos for woodwinds. The first and last movements dazzle, with copious finger- and lung-busting passagework, and the middle Largo provides an opportunity for the soloist to display lyrical touches.

The Moravian-born Franz Krommer settled in Vienna during a life spanning the years of Mozart and Beethoven. He was a prolific and respected composer, especially of chamber music and of music for woodwinds, but his legacy has been obscured by those two contemporaries. His Concerto No. 2 for two clarinets, from around 1815, is a wonderful example of his talent. It showcases the solo instruments brilliantly, using their entire range and with the orchestra creating an operatic sense of drama and dialogue.

French composer André Jolivet called his 10-minute Concertino for trumpet, piano, and strings a “ballet for trumpet.” From 1948, this dynamic work in three sections adventurously combines exploration of the trumpet’s expressive capabilities with timbral experimentation and rhythmic variety.

Italian composer Nino Rota, known for scoring the first two Godfather films as well as all of Fellini’s films for a 37-year period, was also a versatile and prolific composer of concert and stage works. His Trombone Concerto, upbeat and playful, was composed in 1966 and is one of the important concertos for the instrument.

Robert Schumann’s Konzertstück for four horns provides an exhilarating showcase for four great hornists, allowing each to shine, as well as the rare opportunity for a small horn ensemble to take the spotlight. In three fast-slow-fast movements, it fulfills every expectation of a concerto, so it is unclear why Schumann did not give it that label. The first movement is lively and complex, with intricate interwoven passages for the horns and the orchestra. The second movement, Romanze, is a beautifully lyric creation with a moving chorale, and the finale again provides a jolt of energy, the music centered on racing scales and arpeggios.

Performed Thursday January 5 and Saturday January 7 at 8pm, and Friday January 6 at 1:30pm

 

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