BSO Delights with Classics
Andre Previn Leads Performances of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Andre Previn, Guest Conductor
Malcolm Lowe, Violin
Steven Ansell, Viola
Oct. 24, 25, and 29, 8 p.m.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra delighted its audience this past Friday evening with a wonderful concert consisting of three of the finest works from three of the most celebrated Classical era composers.
Following the emergence of these composers chronologically, the evening began with Haydn’s Symphony No. 102 in B-flat. Haydn composed this piece in 1794 and led its first performance in February of 1795 at the King’s Theatre in London. This symphony was also one of the pieces performed on the first pair of concerts ever given by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1881.
Haydn’s Symphony No. 102 begins with slow, soft elements and then becomes light and fast with significantly more energy. The slow and fast elements alternate, moving the music in waves that results in an overall joyous-sounding and bouncy first movement which invokes images of spring and butterflies. In fact, the entire symphony seems to express happiness and energy, and the final movement is almost a comic frenzy, bringing to mind a Bugs Bunny cartoon chase.
The second piece of the evening, Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante for violin, viola, and orchestra in E flat major, is one of the composer’s most celebrated concertos, written most probably in 1779. Around this time, Mozart had become quite interested in composing concertos with more than one solo instrument, and the Sinfonia concertante stands out as one of his crowning achievements in this endeavor.
The first movement of the piece, arguably the most famous, is a delightful dialogue between the violin and the viola. The two instruments seem to debate a variety of topics, with the emphasis more on the content than on exploring the differences in the range of the instruments.
Malcolm Lowe, the violin soloist, gave a well-executed performance, but he was constantly readjusting the position of the violin on his shoulder during the piece, which was a little distracting. In contrast, Steven Ansell was absolutely superb on the viola, clearly playing the piece with the passion and intensity that it deserved.
The cheerful banter of the first movement was followed by a slow and operatic Andante, full of pathos and sorrow that was soft and touching. The final movement returned the audience to happiness and vigor, with another light and energetic dialogue between the violin and the viola. Additionally, the trumpets played a lovely role in the background, enhancing the sound.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major rounded out the evening’s performance. This symphony, completed in 1812, helped to jumpstart the beginning of the Romantic era; after its premiere in 1813, Beethoven himself called it “one of my most excellent works.” It is difficult to argue with him.
The first movement is bold and triumphant, with waves of soft and slow in between fast and energetic passages. It feels like a grand, stately ballroom dance, in celebration of some splendid achievement. The second movement, in contrast, is somber and full of pathos, invoking images of struggle and hardship overcome.
The third movement, Scherzo, is full of energy. Its second theme conjures images of a raft floating down a river punctuated by calm waters and rapids. The symphony’s finale was full of motion and almost prancing in its giddiness, with lots of energy and punctuating brass parts. It was a fantastic way to end the evening, leaving the audience upbeat and refreshed.
Students wishing to see this concert will have one last opportunity on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. Rush tickets are available for $8 at the BSO box office in Symphony Hall starting at 5 p.m. on the day of the performance, one per customer, cash only. For more information, visit the BSO Web site at <http://www.bso.org>.