Serkin and BSO dance to Stravinsky
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Tanglewood, Lenox
Sunday, July 20, 2:30 p.m.

Hans Graf conducting

Weber: Symphony No. 1 in C, Opus 19
Stravinsky: Capriccio for piano and orchestra
With Peter Serkin
Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C, K. 551, Jupiter

Review by Seth Rogovoy

(LENOX, July 21, 2003) -- Sundayís concert by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hans Graf was a meaty, tasty sandwich on white bread.

Sandwiching Stravinskyís Capriccio for piano and orchestra in between symphonies by Weber and Mozart was on odd bit of programming. Although the Weber and the Mozart each had moments of grandeur, they were far surpassed by the rollicking Stravinsky, which was given a spectacular performance by pianist Peter Serkin.

The Capriccio opened with a dark, descending fanfare echoed by a quiet modulation of strings before Serkin introduced a moody Russian melody. The orchestra deftly circled around Serkinís haunted lines, caressing and surrounding it in swaddling, while flutes danced above. Having been calmed, the piano became playful Ė capricious, if you will Ė and took on the aura of a ballet class, with dancers running through their exercises but with hustle and bustle swirling around them. People in the form of orchestra sections began popping in on the rehearsal from different angles, peeking through the doors or windows, first the strings, then the clarinets and then the flutes, until the rehearsal came to an end and the door closed.

For the Andante, one of the dancers stayed behind, in a jazz-like rhapsody, perhaps dreaming of great acclaim. Serkinís playing hinted at boogie-woogie, until the dancer hit a rough patch, trying to work out difficult steps while being taunted by self-doubts that came in blasts of horns and reeds. The Allegro section brought freedom, and the dancer conquered her fears and danced wildly. This is where Serkin earned his stipend, playing with fire in a classical-to-ragtime romp, with Graf bringing the orchestra along every step of the way.

The Weber that opened the concert had its suggestive moments, too. The Allegro was heraldic and playful, and the Andante featured some terrific conversations between the oboes and the orchestra, the oboes floating aloft on a bed of plaintive helium with the violins periodically giving them a push back upwards. The oboe and orchestra veritably danced the Scherzo, trading fours jazz-style. The Finale featured swirling orchestral trills, moving from darkness to light on a dime.

Mozartís Jupiter Symphony, which closed the picture-perfect afternoon concert, erupted with great confidence. Clearly you were in the hands of the master, and the dynamic proportions and inherent musicality made the Weber sound like it had been flatlining. Graf worked the orchestra with deft precision as parts interlocked in shifting yet always mathematical rigorous proportions. The Andante hinted at but never dwelled in darkness, and the Menuetto was properly light and airy. Mozartís Jupiter, however, never says something once when it can say it five times, and thus whatever power it might have packed is dissipated by needless repetition.

[Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]

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