Boston Symphony Orchestra/Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos – Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony & Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat – Richard Svoboda plays Marc Neikrug

Symphony No.6 in F, Op.68 (Pastoral)
Marc Neikrug
Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra [co-commissioned by Boston Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and National Arts Centre Orchestra: world premiere]
El sombrero de tres picos – Suites 1 & 2

Richard Svoboda (bassoon)

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos

Reviewed by: Douglas Smith

Reviewed: 21 November, 2013
Venue: Boston Symphony Hall

Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. Photograph: Steve J. ShermanRafael Frühbeck de Burgos, a much-admired guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, here led it in pieces roughly spanning the Romantic period of composition interrupted by the bracing first performance of a work written this year. The varied program was a testimony to the BSO’s longstanding relationship with Frühbeck.

The concert began with Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony. The BSO played it throughout with a controlled energy that conveyed freshness and joy. It was an altogether rollicking rendition, with superb contributions from the woodwind principals. The second-movement ‘Scene by the brook’ flowed effortlessly, beautifully integrated. At the movement’s conclusion the flute (nightingale), clarinet (cuckoo), and oboe (quail) articulated the birdcalls with wonderful intonation and clarity. The ‘Peasants’ Merrymaking’ scherzo was suitably cheerful, the strings two-beat dance rendered forcefully. A particularly ominous tremolo in the double basses and quiet agitation from the violins heightened the shock of the first thunder from the timpani in the ensuing ‘Storm’, after which Frühbeck’s transition to the final ‘Thanksgiving’ was an exquisite cross-fade, the music re-created with beauty and warmth.

Following intermission was Marc Neikrug’s new Bassoon Concerto, given with great agility by BSO principal, Richard Svoboda. Neikrug (born 1946), present in the audience, in addition to being a pianist of note and composer of works for such as Pinchas Zuckerman and Walter Trampler, has been the artistic director of the Santa Fe Music Festival for 15 years. The Bassoon Concerto is in three movements. The opening Allegro showcases the instrument’s facility with large, improvisatory-sounding leaps and repeated notes, which added energy to the melodic line and supported by the large percussion section to stunning effect. In the slow movement, Svoboda affectingly demonstrated the bassoon’s lyrical, plangent voice through glissandos and rising or falling chromaticism held to just the right balance with the orchestra by Frühbeck’s sensitive conducting. A duet for bassoon and bass clarinet was the highlight. The brief finale featured distinctive bassoon tremolos, which spread to the orchestra, building to a climax and the soloist’s virtuoso cadenza.

In December 1921 Pierre Monteux conducted the BSO in the American premiere of The Three-Cornered Hat. In January 1971, Frühbeck de Burgos made his Boston debut and included the two Suites, music that is second nature to him. Here he conjured something new-minted and vigorous, comic and seductive by turns and full of atmosphere, to complete a concert of the highest quality.

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