Piano Concerto in A-minor, Op.16
Thomas Rolfs (trumpet) & Robert Sheena (English horn)
Jan Lisiecki (piano)
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: David M. Rice
Reviewed: 12 July, 2019
Venue: Koussevitzky Music Shed, Tanglewood, Lenox, Massachusetts
This Boston Symphony at Tanglewood concert began with Andris Nelsons leading an atmospheric rendition of Aaron Copland’s Quiet City, with Orchestra principals as the soloists, adapted from music written for an Irwin Shaw play that closed after only a couple of try-outs. The main character plays the trumpet as he imagines the night-thoughts of other dwellers, superbly evoked by Thomas Rolfs, alternating with Robert Sheena’s sonorous English horn contributions that portray his brother, both set against strings that generate the titular eerie calm.
Jan Lisiecki then gave Grieg’s Piano Concerto a reading capturing the exuberance of the outer movements and the lyricism of the Adagio, and showed his virtuosity and sensitivity in the cadenza. Nelsons and the BSO were fine partners, the strings particularly lovely heralding the opening movement’s second subject as well as the slow one’s introduction. The Finale danced delightfully, concluding with considerable grandeur. Lisiecki’s encore was a delicate ‘Träumerei’ from Schumann’s Kinderszenen.
Following intermission, further Copland, his Third Symphony, commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky during World War Two, completed soon after the War ended, and premiered by the BSO in 1946. To reflect the euphoric mood Copland interpolated his Fanfare for the Common Man into the Finale. In the opening movement the strings were gentle at the outset, the violas eloquent in the second subject, trombones and horns powerfully stating the third. Nelsons had the percussion and brass rollicking in the Scherzo, whereas the lyrical melodies of the Andantino were rendered gorgeously, the dance-like music that follows being stylistically characteristic, not least Appalachian Spring. The Fanfare is first sounded by pianissimo flutes and clarinets, but drums and brass soon blast it out, familiarly. Nelsons was masterful in managing the ensemble as new material and rhythmic and harmonic complexities are added, and he opted to include the twelve measures that Leonard Bernstein had cut.