BSO Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink Returns

Mike Lawson • News • March 13, 2017

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BSO Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink returns for one week during the BSO’s 2016-17 season, leading four concerts Thursday, March 16-Tuesday, March 21.

Opening the program is Haydn’s Symphony No. 60, Il distratto (“The Distracted”), a witty, lighthearted work that the orchestra has not performed since 1986. Following Haydn’s symphony is Debussy’s Nocturnes, for which Mr. Haitink and the orchestra are joined by Women of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, who make a provocative, wordless appearance in the third movement, Sirènes. Beethoven’s energetic and extroverted Seventh Symphony, recognized by even the composer himself as one of his finest works, closes the program.

Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 60, Il distratto, was completed in 1774 and began life as incidental music for Jean-François Regnard’s comedic play Le Distrait (hence the nickname). The composer subsequently recycled the music from the overture, four entr’actes, and finale of the play as a six-movement symphony. Packed full of musical jokes, surprises, and thoroughly modern-sounding effects, the Symphony No. 60 is one of Haydn’s most playful works, and was one of his most popular during his lifetime.
Written in 1899 and inspired by a series of impressionist paintings of the same title by American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Claude Debussy’s Nocturnes are, the composer wrote, not in the usual form of a musical nocturne (such as Chopin’s famous piano works) but are rather colorful depictions of “all the various impressions and the special effects of light that the word suggests.” The composer also helpfully provided descriptions of the individual movements: “Nuages renders the immutable aspect of the sky and the slow, solemn motion of the clouds, fading away in grey tones lightly tinged with white. Fêtes gives us the vibrating, dancing rhythm of the atmosphere with sudden flashes of light. … Sirènes depicts the sea and its countless rhythms, and presently, amongst the waves silvered by the moonlight, is heard the mysterious song of the Sirens as they laugh and pass on.”
Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 was composed in late 1811 and early 1812, by which time Beethoven was firmly established as the greatest composer of his day. Enshrined among the greatest of all symphonies, Beethoven’s Seventh whirls and leaps, saunters and skips through its four raucous, rhythmically charged movements, hovering in a space between playful and furious that is unique to Beethoven. The Allegretto second movement was encored in the first performances, and has remained one of Beethoven’s most popular and compelling symphonic passages.
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