Andris Nelsons leads the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No. 10 in B minor at Symphony Corridor in Boston. Display screen seize courtesy BSO
BOSTON — Within the second episode of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s “Pathways of Romanticism” series, works by Mendelssohn, Weber, and Schumann inform the story of early Nineteenth-century Romanticism. This system’s journal function offers biographical accounts of the composers and descriptions the fascinating connection between Boston and Leipzig, which is to say, the connection between the BSO and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (of which BSO music director Andris Nelsons is Gewandhauskapellmeister.) This program can be spelling all of it out for you through May 22 (hyperlink requires BSO login).
Because it seems, Leipzig is just about floor zero for the Romantic motion in Western music, championed and promulgated most famously there by Felix Mendelssohn and by Robert Schumann, who wrote: “We suggest to assault the inartistic nature of the instant previous, which has nothing to supply by the use of compensation besides an awesome growth of mechanical method … We want to put together the best way for a youthful, poetic future.” That’s what Romanticism was all about: restoring the poetry of artwork “to its place of honor.”
It’s straightforward to neglect that the Boston Symphony Orchestra, along with being a band of 80-odd crack musicians, is a 140-year-old establishment that in its early days performed an lively position within the Romantic motion. Its first conductor, the exceptional George Henschel, was a lifelong buddy of Johannes Brahms; Tchaikovsky was in his prime when the BSO carried out his first piano concerto; and Wagner, Liszt, and Dvořák had been nonetheless on the scene lengthy after the orchestra’s founding in 1881. It needs to be affordable, then, to say that when the BSO presents a program about Romanticism, it’s telling a narrative about itself, recounting a part of its personal historical past.
Watching an orchestra play to an empty corridor could be a bit miserable. Until the piece occurs to be Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No. 10 in B minor, which is, let’s say, unsupportive of gloomy sentiment. On the very finish, the musicians maintain their bows within the air (as string gamers do), and the silence is … golden. The final chord takes a full 4 seconds to fade fully into silence within the darkened corridor.
Get pleasure from it whilst you can, as a result of it could possibly be a really very long time earlier than pandemic-inspired distanced seating comes again into vogue. In any case, don’t anticipate Mendelssohn’s String Symphony to sound this good the subsequent time you hear it carried out. Don’t anticipate all of the presence of a quartet with the depth of tone you usually hear from a a lot bigger ensemble. Anticipate it to sound extra like somebody forgot to rosin their bow.
Right here’s why: Symphony Corridor occurs to be one of many most interesting recording studios on the planet. It’s the room the place this orchestra goes to earn Grammy awards, together with no less than one for recording engineer Nick Squire. Andris Nelsons works with Squire on ultimate mixes, however management over the steadiness is feasible solely as a result of Squire has positioned a number of microphones onstage the place they usually don’t go, inches from particular person devices. This offers the choice, at mixdown, of elevating a single instrument’s degree for simply the few seconds it’s on digital camera for a closeup. It really works.
So on this and different of Squire’s recordings, now we have a case the place pandemic restrictions — distanced seating — have resulted in a top quality of semi-live sound that you simply might need anticipated from a recording orchestra just like the Academy of St Martin in the Fields however not from an orchestra just like the BSO.
Moreover considered microphone placement, Squire bought every part else proper, together with equalization and artifact-free compression. However excellent audio engineering is fascinating provided that the gamers are nearly as good as … these gamers. Every thing got here collectively on String Symphony No. 10 when it comes to each audio engineering and musicianship, and if you happen to hear with headphones, you’ll be amazed by all of the element.
It’s been 12 months for BSO woodwind gamers. Among the finest dressed musicians within the orchestra sit in a row behind the strings and play their hearts out in relative anonymity. (Their faces are recognized primarily to folks sitting on Tanglewood’s garden, the place the large screens reveal all.) However in digital live shows, BSO woodwind gamers are as seen as anybody else, and infrequently they take middle stage.
On this program, BSO Principal Clarinetist William R. Hudgins takes the highlight on Weber’s Concertino in E-flat for clarinet and orchestra, Opus 26. Seeing Mr. Hudgins in the course of the stage, trying fully uncovered in acoustically overseas territory, conjures photos of the labors of Hercules. However on this story, the hero prevails unscathed. Hudgins and Weber provide you with all of the virtuosic show of a clarinet concerto however in half the time.
If horn gamers of the BSO may play and grin on the identical time, they’d achieve this. They relish a problem, and Robert Schumann’s Live performance Piece for 4 horns and orchestra, Op. 86, is the sort of piece they dwell for. Schumann clearly knew horn gamers effectively and knew how you can problem and please them, as a result of on this piece he has them doing every part they like to do after they wish to exhibit for his or her mothers. On this respect, the piece is sort of like a concerto, as a result of it says, “Listed here are all of the issues a horn can do superbly.” (After all, there’s poetry in it, too.)
Final on this system is William Grant Nonetheless’s “Suite for Violin and Piano,” carried out by BSO first violinist Victor Romanul. I’ll focus on this efficiency in one other article that may embody an interview with Mr. Romanul.