The Finale of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony performed by the Boston Civic Symphony at Jordan Hall on Sunday March 7 thrilled—simply put, it was a spine-tingler all the way. Conductor Max Hobart encouraged a full symphonic orchestra of players representing a range of experience to play full-out at the right time, sweeping gestures at the right moment, dialogues with natural expressivity, and a terrific palette of color.
When the trumpet fanfare of repeated notes started up, excitement at every turn of the music suspended belief. It is very rare for me to be carried away as I was with these musicians who should not at all be thought of as amateurs, semi-professionals, and the like, not at all. What conductor and his responsive orchestra accomplished was a stupendous couple of movements from the Fifth.
And how refreshing it is to hear the Russian’s lyrical melodies that once heard can never be forgotten. I have known since grade school the beautifully flowing horn melody from the second movement marked Andante cantabile, and, in the hands of these keen and dedicated instrumentalists, it still rings as true today as it did then. Overall, this movement (also marked con alcuna licenza) verged on bewilderment.
At times, performer confidence fluctuated. Also, some of the smaller compositional features, like those moves that weave larger parts together, seemed to be glazed over.
It was actually the third movement when the orchestra completely took off. The Valse: Allegro moderato, a real favorite and one of most wonderful orchestral waltzes composed, danced and romanticized throughout. A few strange sounds from muted horns puzzled this listener’s ear but never distracted from the whole. Strings, winds, brasses and tympani all contributed to the “max” as they did in all the way to the end.
This year, there has been a lot of Beethoven programmed around town. Programming seems to go in cycles: one year it is Mahler; another year it is Haydn and his symphonies. But I am hard pressed recalling the last time I heard a Tchaikovsky symphony here in Boston. So, another round of applause goes to the programmers for this selection—one that the small but entirely appreciative audience wildly embraced. No greater climactic close to a concert could have been achieved than this. This was, indeed, one of those rare and glorious musical moments.
Boston-based violinist Irina Muresanu offered up a lovely performance of Paganini’s Cantabile for Violin and Orchestra (best known in its violin-piano version). Muresanu puts forward a sound and a style altogether sumptuous and smart. Had some of the expressive moves she so brilliantly shaped, taken just an ounce of spontaneity, her interpretation would have taken us over the top. Nevertheless, hers is an art very close to the top. The orchestra was the perfect accompanist.
Rossini’s light and playful L’Italiana in Algiers Overture surprised with one of the strangest of all sounding cymbals I have heard. The sound was “culinary.” Here, as elsewhere in the program, oboist Andrew Price, clarinetist Kristian Baverstam, and bassoonist George Mueller were outstanding as soloists and when paired together, and they had a lot to do on this concert.
The Boston Civic Symphony gave the world premiere of Violin Concerto, op 129 (2009) composed for Irina Muresanu by Boston composer Thomas Oboe Lee. A hodge-podge, it lumbered through all-too familiar harmony after harmony, creating plateau after plateau of sameness. The music had little, if any, direction and lacked any hint of freshness. If there was anything redeeming about it, it was Muresanu’s virtuosity and sensitivity, though at one point in the second of two movements she seemed to have been forgotten by the composer for minutes on end.