Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons with Anne-Sophie Mutter and Golda Schultz at Carnegie Hall

Luonnotar, Op.70

Violin Concerto No.1 in B-flat, K207

Thomas Adès
Air (Homage to Sibelius) for Violin and Orchestra [New York premiere]

Symphony No.5 in E-flat, Op.82

Golda Schultz (soprano)

Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin)

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Andris Nelsons

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 25 April, 2023
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

This Sibelius-themed program opened with a radiant interpretationof Sibelius’s rarely heard Luonnotar, one of his many works based on the Kalevala, Finland’s national epic poem. Singing in Finnish, and in total command throughout, Golda Schultz brought luminous voice, emotional weight and keen dramatic sense to the challenging vocal part, which describes the goddess Luonnotar’s descent from the air into the sea and the ensuing creation of the universe. Coupled with the soft, feathery strings and hushed winds, it was an ethereal experience.

Next, Anne-Sophie Mutter played Mozart’s First Violin Concerto, written when he was 17. Displaying paramount technique and warmly resonant tone, Mutter delivered a charming and elegant reading, including graceful cadenzas by Hans Sitt (1850-1922), and received soft and sensitive support from Andris Nelsons and the BSO. She was most expressive in the Adagio, and the quicksilver Finale dashed along with exceptional energy. 

Five days after its US premiere, Mutter and the Boston Symphony brought Thomas Adès’s Air (Homage to Sibelius)to New York. Like Luonnotar, the Adès concentrates on a single idea – one of delicate beauty – and sustains a nearly consistent mood throughout, with the high-pitched violin part, played almost without pause, emanating an aura of tranquility. Mutter dispatchedthe short, ascending phrases with lilting sensitivity and radiant tone, as piano, harp, marimba and strings delineated soft, shimmering descending scales, creating a stunning array of colors as the music constantly rose and fell.

A fully realized performance of Sibelius’s Fifth ended the evening. The BSO, with its rich and consistently elegant sound, has a long Sibelius history, going back to the Koussevitzky era (1924-1949). After a beautiful rendering of the serene opening, Nelsons elicited consistently resplendent playing as he navigated this powerful and astonishinglyinnovativescore – often combative and intense, occasionally more reposeful – revealing all the colorations and textures up to the blazingly exultant Finale. The list of notable contributions includes the somber bassoon solos (eloquently executed by Richard Svoboda), the appealingly darkish sonorities from clarinets, the powerfully evocative horns (led by newly appointed Richard Sebring), and Timothy Genis’s incisive notes on the timpani prior to each of the Symphony’s triumphant final chords.

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