At times, it felt like the Boston Pops. But it was still the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) led by James Levine, in a special Sunday afternoon concert that featured a program of All Strauss. I was sitting in the last seat in almost the last row of the second balcony, which is still an excellent seat acoustically and very interesting visually.
The first part of the program featured Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote, featuring cellist Lynn Harrell and principal BSO violist Steven Ansell. Harrell had an exquisite touch, adding sentimentality quite appropriately to the piece, which at times is just beautiful.
The second part of the program featured several familiar tunes, including the Overture from Die Fledermaus, Amid Thunder and Lightning, Roses from the South, and Magic Bullet by Johann Strauss II. From Josef Strauss came Free From Care and Delirium, and the afternoon finished off with a crowd-involved performance of Johann Strauss’ Radetzky March. The BSO seemed to enjoy themselves throughout and gave spirited performances of these well-loved songs. Perhaps the only thing missing for the wonderful afternoon was floor space at Symphony Hall reserved for dancing.
I missed a couple of concerts at the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) due to my schedule the last couple of weeks, but I was fortunate enough to catch the final performance of the most recent program, which featured excerpts from Franz Schubert’s Rosamunde (D. 797), Elliot Carter’s Flute Concerto, and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E Minor (Op. 98). This was the second program featuring BSO Music Director James Levine’s triumphant return, after a prolonged absence due to a successful back surgery.
Naturally I am always excited to hear Brahms’ Fourth, but I also have a special place in my heart for the Rosamunde, having played parts of the Ballet Music II: Andantino in a regional orchestra many years ago. I’m not particularly keen on flute concertos, having most recently heard James Galway performing Jacques Ibert’s Flute Concerto No. 1, but I greatly respect BSO Principal Flutist Elizabeth Rowe, having heard her solo with the BSO and in the chamber group in previous performances, so I was happy to listen with open ears. To my great surprise, my memory of the Carter is quite pleasant. If I recall correctly, it was a somewhat tumultuous piece that, like the Ibert, explored the range of the flute’s capability, and Rowe performed it stunningly. In the program notes, it is described as a conversation between soloist and orchestra, and I’m certain there are elements that will reveal themselves upon additional listens.
Hearing the Schubert was a great thrill for me, as I realized that I knew the piece better than I had ever remembered. While I cannot remember if I played the first or second violin part, I instantly recalled the fingerings to the melody, despite having not heard or thought about the piece in over ten years. While I have trouble remembering what I did just this morning, the robustness of those auditory/somatosensory memories is pretty astounding to me.
Finally, it was wonderful to hear the Brahms yet again (1st, 2nd), and again, there simply is no experience that matches the dynamic range and sheer power of a large live orchestra. It is likely that the BSO musicians know this piece intimately well, especially having performed it not one year ago, and the execution was excellent as always. I found that I’m not quite as familiar with the 4th movement as I am with the first three, so it was somewhat born again with novelty for me.