Friday, November 30, 2007

BSO, James Levine, and Renee Fleming perform new Henri Dutilleux and rare orchestrated Duparc

Last night, the Boston Symphony Orchestra under James Levine performed the American premiere of Henri Dutilleux's Le temps l'horloge, a group of three songs featuring soloist Renee Fleming. When the nine-minute cycle ended, Fleming shielded her eyes from the bright stage lights and searched for M. Dutilleux in the crowd. The 91-year-old composer, seated in the orchestra's center aisle, about a dozen rows back, slowly stood up and, with the aid of a cane, proceeded to make his way to the stage. The audience, witnessing the frail figure of a venerable man, rose to its feet and bathed him in cheers and applause.

At this afternoon's performance, the same thing happened, but this time I got it on video.

More commentary to come.

[Note: Last night, Fleming wore her green Dior mermaid gown, but this afternoon she wore something different, with different earrings, no Rolex, and the large ring was on her left hand, not her right. Yes, the fashion report is crucial.]

UPDATE: I'll also report on the amazing experience of the Silk Road Ensemble's performance of member Jonathan Ganelsman's arrangement of Hajibeyov's Layla and Majnun.

UPDATE - (Sunday, December 2, 1:16pm):
So, it's now Sunday. I was lucky enough to attend all three concerts of the Berlioz/Dutilleux/Duparc/Debussy program. Here are some observations.

The program was too long. At the first concert, I noted that there were some magical moments in the Berlioz (about 45 minutes of orchestral excerpts from Romeo et Juliette, which I saw complete at the BSO three years ago with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Matthew Polenzani), but it was just too long for a program whose raison d'etre was the American premiere of a new work by a revered composer, who wrote the piece for The Diva. I mean, 45 minutes of Berlioz followed by 9 minutes of Dutilleux? What gives? I skipped the Berlioz at the second concert, but decided to give it another try at the third concert. Sure enough, having heard the vocal pieces twice already, I was still as excited as ever but the anticipation wasn't unbearable, so I did very much enjoy the Berlioz. The love scene is so tender, so quiet, the theme very simple, with a limpid quality that the orchestra realized so gently and lovingly.

Renee did the right thing in switching to a black dress with gloves for the second and third concerts. I didn't think the green Dior was right for this program. :)

She was in splendid voice throughout. The seamless legato was there, as was the trademark creamy tone. The first song, "Le Temps l'horloge," has a start-and-stop rhythm that reflects the text, which contrasts the seen and unseen passing of time. Time is "seen" when it passes in the clock; otherwise, it passes "among [in] us noiselessly / like a thief in the night." The piece ends with a magical rising flourish and just disappears - it's brilliant. In his pre-concert talk on Thursday Mark Mandel said the song evaporates into space and time.

The second song, "Le masque," sketches the strange, vague "Visage" of a mask. Renee tells the story and it's kind of creepy and mysterious. In the program notes Thomas May observes, "The vocal line's wide-ranging intervals seem palpably to trace the object" (59). We get a vague, broad sense of what this thing is, but we have only an outline. On the last line, there's a huge interval on "cristaux," and on the second syllable Renee's voice sounds exactly like crystals.

The third song, "Le dernier poeme," is very sad. The poem is only about eight short lines long, but the word "shadow" appears six times. The music is appropriately shadowy; it's a quiet lament.

Hearing orchestrated Duparc songs is a rare pleasure. Hearing Renee sing "L'invitation au voyage" and "Extase" is a highlight of my concert-going life thus far. We all knows these songs; just imagine them sung to perfection.

Renee's French throughout was superb. I should note, however, that she has a tendency to paraphrase or change words, which is normal, though distracting for those who know the texts. It's funny because speaking a language probably makes it easier to confuse words. :)

La Mer was beautifully sketched. And Levine really loves to highlight the Wagner in anything. Fine by me.

Thursday concert was festive; Friday's was happy (lots of smiles from Renee and Levine); and Saturday's was somber. Last night Renee brought out the sadness and longing in the texts. Those attending the New York concert tomorrow, please get in touch with me with your thoughts.


CaroNome said...

anddd thats basically all i have to say. to see the composer who wrote the works you just heard, that must be amazing. and plus renee fleming helloooo. =)
thanks for the video clip!

Counter Critic said...

The Dior dress made a comeback at Carnegie Hall last night. People in my row all kind of thought it was over the tizzle.

You liked the orchestral settings of the Duparc? They felt like afterthoughts.

But you're right about the Berlioz being too long for this concert. Could have just gone with Dutilleux, Duparc, Debussy.

Nice blog.


Alberto, an italian TBVer said...

Great report... which makes me regret even more that I could not listen to the broadcast: my computer was seriously "ill"...