A Tale of Two Conductors (and Two Pianists, Two Concertos, Two Symphonies): Graf and Eschenbach with the BSO in Mozart, Mahler, and Brahms, with Orion Weiss and Peter Serkin

The dual nature of the contemporary orchestral concert experience was clearly displayed last Friday and Saturday nights by the Boston Symphony concerts at Tanglewood. Each offered its own image of how an audience can interact with familiar works. Each featured a central European conductor leading core repertory: one concerto and one symphony each, all works familiar to habitual concert-goers. Each pair of pianists and conductors exhibited strongly-marked contrasts. Both concerts were satisfying, but in very different ways and to markedly different degrees.

The Amerigo Trio and Alon Goldstein play Debussy, Dohnányi, and Brahms at Tannery Pond

This evening at Tannery Pond Concerts was outstanding because it was so fully awake. None of the musicians showed the least inclination to rely on traditional formulae, and performances like this can work wonders for any kind of concert-goer, the casual drop-in, as much as the dedicated music-lover, who has become a little to comfortable with traditional playing. It all culminated in an unforgettable reading of Brahms’ much-loved Piano Quartet in G Minor, surely one of its greatest hours.

Finding Brahms at the end of a rainbow: Tannery Pond

The programming at Tannery Pond always surprises, straying as it does from four-square convention. Jennifer Frautschi, Eric Ruske, and Pedja Muzijevic each has an impressive international resume, and they chose a fascinating mix of Beethoven, Schoenberg, Liszt, Czerny, and Cage to prepare us for the great Brahms Trio.

Ani Kavafian, Violin and Mihae Lee, Piano Play Sonatas By Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms

Williams College was fortunate to have hosted two of the great figures in American chamber music Friday evening in a program of core masterpieces of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Both Ani Kavafian and Mihae Lee, who play often together as a duo and as the Triton Trio, which includes Ms. Lee’s husband William Purvis, the great horn player, as well as in larger groups, have distinguished reputations for their work with new music. With their roots in the present day, they reach into the past with all the more conviction. Their performances of the classics are consistently deeply studied and thought through, original, and impeccably played. It is a joy to listen to the mere sound Ani Kavafian produces from the 1736 Muir McKenzie Stradivarius, always centered right on pitch and surrounded by a rich bloom which fans out into an amazing variety of color and nuance; and the intelligence with which she applies her virtuosity is of the highest order. In the three works on this evening’s program piano and violin are virtually equally matched, giving Ms. Lee full opportunity to use her musicality, insight, and strength to the fullest.

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