Boston Symphony Orchestra
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Adès, Conductor
Kirill Gerstein, Piano
LISZT Mephisto Waltz No. 1
THOMAS ADÈS Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (NY Premiere)
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4
Event DurationThe printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.
At a Glance
Boston Symphony Orchestra’s (BSO) Artistic Partner Thomas Adès leads a program that features the New York premiere of his own Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, commissioned by the BSO and composed for Kirill Gerstein, a frequent collaborator of the composer’s. Whereas Adès’s first piano concerto, In Seven Days, was a concerto doubling as tone poem with its narrative impetus derived from the Book of Genesis, his new Concerto for Piano and Orchestra harks back to the abstract heart of the genre. The three-movement, fast-slow-fast overall form, within-movement architecture, and use of clearly audible motifs have their foundations in the tradition of Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, even as Adès’s individual musical voice is everywhere apparent.
Bookending the program are two Romantic-era scores. Throughout his life, the great pianist and composer Franz Liszt was fascinated by the legend of Faust and its representations in literature and music. His Mephisto Waltz No. 1, which opens this concert, depicts a scene from Nikolaus Lenau’s 1836 poem Faust, in which Mephistopheles plays demonically on a fiddle during a wedding celebration.
The last three of Tchaikovsky’s six numbered symphonies are his most popular, the Fourth being generally perceived as a major breakthrough in his approach to symphonic form. Completed in early 1878 (around the same time as his opera Eugene Onegin), the Fourth also demonstrates Tchaikovsky’s feel for orchestral color, Russian folk tunes, and dance (Swan Lake, the first of his great ballets, was completed in 1876). In addition, as we know from the composer’s own words, it shares with his Fifth Symphony (completed a decade after the Fourth) an extramusical program based in the notion of an implacable fate that “prevents the impulse to happiness from attaining its goal”—here reflected in the portentous fanfare for brass and woodwinds introduced at the very outset of the symphony, and which reappears late in the finale.
Now in his third of five years as artistic partner of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), composer-conductor-pianist Thomas Adès was born in London in 1971. His most recent opera, The Exterminating Angel, premiered at the 2016 Salzburg Festival and has also been performed at the Metropolitan Opera and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. His opera The Tempest was commissioned by and first performed at the Royal Opera House in 2004, with a new production at the Metropolitan Opera in 2012. His first opera, Powder Her Face (1995), was written for the Cheltenham Festival and the Almeida Theatre, London. Orchestral commissions include those from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, Carnegie Hall, New World Symphony, Berliner Festspiele, BBC Proms, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Royal Festival Hall (London), and Boston Symphony Orchestra. His catalog also includes numerous celebrated chamber and solo works. As the BSO’s artistic partner, he leads the orchestra in Boston and at Tanglewood, performs chamber music with the orchestra’s members, and directs the Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood. He coaches piano and chamber music annually at the International Musicians Seminar, Prussia Cove. As a conductor, Mr. Adès appears regularly with orchestras on both sides of the Atlantic and in Australia. This season he leads the Orchestre de Paris, Britten Sinfonia, and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Besides his own works, he has conducted such operas as The Rake’s Progress, and the world and European premieres of Gerald Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. Recent piano engagements include solo recitals at Carnegie Hall and London’s Wigmore Hall, and concerto appearances with the New York Philharmonic. This season includes a solo Janáček program, Schubert’s Winterreise with Ian Bostridge, and duo recitals with Kirill Gerstein. Mr. Adès’s honors include the Grawemeyer Award for Asyla (1999), the Ernst von Siemens Prize for Arcadiana, and the British Composer Award for The Four Quarters. His recording of The Tempest (EMI) won a Gramophone Award; the DVD of the Metropolitan Opera’s production was awarded the Diapason d’Or de l’année, Best Opera Grammy Award, and ECHO Klassik Music DVD Recording of the Year. The Exterminating Angel won the World Premiere of the Year at the International Opera Awards. In 2015, he was awarded the prestigious Léonie Sonning Music Prize.
Kirill Gerstein’s natural versatility and curiosity have led him to explore a wide range of repertoire from Bach to Thomas Adès. Following his world and New York City premieres of Adès’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he gives the concerto’s European premiere with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, again with the composer conducting. Gerstein and Adès also perform the composer’s In Seven Days with the London and Los Angeles philharmonics, and give duo recitals in New York and Boston. In 2018–2019, Mr. Gerstein performs with the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Mark Elder, in China with the Shanghai and Guangzhou symphony orchestras, with orchestras throughout Europe and the US, and in São Paulo, Brazil. He gives recitals in London, Stuttgart, Lisbon, Singapore, Melbourne, and Copenhagen; performs chamber music concerts with the Hagen Quartet, Veronika Eberle, and Clemens Hagen in Lucerne; and collaborates with actor Bruno Ganz in Germany and Austria. Mr. Gerstein’s recording of Scriabin’s Prometheus: The Poem of Fire with the Oslo Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko was reissued in fall 2018. His live recording on Myrios Classics of Busoni’s Piano Concerto with Sakari Oramo conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra was released earlier this month. Other releases include Tchaikovsky’s piano concertos nos. 1–3 with Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic; Liszt’s Transcendental Études; The Gershwin Moment; Imaginary Pictures, which couples Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition with Schumann’s Carnaval; and a recital disc of works by Schumann, Liszt, and Knussen. Kirill Gerstein was brought up in the former Soviet Union; he moved to Boston at age 14 to become the youngest student to attend the Berklee College of Music. He studied with Solomon Mikowsky in New York, Dmitri Bashkirov in Madrid, and Ferenc Rados in Budapest. His honors include the Gilmore Artist Award, which provided funds for him to commission works from Timo Andres, Chick Corea, Alexander Goehr, Oliver Knussen, and Brad Mehldau. A committed teacher and pedagogue, he taught at the Stuttgart Musik Hochschule from 2007 to 2017, and since fall 2018 he has taught at Kronberg Academy as part of its newly announced Sir András Schiff Performance Programme for Young Pianists.