Having carped earlier within the yr about digital applications that fail to take any dangers at a time and in a medium seeming to encourage such experiments, it pleases me to notice that the Boston Symphony’s most up-to-date digital live performance on BSO Now can escape that grievance: its program of Weill, Hindemith and Florence Value would by no means have seen on the stage of Symphony Corridor in a business-as-usual season.
Weill’s Kleine Dreigroschenmusic or Suite from Threepenny Opera isn’t particularly dangerous fare. Its look on a BSO live performance — not Pops or Tanglewood — have to be accountred a rarity, nonetheless, having been carried out solely twice earlier than, in 1968 and 1995. Maybe it was chosen due to its diminished forces, although even with the spacing inherent within the discount, the percussion and harps are banished to the primary balcony. Giancarlo Guerrero led a curiously reticent, lush however typically languid shell of sound. He has chosen tempi for the sooner sections that really feel only a bit too gradual, and the gamers deal with the musical textual content with a lot respect that the tunes lose their edge. The sharp and exact dotted-rhythms within the “As an alternative-of Track” made me consider the pins that maintain mounted butterflies in place. To make certain that “lush shell” is commonly attractive, and in “Polly’s Track,” a melancholy tune with bitter lyrics that Weill organized with out the bitterness, it match completely. The video, nonetheless, is sort of Brechtianly alienating; the socially-distanced gamers sit impassively blank-faced. I can think about it’s troublesome to really feel in the correct spirit for this work in a vacant Symphony Corridor.
Does your coronary heart falter while you see Hindemith’s title on a program? Mine does, and it appears like an ethical failing — my failing, to be clear. His greatest music has such apparent virtues, and but I all the time stand at arm’s-length from it. The Live performance Music for Strings and Brass, op. 50 which opened the present embodies this conundrum for me. It’s each craftily assembled and solidly constructed. It’s by no means obscure or excessively troublesome, but when your thoughts wanders you understand you’ve missed one thing within the argument. The 2 timbral planes of the devices are largely stored distinct, and the mechanism of the music is all the time audible. For instance, on the opening the brass intone a chorale whereas the strings play a barely hysterical melody: neither line is subservient to the opposite, however they neither conflict nor mix. They stand collectively however impartial and the ear can select to concentrate on one, the opposite, or the interplay of the 2. The gradual sections have lengthy strains that flip out and in, by no means grating however all the time demanding your consideration. The piece is extroverted, with a severe depth that by no means fairly abates. Bigger forces that the Weill are deployed, unfold out over an prolonged stage, but ensemble is almost good. That is music I can not assist admiring and but I get no nearer to it than admiration. Maybe a considerably extra exuberant studying would possibly assist. There have been indicators of one thing deeper within the enjoying of the principal trombone Toby Oft in his soliloquy within the second half, which stood out for its higher characterization (by the way, he additionally introduced some wanted depth to “Mack the Knife.”). Nonetheless, I’m grateful for the possibility to listen to this work carried out by the group that initially commissioned it: it’s one among Koussevitsky’s many commissions and was premiered at Symphony Corridor in 1931, throughout the hey-day of recent music on the BSO.
4 of the 5 Folksongs in Counterpoint for string quartet by Florence Value (1887-1953 concluded this installment. In 1933 Value’s Symphony in E Minor was the primary by an African American girl to be carried out by an American orchestra (the Chicago Symphony). Over her profession she wrote over 300 works. 5 Folksongs is a part of a cache of works present in a home in Chicago in 2009; the BSO notes date it to “c. 1920.” The temporary instance — simply over 10 minutes — reveals flashes of ingenuity. Every motion takes an identical strategy: an announcement of a well-known tune, wearing late Romantic “classical” harmonic garb, all the time finds one thing a bit shocking; there observe a number of episodes of variation, typically in a fairly completely different temper than the opening. Lastly comes a end which normally leans on a typical classical closing cliche. Slight however piquant, I discovered the association of “Drink to Me Solely With Thine Eyes” essentially the most partaking, a mixture of affection track and lullaby that performs round with some pizzicato earlier than coming to relaxation. “Clementine” has the most important tour of methods, however the tune itself felt superimposed on the methods that manipulated it. The massive end left me smiling, and I don’t suppose that’s the composer’s intent. “Shortnin’ Bread” couldn’t assist sounding like Dvořák and was so temporary I nearly missed it. Like “Clementine,” however with quite extra gravity, “Swing Low Candy Chariot” was so dominant that Value’s developments felt a bit inappropriate. The quartet (Bonnie Bewick, Lisa Ji Eun Kim, violins; Daniel Getz, viola; Mickey Katz, cello) gave an easy and clear studying. No justification was given for omitting the primary motion, on the hymn-tune “Calvary.”
A word on the manufacturing: The BSO is presenting this as the primary episode in a collection named “A Fragile Peace: Between the Wars.” The title constitutes a fairly skinny thematic glue. Although all of the works had been written between the World Wars, solely the Weill feels in any manner related to them, and since Weimar extra all the time raises curiosity, the digital occasion contains the presentation of a quick pseudo-documentary “characteristic” entitled Come to the Cabaret: Wild Berlin Between the Wars. It sketches a naked historic define of the interval by stitching collectively inventory footage starting from piles of useless troopers in trenches to sped-up events with cocktails and jazz and, simply in case you didn’t get it, snippets of Joel Gray singing “Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome” from Cabaret. It was properly produced, barely informative, and other than the naked info about Dreigroschenoper, inessential.
Observe: Pictures are display grabs from the BSO video.
Brian Schuth graduated from Harvard with a Philosophy diploma, so in lieu of a traditional profession he has been a clarinetist, theater director and software program engineer. He at the moment resides in Boston after spending the final 15 years in Eastport, Maine.