Live Review / Preview: BSO Season Closer, Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3…And Summer Music Preview (2009.06.12)


The BSO tackled the great Rach 3, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minorwith the help of soloist Yefim Bronfman.  The 1996 Jeffrey Rush film, Shine, made a modern plug for its popularity, but Vladimir Horowitz was the master (and master propagandist) of the work, which earned him rapturous applause and television specials.  Rachmaninoff offered this testament of Horowitz: “He swallowed it whole. He had the courage, the intensity, the daring.”

What I will say for Bronfman is that he gave the Rach 3 a sense of finality and edge, playing with a tottering ferocity.  I wouldn’t call it daring, but Bronfman offered that classic, instense competency demanded of a soloist of a certain age –cemented by his bow, his sprayed hair flung askew into rising wing on the right side. 

Our conductor, Marin, gave the Rach a pretty big shape, especially in the moments of Holy Russian minor on the strings.  But ever-palpable ran a tug-of-war between her and Bronfman as to pacing the orchestra.  He was ready to take it much, much faster, and then, in solo parts, offering a nice time-giving tendresse to the keystrokes.  In more romantic souls than mine, such playing would rouse the emotions, so it did –  from the immediate roar and rising of the audience.  The woman behind me collapsed right back into her seat as if overcome by the music. 

Rounding out the evening of guilty symphonic pleasures, the BSO players took a bite out of the 16-hour Ring cycle of Wagner’s, by Marin’s joke: “ending with something lite.”  Truly a back-breaking labor of love for every symphony player, and well worth the cost of the ticket. We got all the goods of the Nibelungenlied without the Beyreuth price tag of Wagner and family’s famed summer music fest.   

Rich was the mounting minimalism (before there was Minimalism) in the prelude of Das Riengold – a slow reedy purl of the Eb on basson, pased to cello, passing to violins, building, building and building into musical waves subsumming the audience, taking them down to the bottom of the Rhine river.  Perfect control from the players on the chief strenghth of Wagner’s: painting water in tones without murky mystery. This stark clarity sounded briefly as the side doors opened at the drop of Marin’s arms, rocketing out anvil sounds to herald the work of the Ring’s smiths and goldminers.  However, Marin put the break shoes on the entire evening, as evidenced by the tamest Ride of the Valkyries I’ve ever heard – definitely no Apocalypse Now worthy furies in the house. (Or maybe I’ve been spoiled by growing up on the Cleveland Orchestra’s George Szell record).   

That’s a wrap on the main season, but BSO’s summer concert schedule goes beyond the Fourth of July Spectacular – especially if you’re looking for something to impress a summer fling. 

Best bet: Fri. July 10, 7:30 pm – Watch Alfred Hitchcock’s film noir classic: Psycho, with cinema score played by the BSO and the original voice track.

Best Guilty Secret: Sat. July 18, 8pm –Head to Pier Six Concert Pavilion for a night on the harbor with The Music of Queen: A Rock Symphony.  See a side to symphony players that doesn’t show in the concert hall, after all, you know how Bohemian Rhapsody is THE karaoke song of the past century. 

But this weekend all you need is 15 bucks.  Run, don’t walk to An Die Musik on Charles Street on Sat. June 27, 8 pm.


I can’t resist putting the word out for the most versatile cellist I’ve ever witnessed.  Vincent Courtois last took the ADM stage with avant-garde pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and Baltimore’s own sax player, Ellery Eskelin. 



While a trip to the Royal Ballet keeps me out of this concert, I hope you’ll go and tell me how Vincent and Jeanne roll.  If not for the music, go because you thought that Javier Bardem was hot in Vicky Christina Barcelona, and Vincent Courtois radiates sensual artistry far better than him.  You will leave like a melted pool of putty with a flushed face. 

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One Response to “Live Review / Preview: BSO Season Closer, Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3…And Summer Music Preview (2009.06.12)”

  1. E.K. says:

    Minimalism before there was Minimalism is most intriguing. There is a passage in Beethoveen’s 9th (finale) that I swear Philip Glass lifted whole. There are bits of the Rite of Spring that reappear, I believe unwittingly, note for note in 1980s thrash metal.

    I’m strangely intrigued by a tame Ride of the Valkyries. But I’ll take your word for it that it lacks spice. I’m too much the Midwesterner to really forget the Cleveland recording.

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