Gurrelieder reviews

I don’t always go back and gather links to the reviews of concerts that I’m in, but it’s a habit that I’m trying to get into. Not because I’m egocentric (though as e.e.cummings once wrote, I have yet to run into a peripherally situated ego), but because for years I sang in groups that didn’t get reviewed and I’m trying to make up for lost time.

This time the first review I saw was Sunday’s Albany Times-Union story, which was Page 1. The New York Times and Boston Globe reviews followed yesterday. Mercifully, all three avoided the temptation to use the common review of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, “as usual, the chorus sang superbly and from memory.”

  • Albany Times-Union: Cantata by BSO, singers classy: “The huge male chorus (and the women when called upon) sang superbly, especially in the “Wild Hunt” section. By the time, the final chorus to the sun rang out, the music of “Gurrelieder” was anything but ugly or boring.”
  • New York Times: At Tanglewood, James Levine Transforms Students Into Pros (about both the Gurrelieder and the following night’s Strauss Elektra performance): “Even in the orchestral prelude, which evokes the natural world with plangent harmonies, glowing strings and twittering woodwinds, Mr. Levine paid heed to the harmonically restless bass lines, glints of dissonance and ominous stirrings amid the musical bliss. The orchestral and choral textures are often daringly thick in this music. Schoenberg had to manufacture special manuscript paper with 48 staffs to notate the work. (That oversize manuscript is on display this summer at the Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan.) Yet though the textures are dense, they are never gloppy. In a good performance all the inner voices and details should come through, and this performance was superb. The Boston Symphony continues to sound like one of the glorious ensembles of the world under Mr. Levine. He was joined by the impressive Tanglewood Festival Chorus and some noted vocal colleagues from the opera world.”
  • Boston Globe: BSO’s ‘Gurrelieder’ is luminous, heartfelt: “The men of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus really pumped out the sound in their demanding music. The work is a favorite of Levine’s; he knows how it works and how to make it work. The orchestra responded to the conductor and to the challenges of the music with playing that told the story and bathed it in an ardent glow.”
  • The Patriot Ledger: CONCERT REVIEW: Levine carries off grueling task with a flourish: James Levine is definitely back. Just a week after his return to the podium after months-long recovery from a fall and rotator cuff surgery, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s music director led thrilling back-to-back performances of two blockbuster scores during the weekend at Tanglewood, a daunting feat for any conductor… orchestra and chorus sounded glorious in this opulently orchestrated score richly depicting nature and a vast range of human emotions. The love theme bloomed with memorable depth and sheen, while the Wild Hunt with the ricocheting men’s chorus sounded frighteningly unleashed. The mixed chorus made the concluding sunrise a stunning soundburst.
  • Berkshire Eagle: Unforgettable Schoenberg: “John Oliver’s festival chorus — and especially the men, who sang in three antiphonal groups and carried most of the choral burden — wakened heaven and earth with its outcries and murmurs. But perhaps the real star of the performance was the BSO, which, under Levine’s knowing ministrations, took a narrator’s role of its own and delivered it in sonic splendor. The delicate opening invocation to nature, the shouts of passion, the eerie rumblings and seethings: All told a tale of undying love.”