Music Review 1

MUSIC: GOOD CONCERT DISQUIETING

The promise of a concert by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, led by Seiji Ozawa, is bound to raise unmeetable expectations in some quarters. In that case, a good performance by one of the world’s great orchestras may come as something of a disappointment.

The Boston Symphony, appearing at the Bushnell Memorial Tuesday night as part of the Bushnell Symphony Series, performed with virtually no faults of execution, but with a blandness that was disquieting in its own way.

Part of the problem lay in the bizarre choice of program. Schönberg’s Theme and Variations for Orchestra, Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, and Tcaikovsky’s Pathétique are a curious and confusing juxtaposition of events. The Schönberg work is a set of variations on a theme conceived for marching bands in small-town high schools. Believing the fruits of his own highly developed twelve-tone technique to be unwholesome fare for youngsters, he concocted instead a dull pabulum. Not even the Boston Symphony can make much of such a piece.

Seiji Ozawa

Seiji Ozawa

The Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra with Harp and Piano was well rendered by soloist Harold Wright. Here is an array of Americana north and south: Brazilian folk tunes coupled with Mississippi River sentimentality. This pretty and entertaining work brought to a close the first half of the program.

The mood shifted abruptly after the intermission, as if the serious business of the evening were at hand. Ozawa pulled the orchestra out of its lethargy to strive for that vivid tragedy (as Shostakovich has called it) which lurks everywhere in the Pathétique. Once again, the effect was curiously unmoving, despite a fine performance.

It is one of the inexplicable mysteries of life that a performance can be slightly dull, when it is very nearly perfect.

~published in the Hartford Courant, date unknown

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