Boston Symphony Orchestra/Juanjo Mena – Haydn Trauer, Janáček Vixen & Sinfonieta – Julian Rachlin plays Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto

Symphony No.44 in E-minor (Trauer)
Violin Concerto in E-minor, Op.64
Janáček, arr. Talich, revised Mackerras
The Cunning Little Vixen – Suite

Julian Rachlin (violin)

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Juanjo Mena

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 2 February, 2019
Venue: Boston Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts

The evening began with Haydn’s E-minor ‘Mourning’ Symphony, one of his most serious excursions into the genre. The work acquired its title when, later in his life, the composer said he would like the lyrical third-movement Adagio played at his funeral. Juanjo Mena and the Boston musicians delivered a well-played and seamless account that was decidedly longish, taking all the repeats including both halves of the Finale. The bordering-on-boring iteration of the second movement was momentarily perked up by Keisuke Wakao’s oboe solo in the Trio.

Julian Rachlin joined Juanjo Mena and the BSO for Mendelssohn'a Violin Concerto, 1.31.2019Photograph: Hilary ScottThings livened up considerably when Julian Rachlin delivered a remarkably exuberant account of Mendelssohn’s E-minor Violin Concerto, displaying all the vivacity, elegance and lightness of touch associated with the composer. The first-movement cadenza and the tender Andante were full of warmth and marked by an appealing restraint. His first-rank playing carried on into the Finale, where he most effectively avoided the headlong pace of some accounts, producing an effect that was all the more impressive, and the BSO offered a wonderfully transparent accompaniment that perfectly complemented Rachlin’s compelling and delightful rendition.

The second half paired two contrasting works by Janáček. First came a spirited reading of the abundantly inventive Suite based on his operatic fable, The Cunning Little Vixen, the BSO’s first of Sir Charles Mackerras’s 2006 version, which reworked Václav Talich’s 1937 arrangement in order to restore the composer’s instrumentation and expand the content. Mena drew sparkling sonorities from the BSO in an energetic rendition that effectively evoked the richly varied forest setting and its animal inhabitants, and featured especially memorable contributions from Robert Sheena’s English horn. The concert ended on a festive note with the extra-brass-dominated Sinfonietta, the mood of which is unmistakably celebratory. The BSO delivered an appealingly boisterous and buoyant performance, played with virtuosity and verve and marked by admirable fleetness from woodwinds and impressive agility from trombones.

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