Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons at Carnegie Hall – Ravel & Rachmaninoff – Gautier Capuçon plays Thierry Escaich’s Les Chants de l’aube  

Miroirs – Alborada del gracioso

Thierry Escaich
Les Chants de l’aube [New Year premiere]

Symphony No.2 in E-minor, Op.27

Gautier Capuçon (cello)

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Andris Nelsons

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 24 April, 2023
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Dawn was the unifying theme for the first of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s two Carnegie Hall appearances this season. Alborada del gracioso (the fourth movement of Ravel’s five-part piano cycle Miroirs, orchestrated by the composer), a morning song sung by a buffoon, this exuberant work is colored with Flamenco dance rhythms and Spanish flavors. Conducted by Andris Nelsons baton, the bright, guitar-like pizzicato passages contrasted with the ruminatively rendered central section, where Richard Svoboda’s gently mournful bassoon voicing the buffoon’s lament almost seemed to be improvising. This glittering account culminated in dazzling pandemonium.

Next came Les chants de l’aube, an engaging cello concerto by Thierry Escaich, a BSO co-commission which received its world premiere by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra ilast month. Gautier Capuçon, for whom the mostly somber but emotionally varied work was composed, played with razor-sharp focus, generating penetrating poignance and intensity while effortlessly handling every challenge. The piece is played straight through, its three movements linked by cadenzas. ‘Des rayons et des ombres’, which the composer describes as looking “like a kind of stained-glass window”, opens with a rapid exchange of swirling pianissimo figures between soloist and orchestra and goes on to reveal a constantly changing array of colors and textures. In ‘Le rivage des chants’ the cello continually dialogues with the orchestra or individual instruments through jazz-tinted layers of African melodies and Gregorian chant. The initially gentle ‘Danse de l’aube’ is soon cut short by a “ritual and obstinate dance” that builds up until it closes in a brilliant explosion of color and rhythmic intensity. Capuçon and Nelsons produced an ardent and highly dramatic performance.

Finally, a finely nuanced rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, without cuts, which flowed in such an organic way that it never seemed overly long. The strings displayed great ardor and impressive unity, the BSO as a whole responding well to Nelsons’s precise but minimal gestures as he subtly molded each line, concentrating on emotion without losing sight of the whole. He was at his very best in the Adagio, conveying passionate intensity without resorting to extremes of volume and rubato. The many fine contributions included the elegant English horn of Richard Sebring, Richard Svoboda’s note-perfect work on bassoon, and William R. Hudgins’s characterful reading of the slow-movement clarinet solo.

All the parts came together to produce a resplendent interpretationof Rachmaninoff’s lushly orchestrated Symphony.

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