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Monday, March 14, 2011

Boston Symphony Orchestra: Haydn, Bartok, and Beethoven

Chronicles of Boston Breakout: An Introduction
This begins the chronicles of "Boston Breakout: Music, Mind, and Medicine," a week-long spring break trip sponsored by the Princeton University Pace Center for Civic Engagement focused on learning about music therapy, music and medicine research, and volunteering to improve the community and lives of at-risk youth through the arts. After many months of busy planning, I'm so happy the trip is happening and going so well! I'll share here some snippets of the exciting things our group of eight students, ranging from English to Molecular Biology to Philosophy majors all with a deep love of music, are doing outside what we students call "the orange bubble."

Day 1: Boston Symphony Orchestra

On Saturday, we went to the renowned Boston Symphony Orchestra for a delightful concert of Haydn, Bartok, and Beethoven. The program featured Haydn's Symphony No. 93 in D, Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 3, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, conducted by Roberto Abbado, with Peter Serkin as pianist (both substitutions for James Levine and Maurizio Pollini, who were were both unfortunately ill). See the concert program and program notes here.

The concert was, of course, splendid. It was a wonderful blend of witty Classicism (Haydn), intricate Romanticism and virtuosity (Bartok), and finale classic (Beethoven 5). And, no less than expected, the Boston Symphony performed with classic ingenuity.

Which was my favorite piece? Well...I might give in and let the popular classic shine in it's glory for once. I must say the Allegro finale of Beethoven 5 left quite an impression on me. The sonority and shear power of the brass's entrance before the upward scalar run of the strings sent those wonderful chills through me. Bravo brass! That movement was my highlight of the concert. However, I thought Movement 1, Allegro con brio, with the famous fate theme (ba ba ba buuummm...) was a little too hurried for my taste, despite the nature of the movement. I would have liked to hear more silence, more 'breaths" between some phrases.

So I think I'll have to reconsider. I mean, the Haydn was really delightful, in the witty delight that Haydn is! And really, as a pianist myself, how could I not consider the Bartok? Peter Serkin played with technical brilliance and showmanship. However, as a critical pianist, I think his touch was a bit harsh, especially during the Adagio religioso (his wrists seemed high, and his shoulders and arms seemed somewhat stiff in general).

Though I may not have quite made up my mind on which piece was my favorite, I can certainly say this will be a concert that I will treasure forever! It's such an returning to the wonderful Boston Symphony Hall, and to share the experience with such a wonderful group of friends. It was a shame that James Levine was ill, but Roberto Abbado did a masterful job in his place.

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