I’ve been listening to the BSO since I studied at Tanglewood in 1975, and having been since 1980, a “Symphony Wife,” I’ve felt part of the “Family.” I’ve rarely reviewed this orchestra, even after my husband retired and possible conflicts of interest disappeared.
Friday afternoon, after a five-year hiatus, I sat in Row R in Symphony Hall, pondering my memories of the players’ individual and collective sounds. It was an extraordinarily moving experience. Of course, the orchestra has some 30 players who weren’t there yet when my husband, violist Burton Fine, retired 18 years ago. Everyone seemed youthful and fit, especially when I recalled 1975 when the first violinists all looked like they could have used a visit or two to the gym. And who in 1975 could imagine so many women conductors, women composers, and the excellent temporary concertmaster (unacknowledged in the program) Bracha Malkin, and the huge number of women in the orchestra? The orchestra under Andris Nelsons made a fabulous sound—better than I’d remember it.
A work of 10 enjoyable minutes, the overture to the opera, The Wreckers by an outspoken lesbian composer, Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944), opened the program. [For more on the opera read a BMInt review of the US staged premiere HERE.] Amazingly all six of her operas were produced in her lifetime. She was a strong self-advocate, and her opera, Der Wald (The Forest), presented by the Metropolitan Opera in 1903, was the only opera by a woman that the Met produced for over a century. Aside from the Tangleood presentation of her BSO String Trio in D Major, Op. 6 at Tanglewood, this overture constitutes a first representation for the composer at these concerts. Jessica Zhou found and shared much to be liked in the harp part.
I don’t recall when I last heard Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1, but it has hardly been absent from the BSO stage. It appeared in the orchestra’s second year, and virtually every important violinist in the world soloed here in it. But no one could have played it much better than Randall Goosby, a charismatic violinist in his late 20s for whom I predict a great future. The first thing one notices is Gossby’s refined, focused tone which reminds one of early Perlman, one of his main teachers. His sound is not huge, but quite beautiful, which can be partly attributed to his 1708 Stradivarius violin. The audience loved him and instantly rose up and cheered. His encore, Louisiana Strut, by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson again brought the house down.
Considering that the orchestra chose to play the work in its first season and it has continued to inspire conductors (Munch 20-plus times!), it came as no surprise that the BSO delivered Mendelssohn’s wonderful Symphony No. 5 in D Minor “Reformation” with carefully worked out dynamics and colors. Every section deserves laurels.A tremendous aura of joy prevailed. The flutist Elizabeth Rowe had a huge solo part which she played to perfection. Beginning Thank you to violist Cathy Basrak for answering my many questions.
My seat mate and I kept remarking on the fantastic clarity of the details. The orchestra, to my ears, never sounded better, and once again, I felt welcomed in a familial embrace.