The venerable Lorin Maazel was in town again at the helm of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), in the final night of their performances of Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and Scriabin. I have been a bit absent from writing up the last two performances of the BSO that I’ve attended because I have been writing at work for the last few months.
Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 3 is something like — but not quite — a symphony, a peculiar type of piece. Perhaps because I am not familiar with the form, it was difficult for me to get an overarching sense of the music. Individual movements, especially the somewhat ironically malaise waltz, were certainly reminiscent of the Russian composer’s more famous symphonic works. Perhaps the most easily associated music were the often grand variations on the theme in the final movement.
I have to admit that my familiarity with Stravinsky’s music, though growing, is not even characterizable as elementary. Of the work of his I’ve heard, I can say off the top of my head that I enjoyed Petrushka. Today, the BSO performed Stravinsky’s Song of the Nightingale. I enjoyed the immediately recognizable Chinese theme early on but was not particularly compelled by the piece as a whole.
And finally, in my first experience hearing the music of Alexander Scriabin via The Poem of Ecstasy, I waited in eager anticipation for the bellowing of the Symphony Hall organ. Seated in the orchestra section, Row E and almost all the way to the audience left of the stage, I happened to have been perfectly placed to watch the organist — whose name I could not locate in the program — wait patiently throughout the majority of the piece before his bars appeared. Unfortunately, their effect was more of a massive thunder whose melody was lost from my vantage point in the cacophony of the bellowing orchestra: I could not place any sort of unique timbre reminiscent of my experiences with church organs and the like. I should have liked to hear the organ alone, but I believe that this was my first concert at Symphony Hall at which the organ was employed.
The last two concerts in the subscription series have had somewhat odd programming to me. It has been difficult to understand any underlying theme, probably due to my lack of familiarity with the music. One interesting note for this concert series was that in Maazel’s second week with the BSO, in 1960, they performed both the Stravinsky and the Scriabin. I believe that this is the first time since then that he has performed these two pieces again here in the same performance, which marks a special moment in my mind that ties together his history performing with this orchestra. That is a truly long engagement to Nevertheless, as always the exposure to new music is endlessly intriguing, and as always, I’m grateful for the opportunity.