BSO soars at Tanglewood
Lenox, Mass. Sometimes a reviewer’s job is difficult: so-so performance, rushed tempi, out-of-tune playing, etc. But on Friday night in the Berkshires, it was a miracle of joy. Under Andris Nelsons’ baton and leadership, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has reached its finest point. Precision, great power, nuanced playing — all are now signatures of the BSO.
Two composers were featured: W.A. Mozart and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The BSO gave a tight rendition of Mozart’s Overture to “The Magic Flute,” which led to the much longer Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor. To the ecstasy of the audience, the soloist was Lang Lang, the internationally renowned pianist whose successful career has rivaled Mozart’s in many ways. Lang’s demeanor is one of enthralled joy, and his playing alternated between delicacy and strong melodic line. Orchestra and soloist often sounded as one instrument, the piano blending so well it seemed to melt into the orchestral texture.
Lang played a Chopin prelude for an encore to rapturous applause.
At intermission, he was seen at the backstage door thanking the growing throng of young people who were running to see him with an enthusiasm that suggested the Beatles were in the house. Lang Lang — the classical rock star.
The Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 is one of the most popular orchestral works, though it might be interesting to read the response of a Boston critic back in 1892 who, after hearing its debut in that city, compared one passage to “a horde of demons struggling in a torrent of brandy, the music growing drunker and drunker. Pandemonium, delirium tremens, raving, and above all, noise worse confounded!”
Hearing the BSO perform it was like hearing it for the first time, though the effect was anything but confounding. The strength of the brass was amazing, and the horn solo by principal player James Sommerville was sublime. Every phrase of this volatile symphony was perfectly performed, as the music rose to great power and faded into black depths in the first movement and in the third danced along cheerfully in waltz time.
Nelsons has such total control over his ensemble, and it in turn possesses such sensitivity, that at times he barely has to conduct.
Priscilla Mclean is a freelance writer and composer/performer from Petersburgh.