Fill-ins prove up to challenge of BSO's Dutch program

Stefan Jackiw
The Boston Globe



LENOX -- Corporeal frailty caused a minor existential crisis Sunday at Tanglewood. As part of the summerlong "NL: A Season of Dutch Arts in the Berkshires" initiative, the afternoon's Boston Symphony Orchestra concert was to feature a Netherlandish baton, soloist, and composer. But conductor Edo de Waart suffered a back injury, and violinist Janine Jansen canceled because of illness. Replacements by BSO assistant conductor Ludovic Morlot and local-grown rising star Stefan Jackiw left the Dutch raison-d'être somewhat diluted.

What remained was the world premiere of Robin de Raaff's "Entangled Tales," referencing both Hawthorne's "Tanglewood Tales" and de Raaff's experience as a Tanglewood Music Center fellow. The first section features the brass -- sustained tones fragmenting into jagged mutterings -- while other instruments daub washes of plush color. The second starts slower and more impressionistic, cresting on a series of heavy punctuations. Both dovetail into the same climactic passage.

The sound was often deeply luminous, and de Raaff's running rhythms provided motion, but the compact, self-contained motives narrowed the perspective, keeping a sense of the whole at arm's length. Morlot's direction was emphatic; the playing was assured.

Jackiw took the stage for Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. Playing with a silvery, fine-grained tone, his phrasing -- expansive upbeats, lingering high notes -- was thoroughly Romantic, which put him at odds with Morlot, who seemed to want a more Classical, forward-moving rhythm. Jackiw's sensitivity to nuance and articulation, which carried him through the first movement, dulled somewhat in the second, where he retreated into the cocoon of his voluminous sound. But the quicksilver finale found both soloist and ensemble in precise, glittering agreement.

The balance of the program offered the sweeping grandeur of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Third Symphony. Morlot led a rich, restrained performance. Emphasizing tempo contrasts between phrases instead of within them, he and the orchestra found the Apollonian balance beneath the lush surface. The performance suggested that interpretive practice born of countless high-fructose Hollywood imitations may be the real culprit behind the work's relative neglect; shorn of sentimental excess, the music revealed an incisive power. Accustomed to close-ups on Rachmaninoff's decorative details, we sometimes forget that he also expertly framed the sets.

Honored at concert's end were retiring BSO cellist Luis Leguía and bassist John Salkowski. After acknowledging the audience (Leguía bowing shyly, Salkowski blowing kisses) and applauding their colleagues, the pair punctuated a collected 85 years of BSO experience with a double high-five.