“What Love Tells Me” was the title of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra’s program Sunday afternoon at Symphony Hall, and it wasn’t arduous to see why, what with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy and the final movement of Mahler’s Third Symphony — a movement he initially referred to as “What Love Tells Me” — on the second half of the invoice. The thematic connection of the first half, which brought us the Prelude to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto, wasn’t as apparent, but the Prelude does incorporate Walther’s love music to Eva, and within the concerto you can hear echoes of the Romeo and Juliet ballet that Prokofiev composed in the same yr. As in each love story, there were bumps along the best way Sunday, however there was no need of affection in the orchestra’s enjoying, or within the interpretations of BPYO founder and conductor Benjamin Zander.
The Meistersinger Prelude has been likened to a mini-symphony, and you may definitely hear it that approach, with the Meistersinger and Banner themes as the first movement, the Abgesang from Walther’s Preislied because the second, the Meistersinger material in quick march as a type of scherzo, after which Wagner’s masterful combination of his themes for the finale. Zander appeared to need to hold the musical strands discrete, so we might recognize the great thing about the writing, but there was a nervous power concerning the interpretation that didn’t feel consonant with the majesty — even the pomp — of the Meistersinger and Banner themes, and so the distinction of Walther’s Preislied, which should transfer more freely, didn’t register. And the stability didn’t sound quite right. I sensed that Zander was making an attempt to stop his large string part (73 robust) from swamping the remainder of the orchestra, however the brass, notably the horns, appeared too loud at occasions, they usually sounded taxed. Even the well-known tuba line in the ultimate section, although properly performed by David Stein, stood out more than it wanted to. (Granted, too loud is best than barely audible.) The fast-march part, through which some hear a Beckmesser parody, was heavy-footed; the strings didn’t make the influence they need to in the remaining pages. This was not a nasty Prelude by any means, however it felt overthought.
Prokofiev composed his Second Violin Concerto in 1935, while on live performance tour. The Allegro moderato was started in Paris and the Andante assai in Voronezh; the orchestration was finished in Baku, and the premiere happened in December in Madrid. For his soloist, Zander had South Korean violinist and current New England Conservatory scholar Inmo Yang, who again in March 2015 gained the “Premio Paganini” International Violin Competition in Genoa. Previous to that, in December 2014, he had gained the Boston Classical Orchestra’s Younger Artists Competitors.
Right here his method and inventive maturity have been evident from the outset. Prokofiev begins the concerto with a wistful, folk-like melody for the solo violin whose two initial five-beat phrases recommend a time signature of 5/four. The music immediately settles into four/4, however the impression is of music that’s making an attempt to interrupt free, and that’s underlined by the nervous ostinatos of the orchestra. Yang common an extended line from his opening solo, his tone both shiny and warm, and Zander made the ostinatos ominous. The Allegro moderato’s second theme seems to anticipate “La vie en rose” (which Edith Piaf wouldn’t sing for an additional 10 years); the interpretation from soloist and orchestra was compact however songful. There were thoughtful transitions from the event into the recapitulation after which, in the recapitulation, from the primary theme to the second. The motoric, Futurist Prokofiev acquired his due alongside the lyrical classicist. And Stalinist Russia, at a time when the composer had simply moved again to his homeland, loomed in these ostinatos.
The Andante assai may need been the spotlight of the afternoon, Yang ethereal even in probably the most stratospheric passages, Zander and the orchestra delicate in yet one more ostinato accompaniment, this one lulling and steady. You would hear the intimations of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, notably the tomb scene, and the Elgar-like stateliness of the conclusion appeared applicable. The Allegro, ben marcato finale, with its castanets (a salute to the Madrid premiere venue?), has the feel of a lumbering scherzo in triple time. It’s not straightforward to convey off; right here the castanets have been admirably audible, but at occasions the orchestra was too loud for the soloist.
Yang’s efficiency most definitely warranted an encore, and we acquired one, the finale of Ysaÿe’s Violin Sonata No. 2, a movement marked Allegro furioso and here furioso indeed.
Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet is, like the Meistersinger Prelude, greater than a standard overture — its sonata type consists of an introduction and a coda. The piece begins in an atmosphere of spiritual expectation, as if Romeo and Juliet have been already planning their wedding ceremony. Passions escape within the violent theme representing the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, and then the love theme enters. The recapitulation speaks to the lovers’ desperation; even the coda, which represents Friar Laurence’s benediction, is fraught, as if anger might reproach from beyond the grave.
Performances of this piece generally tend to supercharge, making the spiritual theme pious, the feud theme hysterical, the love theme saccharine. Zander was intense in the introduction, suggesting, as an alternative of the standard devotional amble, Russian Orthodox chant. That ear-opener arrange the feud theme, where he generated ample excitement with out the sort of tempo excessive that Tchaikovsky deplored. The love theme, when it first seems, is muted, and Zander didn’t overplay it, but at much the same tempo there was little distinction, and that was the case even when the theme gets the complete string remedy. The coda too didn’t settle — at this level there must be a way of decision between the warring families.
Mahler’s Third Symphony runs close to 100 minutes, tracing the evolution of human consciousness from its inert beginnings all the best way to its awareness of Divine love and reflecting along the best way on Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Listening to the sixth and last movement by itself, you’re disadvantaged of the philosophical nature of this journey, not to point out its references to 19th-century German political actions.
Yet if there’s a Mahler motion that can stand on its own, that is it. “What Love Tells Me” tells of two sensibilities. The first, initially in D main, is an angel who’s timeless; the second, initially in F-sharp minor, is a mortal whose craving for the reassurance of the angel prompts the crises in the music. When these two ideas seem for the second time, they negotiate; then the angel tries to go it alone, but the mortal gained’t be silenced. Lastly, after the flute has signaled the release of the mortal’s soul, the angel accepts the mortal’s pain and suffering as a part of itself, creating a new (to humanity) type of consciousness.
On his manuscript, Mahler wrote an epigraph for the motion: “Vater, sieh an die Wunden mein! Kein Wesen laß verloren sein.” (“Father, look upon these wounds of mine! Let there be misplaced no creature of Thine.”) The angel theme is developed from the sluggish movement of Hans Rott’s Symphony in E Major. Rott was a scholar good friend of Mahler’s who died mad in 1884, just in need of his 26th birthday. The descending trumpet determine that initiates the movement’s remaining disaster also draws from Rott. Perhaps Mahler is asking God why Rott was lost.
The tempo marking of this motion — “Sluggish. Peaceful. Deeply Felt.” — has tempted conductors to take it ever so slowly in an try and sound profound. Levine with the BSO in 2001 exceeded 30 minutes. Leonard Bernstein’s two recordings, within the 25-minute range, have extra shape. Rafael Kubelik has proven you could take as little as 22 minutes with out sacrificing gravitas.
Time is, in fact, relative. Zander’s studying on Sunday was within the 23-to-24-minute range, according to his 2003 Philharmonia recording. That wasn’t a problem. What perplexed me was that the D-major opening was not celestial. It sounded matter of reality, edgy quite than awestruck, and when the F-minor second subject arrived, the temper didn’t change. All through there was no sense of release after crises, and the brass, notably the French horns, have been too outstanding. The movement simply didn’t have the shape Mahler requires. Even the closing web page disillusioned. Mahler marks the timpani f, versus ff of the brass; what you have a tendency to hear, even in your favourite recording, is apt to be ff from the timpani. Zander’s 2003 recording is a notable exception; the brass are allowed to supply the noble impact Mahler meant. Right here the timpani have been again to ff. The end result was, like so many traversals of this peroration, oddly martial.
The climate was high-quality Sunday, a part of Marathon weekend. Can that specify why Symphony Hall appeared half-empty? The place does the BPYO match into Boston’s musical life? In this season’s previous two live shows, it brought us Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, Britten’s The Young Individual’s Guide to the Orchestra, and Holst’s The Planets. Anna Fedorova’s very personal Rachmaninov would have been welcome at BSO costs, and Zander’s Shostakovich went toe to toe with Andris Nelsons’s Grammy-winning BSO reading. As for Younger Individual’s Information, The Planets, and the primary three pieces on this program, how typically can we hear any of them reside?
So for all that the BSO has a full season of live shows, there ought to be room in Boston for this youth orchestra as well as for the dad or mum Boston Philharmonic. Tickets for Sunday ranged from $10 to $50. If you pay to hear the BPYO, you’re, in fact, investing in the musicians of tomorrow. But you’re also getting a efficiency that’s value more than $50, and that features the conducting, my reservations about this batch of Zander’s interpretations notwithstanding. My seat Sunday — behind the second balcony, my selection — would have been priced at $15. Boston can have few higher bargains than that.
Jeffrey Gantz has been writing about music, dance, theater, artwork, film, and books for the previous 35 years, first for the Boston Phoenix and at present for the Boston Globe.