Guest conductor Fabio Luisi opened his BSO program last night, November 12, with Honegger’s symphonic poem Pastorale d’été. Written in 1920, the work lives up to its title: pastoral and summery, it simply shimmers, without a hint of raucous jazz or tone row. Well written, well played. (A few languid pianissimos would have been stunning.)
St. Saëns’s Second Piano Concerto (1868) is no stranger to Symphony Hall, having been performed here by twenty-seven soloists including Mrs. H. H. A. Beach, Percy Grainger, Jeanne Marie Darré, Mischa Levitzki, André Watts, Yefim Bronfman, Dubravka Tomsic, and St. Saëns himself. Twenty-one-year-old Lise de la Salle, born in Cherbourg, delivered a virtuoso rendition of the concerto that “starts like Bach and ends like Offenbach.” Her impressive technical and musical control of the opening cadenza set up a condignly majestic first movement. Slightly overheated tempi in the Allegro scherzando and Presto eventually calmed to more natural effervescence. The orchestra was supportive and precise. An engaging debut.
Stravinsky’s Petrushka (1947) closed the program in a blaring, blazing blowout. Maestro Luisi could have been the incarnation of the eponymous puppet as he danced with fearsome energy over the podium, eliciting a strong response from the BSO. The many soloists were outstanding, in particular pianist Vytas Baksys, who played his devilish licks with dazzling panache.