Things are heating up at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The spate of recent exciting performances began with the great Tchaikovsky “Pathéthique” under Myung-Whun Chung, and has continued with two concert series under Ludovic Morlot, and a series under Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek. Both Morlot and Bělohlávek led symphonies by John Harbison, part of the series of his six symphonies the BSO began to last season, and will conclude in January. This is material of major importance and interest. It was a great thing for the orchestra to undertake, and the recent performances have been very effective, as were those of the earlier symphonies under James Levine last season. The orchestra musicians seem really to want to play this work, and go about it with a sense of great commitment. Audience response has been very warm.
Mark Volpe and his organization pulled off an impressive feat in creating this season at such short notice. Former Music Director James Levine submitted his resignation only after most symphony orchestras, including the BSO, have established their programming for the next season and published it to waiting subscribers. Add to that the need to corral a feasible number of potential candidates for the open position of Music Director. The Boston Symphony’s 2011-12 is not only solid and nutritious, it is even rather exciting—apart from the added piquancy of the search. The fall will be mainly given over to guest conductors who have worked with the BSO for many years, or at least a few times in the past. The serious contenders for the permanent position will begin later on.
Marlboro Music—once again—is celebrating its 60th anniversary, which I have already celebrated in an extensive retrospective article last year. The revered summer music school and festival has a peculiar double anniversary, because its inaugural year was very small indeed, and rather precarious. In the second year, everything was more organized, both in scheduling and financially, and the cherished summer event took off, to become what it is today—which, miraculously, is not terribly different from what it was sixty years ago. It is larger and more professionalized, but it still retains its original feeling of intimacy. The younger participants—they are not called students—still have the same extensive rehearsal time with their mentors. And the public can still look forward to concerts of the highest quality, in which seasoned masters and their less-experienced colleagues make splendid music together.
This past summer this hour’s drive took me to Marlboro on several occasions, thanks to the generosity of Frank Salomon — an administrator of many years service and great knowledge of everything Marlboro — for a series of public and private concerts: a proper immersion in the school and festival, as they are today, and all seemed right with the world — very much so. Present-day Marlboro, led by Artistic Directors, Richard Goode and Mitsuko Uchida, is in some ways quite different from the Marlboro of Rudolf Serkin, but the basic principles haven’t changed very little, and the music is fresher than ever.