Boston Symphony Orchestra/Blomstedt Richard Goode – Nielsen, Mozart & Brahms

Helios Overture
Piano Concerto No.18 in B flat, K456
Symphony No.4 in E minor, Op.98

Richard Goode (piano)

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Herbert Blomstedt

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 14 March, 2009
Venue: Boston Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts

Herbert Blomstedt conducts the BSO. Photograph: Michael J LutchSince James Levine’s late-February departure for the rest of the current Boston Symphony season, a series of guest conductors has taken over the helm of the orchestra. Things got off to an exciting start with Yannick Nézet-Séguin making an impressive Boston debut and, the next week, Alan Gilbert, the New York Philharmonic’s music director designate, drew thrilling performances of Sibelius, Rachmaninov and Ives.

Now the veteran conductor Herbert Blomstedt, a very fit-looking 81-year-old, was on the Symphony Hall podium. The evening opened with a glowing account of Carl Nielsen’s atmospheric Helios Overture, inspired by the Danish composer’s 1903 trip to Greece and depicting the rising and setting of the sun over the Aegean Sea. Although it is one of Nielsen’s most popular works, the 106-year-old piece has been performed only twice before in the BSO’s long history. Under the baton of Blomstedt, one of Nielsen’s most forceful proponents (he has recorded the composer’s complete works with the Danish Radio Symphony, and is the only conductor to have recorded his symphonies twice), the musicians delivered a vital performance played with great polish and expressiveness, the BSO horns sounding especially splendid in the opening measures, and the trumpets bursting with energy in their blistering fanfares.

Following the Nielsen, Richard Goode, one of today’s most revered Mozart pianists and a frequent presence at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood since he made his 1991 BSO debut, gave an understated but elegant performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in B flat, K451. The BSO musicians did their job very well, with the woodwinds providing some especially delightful playing.

The evening ended with a vigorous and expressive account of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony. Conducting from memory and showing a highly developed sense of classical proportion, Blomstedt drew consistently fine playing from the BSO musicians, who approached the work, one they have played innumerable times, with surprising freshness. Principal flute Elizabeth Rowe was in especially fine form for her fourth movement solo. This was a wonderfully realized performance that amply displayed the BSO’s warm sound and excellent blend.

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