Boston Symphony Orchestra

"A premiere and a persuasive start to Brahms cycle from Nelsons and BSO [...]

Boston Classical ReviewAaron Keebaugh

The Andris Nelsons era with the Boston Symphony Orchestra was largely grounded in the standard repertoire in the music director’s inaugural season. Yet new music has been a prominent feature in concerts that have taken place this fall. The next two weeks alone will spotlight new works alongside the complete symphonies and piano concertos of Brahms.

Tuesday night at Symphony Hall, Nelsons led off this mini-festival with a blazing premiere of Eric Nathan’s the shape of a door. This is his second commission for the Boston Symphony Orchestra organization—his chamber work Why Old Places Matter was premiered by the Chamber Players in January 2015.

Nathan’s music is clean and shot through with rhythmic vitality that recalls the music of his mentor, the late Steven Stucky.  Like that buzzing chamber score, the shape of a door conjures images of a physical space–in this instance a large cathedral as experienced when entering through the large entryway. The piece, which runs to eleven minutes in length, is filled with resonant harmonies that are left to hang in space.

As with Stucky’s style, its formal design and dramatic shape is seamless. An opening twinkle in the strings explodes into a wall of sound rife with brassy fanfares and bright orchestral colors. Wind riffs dominate the inner sections, but they are fractured, and, at times, dissolve to little more than single notes sounding in quick crescendos. A driving section follows where lightening passages shoot about the score. The piece closes on a single sustained pitch left to float in the air like a cloud. Nelsons led a reading of bold commitment, and the audience showered Nathan with warm applause when he took the stage for bows […]

The evening’s soloist, French pianist Hélène Grimaud, has a reputation for making well-traveled works such as this sound new. Her interpretations are often personal, even daring, recalling the broad tempos and not-so-subtle dynamic choices Glenn Gould made in his infamous live recording of the work with Leonard Bernstein […]

Grimaud and Nelsons were simpatico partners throughout, and the two share the same feel for the lyrical qualities of the work. Nelsons coaxed orchestral playing of sumptuous colors, and Grimaud answered with phrase of subtle elegance in dialogue. The second movement was poetic and beautifully sensitive, with Grimaud’s lines sounding little more than a whisper.“

Read the entire review via Boston Classical Review

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