Tanglewood: Shostakovich the satirist


LENOX -- One side of Shostakovich is the death-haunted figure of the final quartets, which the Emerson String Quartet played at Tanglewood last month. The other side is the satirist, whom the Boston Symphony Orchestra and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet recalled Friday night with the Piano Concerto No. 1.

The two sides, of course, are two faces of the same thing. If you're burdened with deep feelings, you can either express them outright or hide behind a mask. Shostakovich is wearing the mask in this youthful concerto, as he did in his operas "The Nose" (recently seen in Met HD) and "Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District" from the same period

Against a string orchestra, the pianist pounds away madly -- and Thibaudet can play more notes per square inch than any other person alive -- while a solo trumpet interrupts with mocking commentaries. The lento movement provides a quiet interlude, but then we're off again in a satirical waltz. A final round of crazed trumpet tattoos seems to summon everybody to march off a cliff.

The BSO, under associate conductor Marcelo Lehninger, and principal trumpeter Thomas Rolfs, who stood at the back of the orchestra, deliciously egged Thibaudet on in the wisecracking and general mayhem.

Shostakovich's romp was preceded by Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, which, with its graceful, ballet-like waltz, is just the kind of music Shostakovich seems to be making fun of, even while secretly paying tribute.

Lehninger took a relaxed approach to the Tchaikovsky serenade, going for mellowness more than brilliance. Similarly, in the unfolding drama of Schumann's Symphony No. 4 (performed in the revised version) he struck a nice balance between control and romantic fervors.

The Friday concert was one of a weekend pair for small orchestra flanking John Williams' Film Night. Yesterday's program, presided over by Juanjo Mena, chief conductor of England's BBC Philharmonic, offered early works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. You could meditate on how the composers matured in later works or you could just sit back and enjoy the thoughtfully crafted, superbly played performances on a sunny afternoon.

Mena, who is Spanish, replaced the late Spanish conductor Rafael Fruehbeck de Burgos, and there was sometimes a resemblance in their podium gestures. But the music was the thing, and it was in good hands under a conductor whose only previous Tanglewood appearance was in 2010.

Mena and the BSO relished the wit and surprises in Haydn's Symphony No. 6 ("Morning") and Beethoven's Symphony No. 2. The Haydn symphony -the "morning" of the title reflects the symphony's part in a projected series on the times of day - is a virtual concerto grosso. BSO players, including a bassoonist and a bassist in unlikely tandem, contributed to the sunny humors with their many solo opportunities. The Beethoven symphony raced along in spirited fashion, pausing only for a bit of serenity in the slow movement. Beethoven's fun seemed the BSO's fun.

Augustin Hadelich was the soloist in Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4. His deft, imaginative playing highlighted each tune and turn, sometimes seeming more about him than Mozart. He was rewarded with Paganini's Caprice No. 9 as a solo encore.


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