IN: Reviews

Nelsons and the BSO Inaugurate Season Stunningly


Following a triumphant nine-city European tour, Andris Nelsons (now in his second decade at the BSO) inspired love, magic, sparkling sonorities, and  rafter-shaking in Thursday night’s 143rd season opener. The centerpiece—Richard Strauss’s Suite from Der Rosenkavalier, Opus 59 (1911)—elicited moments of glory from every section to epitomize the promise of a great season. The opera’s themes have inspired other composers, and Strauss himself made a notable arrangement for a 1925 silent film of the same name, but this but this popular suite, initially conducted by Artur Rodzinski with the New York Phil in 1944, has staying power (likely, Rodzinski was its Strauss-approved arranger). The enchantment of the silver rose, compellingly played here by the three flutes, three solo violins, harps, celesta, and , indeed, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, tuba, timpani and percussion, and, of course,the  full string sections, summed to a compelling effect. This succulent morsel brought a magnificent climax to the evening and became its florid fulcrum. Many BSO conductors (including Nelsons at Tanglewood in 2014) have stirred hearts with this incantatory condensation.

Andris Nelsons and Rudolf Buchbinder (Robert Torres)

Prior to the flowering Straussian climax, the piquant and innovative 2002 Tango by Latvian composer Arturs Maskats, self-described as “a theater (opera, ballet, drama, etc.) composer,” riveted with its novel version of this emblematic dance. Inventive anchoring by the percussion section with the use of timpani, an array of percussion (xylophone, glockenspiel, crotales, triangle, sleigh bells, cymbals, rasp (guiro), claves, maracas, wood blocks, log drum, bongos, jazz, snare and bass drums) and the archetypal instrument of tango, the bandoneón, ecstatically performed by the masterful Julien Labro, enraptured. Beyond that, the both woodwind and brass sections conferred a sassy edge to this signal and fresh tango.

Appropriately, the evening included a vibrant nod the incomparable Symphony Hall, with a rousing rendition of Beethoven’s 1822 overture The Consecration of the House, Opus 124, composed to inaugurate the still-extant Theater an der Josefstadt in the outskirts of Vienna. In it Beethoven nodded to Baroque-style French overtures and also provided a fugal section that recalls Handel. The masterful combination of these styles is uniquely Beethoven in its alternating calm and energy; it surprises and elicits admiration whenever it is heard.

The audience also welcomed a masterful interpretation of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major No. 23 by the brilliant German soloist Rudolf Buchbinder. The exposition of the first movement is introduced without the soloist and remains in the tonic throughout; it only modulates once the pianist enters with the second exposition.  A bit more phrasing balance between the soloist and orchestra, might have his graceful Allegro. The expressive yet slowly lilting F-sharp minor Adagio sang softly before enlivening in the A major trio section introduced by clarinet and flute. The A major Allegro assai rondo conclusion provided a playful ending with near operatic intertwining of soloist and orchestra. It reminded us that Mozart wrote The Marriage of Figaro nearly concomitantly.

This opening Fanny Peabody Mason Memorial Concert augured well for our beloved BSO’s forthcoming season. Nelsons’s attentions to his players, audience, and composers rewarded all, and on this night, many young folks appeared to feel at ease in our temple of music.

Julie Ingelfinger studied piano at the Hartt School of Music, Aspen Music Festival and School and at Harvard. She enjoys her day jobs as professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, pediatric nephrologist at Mass General Hospital for Children and deputy editor at the New England Journal of Medicine.


2 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. Maybe the most important point made in the review is the last sentence.

    Comment by Rich Carle — October 6, 2023 at 12:26 pm

  2. The Strauss/Rodzinski connection deserves a bit more digging. Certainly, Rodzinski would have been known to Stauss, but in 1944 communications would have been uncertain at best. Could telegrams have been sent via Sweden or Switzerland? Or maybe they met at Salzburg in the 30s to discuss this.

    Another wrinkle is that Bernstein was Rodzinski’s assistant. In one of his later interviews about Rosenkavalier, Lennie deprecated his knowledge of the opera before conducting it in Vienna, despite his having worked on the suite for the NYPSO. Did he do only some of the scut work, or is did he make more of a contribution than that? Or was he making himself sound more important out of habit?

    Comment by SD Gagliano — October 9, 2023 at 6:56 am

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