Saturday, 9 February 2008 performance reviewed by Karl Henning
Martin, Petite symphonie concertante for harp, harpsichord, piano and two string orchestras
Prokofiev, Violin Concerto No. 1 in D, Opus 19
Saint-Saëns, Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Opus 78, Organ Symphony
Ann Hobson Pilot, harp
Mark Kroll, harpsichord
Randall Hodgkinson, piano
Viviane Hagner, violin
James David Christie, organ
The Boston Symphony Orchestra
Charles Dutoit, guest conductor
The programming for the BSO’s 2007-08 season is notable for a variety of reasons; I confess that I am particularly enjoying the fact that this season features a number of works which, for Boston at any rate, have been rarities. The Petite symphonie concertante by Swiss composer Frank Martin is one such, a piece which has been played at Symphony on only three occasions before now, or rather, twice at Symphony and once at Tanglewood. Not surprisingly, Lausanne native Charles Dutoit has been responsible for half these performances of his compatriot’s work.
Frank Martin’s Petite symphonie concertante was commissioned by Paul Sacher (who was also the agent responsible for bringing into being Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Stravinsky’s Concerto in D for strings, Arthur Honegger’s Symphony No. 4, Deliciae Basilienses, and Lutosawski’s Double Concerto for oboe and harp). Its title suggests a neoclassical bent, and the Allegro sections have a vigor similar to the early Kammermusiken of Hindemith. The soloists are not given flamboyant roles, but the precise interplay of the three is delightfully set off against the string ensembles.
Viviane Hagner found in the Prokofiev First Concerto some sleeves-rolled-up labor, and some rough edges, which are at curious variance with the predominant lyrical quality which Steven Ledbetter in his program notes (for instance) finds in the Concerto. She played well, and musically; nor does one wish to suggest that a piece must be performed in the same way at all times and in all places; indeed, a young performer must be applauded for taking a considered alternate approach to an oft-played work.
With the Symphony Hall organ freshly restored in the summer of 2005, the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony was part of the gala opening concert for the ’05-’06 season. That performance was outstanding; yet this month’s reprise of the piece was even more exciting. And it is a delight to find that the BSO have reclaimed this work for themselves.