The weekend also included three BSO concerts in the Tanglewood shed, though with only one piece of "new" music, 83-year-old Academy Award-winning film composer and conductor André Previn's 20-minute Music for Boston, a BSO commission. Skillfully manufactured, a kind of concerto for orchestra, this sounded less "new" than like a series of lyrical recombinations of Stravinsky, Ravel, Shostakovich, Puccini, Mahler, Copland, and Barber.
It was followed by Yo-Yo Ma gorgeously and movingly playing the Elgar Cello concerto (he seems to get further inside this piece each time I hear him) under the guiding hand of French conductor Stéphane Denève (someone on the increasingly long "short list" for the next BSO music director), who ended the evening with a repeat of the powerful Shostakovich Fifth Symphony he did earlier this year in Boston but that still continued to lack a strong musical profile. The extremely slow Largo sounded more like Mahler than Shostakovich. At least he, and the next day's conductor, Christoph von Dohnányi, divided the violin sections antiphonally, the way James Levine wanted.
The following afternoon produced another strong concerto performance, the BSO debut of the British pianist Paul Lewis in Mozart's heavenly and heartbreaking Concerto No. 23 in A, sharing a program with Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 and Richard Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks. The orchestra seemed tired and their responses a little stodgy, coming more to life in the comedy of the Strauss. But Lewis's loving tenderness in the Mozart, sensitive yet never precious, especially in the shadow-dappled Adagio—the way his phrasing always breathes, the way the passagework seems not just something to get through but a part of the adventure—will be one of my happiest memories of these many rich hours.
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