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Boston Symphony Orchestra

Thursday, March 2, 2017 8 PM Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
A heartfelt memorial, a New York premiere inspired by Arabic poetry, and a phantasmagorical tale of vivid instrumental detail spotlights the virtuosity of one of America’s finest orchestras. Ravel honored friends lost in the First World War with Le tombeau de Couperin, a gentle 20th-century version of the Baroque dance suite. Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique has its calm passages, but also includes musical depictions of hallucinations, murder, execution, and a chilling finale that depicts a witches' sabbath. George Benjamin’s colorful Dream of the Song sets verse inspired by the Arabic poetry that flowered in Andalusia from the ninth century onwards.


Boston Symphony Orchestra
Andris Nelsons, Music Director and Conductor
Bejun Mehta, Countertenor
Lorelei Ensemble
Beth Willer, Artistic Director


RAVEL Le tombeau de Couperin

GEORGE BENJAMIN Dream of the Song (NY Premiere)

BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.

At a Glance

Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin originated as a suite for solo piano. As tombeau indicates, the suite served a memorial function: Its individual movements were dedicated to friends and acquaintances who lost their lives during World War I. But it is also an homage to French Baroque composer François Couperin, whose solo harpsichord suites served Ravel as model for his own versions of French dance genres. Ravel completed the piano suite in 1917 and within the next two years orchestrated four of the original six movements with his typical clarity and brilliance.

English composer George Benjamin's innovative and nuanced treatment of the orchestra is part of the tradition of the great French orchestral colorists stretching back through the work of his teacher Messiaen to Ravel and Debussy, and further to its beginnings in the work of Hector Berlioz. Benjamin's Dream of the Song, a Boston Symphony Orchestra co-commission, brings this rich instrumental palette together with the human voice. The piece features the unusual timbre of countertenor and an ensemble of eight solo women's voices, used in such a way as to add another layer of coloristic possibilities to the small orchestra. The sung texts are evocative Hebrew poetry from 11th-century Spain, sung in English translation, and fragments of Spanish verse by the 20th-century Spanish poet Federico García Lorca.

It was just three years after Beethoven's death that the 26-year-old Berlioz wrote his Symphonie fantastique, a fantastical work of "musical autobiography" inspired by his initially unrequited love for Irish actress Harriet Smithson. In the throes of that infatuation, the young composer produced a programmatic symphony unlike any music ever composed, depicting the story of a lovesick young artist who, in an opium-induced dream, imagines himself killing the object of his affection (who is represented throughout the work by one of Berlioz's notably long-breathed musical themes), after which he is executed and finds himself in the midst of a frightful witches' Sabbath—all revealing Berlioz as one of the most original, creative minds ever to write for the orchestra.


Andris Nelsons

In 2016-2017, his third season as the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Ray and Maria Stata Music Director, Andris Nelsons leads the BSO in 14 wide-ranging subscription ...

In 2016-2017, his third season as the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Ray and Maria Stata Music Director, Andris Nelsons leads the BSO in 14 wide-ranging subscription programs at Symphony Hall, repeating three of them at Carnegie Hall, followed by two concerts in Montreal and Toronto. In the summer of 2015, following his first season as music director, his contract with the Boston Symphony Orchestra was extended through the 2021-2022 season. In 2017-2018, he becomes Gewandhauskapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, in which capacity he will also bring both orchestras together for a unique multidimensional alliance. He and the Boston Symphony Orchestra have made two European tours, following the 2015 Tanglewood season and in May 2016.

The 15th music director in the history of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Nelsons made his BSO debut at Carnegie Hall in March 2011 and his Tanglewood debut in July 2012. His first CD with the BSO-live recordings of Wagner's Tannhäuser Overture and Sibelius's Symphony No. 2-was released in November 2014 on BSO Classics. In an ongoing, multi-year collaboration with Deutsche Grammophon, he and the BSO will release live recordings of Shostakovich's complete symphonies, the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and other works by the composer. The first two releases in this series (featuring symphonies nos. 5, 8, 9, and 10) won the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance in 2016 and 2017.

In the next few seasons, Mr. Nelsons continues his collaborations with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Philharmonia Orchestra. A regular guest at the Royal Opera House, Vienna State Opera, and Metropolitan Opera, he was critically acclaimed as music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra from 2008 to 2015.

Born in Riga in 1978 into a family of musicians, Andris Nelsons began his career as a trumpeter in the Latvian National Opera Orchestra before studying conducting. He was principal conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie in Herford, Germany, from 2006 to 2009 and music director of the Latvian National Opera from 2003 to 2007. Mr. Nelsons is the subject of a 2013 DVD from Orfeo, a documentary film entitled Andris Nelsons: Genius on Fire

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Bejun Mehta

Bejun Mehta began his career as a solo boy soprano, subsequently concentrating on cello and working as a freelance classical recording producer before returning to his ...

Bejun Mehta began his career as a solo boy soprano, subsequently concentrating on cello and working as a freelance classical recording producer before returning to his first love, singing. The native-born American has since become one of the most celebrated countertenors in the world. In 2016-2017, as artist-in-residence at the Dresden Philharmonic, he performs four programs as both singer and conductor, including George Benjamin's Dream of the Song, which was written especially for him. Later in the season, he gives the French premiere of that work with the Orchestre de Paris under Daniel Harding, and performances with Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston and New York. On the operatic stage, he sings Hamor in a new production of Handel's Jephtha at the Dutch National Opera, Bertarido in Handel's Rodelinda at the Teatro Real in Madrid, and Farnace in Mozart's Mitridate, re di Ponto at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. In spring 2017, he takes his chamber program, Mi palpita il cor, on tour in Spain. Highlights of recent seasons include the creation of the role of First Angel / Boy in George Benjamin's celebrated opera Written on Skin; the world premiere of Dream of the Song with the composer conducting Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; and a new production of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice under Daniel Barenboim at Berlin's Staatsoper Unter den Linden. Mr. Mehta has recently begun accepting one or two conducting engagements per season and giving vocal master classes. His latest solo CD, a collection of classical arias entitled Che Puro Ciel, won several awards. Other recordings include Down by the Salley Gardens, a collection of English art song; Ombra Cara, a best-selling recording of Handel arias that earned the 2011 ECHO Klassik as Opera Recording of the Year; a live recording of Dream of the Song; the title role in Orlando; and a theatrical film version of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice with Mr. Mehta as Orfeo. Bejun Mehta was nominated for a 2007 Laurence Olivier Award (Royal Opera's Orlando) and is the recipient of the 2015 Traetta Prize. He holds a degree in German literature from Yale.

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Lorelei Ensemble
Beth Willer, Artistic Director

Recognized for some of the most innovative and inventive programming in Boston and beyond, Boston's Lorelei Ensemble is an all-professional vocal ensemble, comprising ...

Recognized for some of the most innovative and inventive programming in Boston and beyond, Boston's Lorelei Ensemble is an all-professional vocal ensemble, comprising nine women whose expertise ranges from early to contemporary repertoire, and whose independent careers as soloists and ensemble singers across the globe lend to the rich and diverse vocal palate that defines the ensemble's sound. Committed to the expansion of the repertoire for women's voices, Lorelei has commissioned and premiered more than 50 new works since its founding in 2007, and continues to expose and reinvent music of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Driven by their mission to advance the women's vocal ensemble and enrich the vocal repertoire through forward-thinking and co-creative collaboration, Lorelei works with established and emerging composers from the United States and abroad to create new works that reveal the extraordinary flexibility and strength of the human voice. Offering its own Boston-based concert series each year, Lorelei also collaborates regularly with other performing and presenting organizations. Past seasons have featured performances with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Odyssey Opera, Tanglewood Music Center, Grand Harmonie, Boston Percussion Group, and Juventas New Music Ensemble. In 2014, launching Lorelei on the Rocks, a fringe chamber series in a local art gallery, Lorelei connected performers and audiences through the creation of an intimate salon experience while supporting local businesses and connecting with new audiences. Lorelei regularly performs on concert series throughout the United States and in residencies at various academic institutions. Under the direction of founder and Artistic Director Beth Willer, Lorelei received Chorus America's 2014 Louis Botto Award for Innovative Action and Entrepreneurial Zeal, and Boston University's Kahn Career Entry Award. Ms. Willer continues to expand Lorelei's current work, creating relevant and invigorating programming that stretches and challenges performers and audiences alike. Lorelei performs as a full ensemble of nine independent voices, and as a combination of smaller chamber ensembles (solo, duet, trio, quartet). Repertoire performed includes works for a cappella, accompanied, and amplified voices. Lorelei is in residence at Boston University's Marsh Chapel.

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