The program began with Mussorgsky's gorgeously delicate Prelude to his opera Khovanshchina, a vision of dawn in Moscow, the memorable big tune reaching its fullest flowering in Peggy Pearson's ravishing oboe. Later, Zander and the orchestra had a field day (at times bordering on the raucous) with a suite Zander had assembled from Prokofiev's three "official" suites from his Romeo and Juliet ballet, one that provides more narrative completeness and drive than any of the composer's own selections. I wish Zander had conducted the premiere of Mark Morris's Romeo and Juliet, in which the musical performance had all too little of what Zander offered: soaring melodic lines in the love music, the visceral sarcasm of the Capulets' self-importance, the slashing brilliance of the fight scenes.
At the BSO, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos was back again with an unusual program. He opened with Reger's lightweight and perhaps not-quite-varied-enough Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart (the familiar tune from Mozart's Piano Sonata in A). The Fugue came off best. The 31-year-old Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski made his BSO debut in an exciting performance of Liszt's Second Piano Concerto, the excitement stemming not just from Trpceski's technical bravura (a requirement) but from his exquisite delicacy of touch and incandescent beauty of tone (not often the case with this piece).
The program closed with a dazzling performance of one of the most familiar works in the entire classical repertoire, but one — astonishingly — not played by the BSO at Symphony Hall since 1979: Ravel's Boléro. Ravel described Boléro as an experiment on "one long, gradual crescendo." Frühbeck's impressive control of dynamics and relentless pace were among the assets of this performance.
Something else unusual in these recent concerts: big parts for saxophone. Delivering the goods were Eric Hewitt in the BPO's Prokofiev and Kenneth Radnovsky in the BSO's Ravel.
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