Wagner, Saint-Saëns, Berlioz
April 16 - April 19, 2015
The magnificent Overture to Wagner’s Tannhäuser is a dramatic, conflicted collision between idealized religion and idealized passion. Considerable heat is generated on both sides. Neither side wins, but all of the music – both the devout and the torrid – is unforgettable.
The Symphonie fantastique of Berlioz also concerns itself with passion and religiosity, but both, in this work, are not just fervid, but are driven to the brink of obsessive madness. This amazing early work of Berlioz ushered in previously unknown orchestra colors and instrumental techniques, and employed harmonic and rhythmic audacities that were so shocking in 1830 that, in a good performance, they still manage to stun us today. Benjamin Zander and the BPO have performed it several times in the past, and judging from past experience the odds are that these performances are going to stun us again.
In between these two tumultuous works comes the beloved First Cello Concerto of Saint-Saëns. Its single movement melds a huge variety of melodic ideas – and astonishing instrumental virtuosity – into a supremely satisfying whole. Nineteen-year-old Jonah Ellsworth, who is already well-known in Boston from local appearances, is the phenomenal soloist in these performances.