Lenox — Members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, violinists Tatiana Dimitriades, Xin Ding, Catherine French, and Victor Romanul with violist Daniel Getz and cellist Mickey Katz were joined by pianist Jonathan Bass at Tanglewood’s Linde Center for Music and Learning for a recital performance that the BSO recorded in June and released for streaming July 24.
Here’s the program:
J.S. Bach – Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1005
Paganini – Larghetto in D-flat from Quartet No. 13 for guitar and strings (arr. for solo violin)
Sauret – Prelude in G minor from Suite for Violin Solo, Opus 68
Trad. (arr. Johnson) – “Nobody Knows the Trouble I See”
Mendelssohn – Violin Sonata in F
Still – “Mother and Child” from Suite for Violin and Piano
Price – String Quartet in G, II. Andante moderato
Dvořák – Terzetto in C, Opus 74
Such a wide-ranging program effectively defines the word “eclectic”: Its focus is ostensibly on 19th-century virtuoso violin literature, but there is something else that unifies these pieces: They were programmed by the musicians who perform them.
Do not underestimate the value of knowing the kind of music individual musicians in the orchestra like to play. BSO players do not select the pieces they perform with the orchestra. So you can’t assume they’re loving every minute of whatever piece they happen to be playing, although they do pride themselves on their ability to play music they dislike with the same verve as music they love. It’s part of their professional skill set to be able to fool us in this way 100% of the time. (And when have they failed?) They play everything from Elliot Carter to Looney Tunes, never letting on which of these two extremes they enjoy the most — or least.
But when you know something about the musical proclivities of certain members of the orchestra, it changes the way you hear the music. It sounds, somehow, more intentional on their part when you can peek inside the heads of various musicians as they play, knowing beforehand what they think about certain pieces or composers. It makes everything more fun. This is one more way chamber music performances enrich your experience of orchestral ones.
Victor Romanul starts things off with one of the most difficult pieces in the repertoire, the Chaconne from Bach’s D minor partita. With that harrowing piece handily dispatched, he follows with pieces by Niccolò Paganini and Émile Sauret. The final piece in Romanul’s set, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I See” is not only a much-appreciated nod to our troubled times, but it shows a side of this violinist that points to his many years playing with the Boston Pops: Romanul knows how to play popular music just as well as classical, and when he does, he plays with the same authenticity he brings to his Bach performances. What that means, specifically, is that his playing is highly expressive, with tone to die for — kind of old-fashioned. (What do you expect? He studied with Jascha Heifetz.)
Section string players are generally of a different temperament than career soloists. But sometimes a player like Catherine French is transformed through performance of a particular piece of music. In the Dvorák, Ms. French reveals something we don’t often see in her — at least not in performances with the entire orchestra: A fierceness of intent and an affect of smouldering determination signals to us that she is going to crush this piece. That’s soloist territory.
Tatiana Dimitriades and her husband, pianist Jonathan Bass, enjoy playing Felix Mendelssohn’s music and, having had ample time for rehearsal lately, they perform it very well indeed. Remember that the next time you go to see the BSO play the overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” You’ll remember Dimitriades’ performance of Mendelssohn’s “Violin Sonata in F” and how much it reminded you of forest fairies.
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Running time: 1 hour and 36 minutes
This video will be available for streaming through Friday, July 31, at bso.org.