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CD Review

Boston Symphony Live

Boston Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons
Live Recordings, Boston Symphony Hall
BSO Classics 1401
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You may have read reviews of this album already. If you have, allow me to assure you of what I myself have read at least twice now; yes, the winds and strings that open the Wagner are indeed something special. I was concerned when this album was released so quickly following Andris Nelsons assuming the post of Music Director in Boston. The Wagner comes from the opening weekend of concerts, the Sibelius from less than two months later. But the album is a success, and a clear sign that the Boston Symphony Orchestra wishes to re-establish its recorded legacy and demonstrate the chemistry between orchestra and conductor.

Andris Nelsons is already a popular figure in Boston; he is young enough to appreciate new music, but also wise enough to understand the needs of his regional audience. Wagner and Sibelius have always played an important role in the history of the orchestra, all the way to the present. Thus, this is music the orchestra knows extremely well. The catch is this; so do we. In short, Nelsons and his team took a massive risk, because audiences and collectors all have their favorites already…some from this very orchestra.

The verdict is a wholly positive one. After years of relative quiet under an enthusiastic but often ailing James Levine, the 36-year-old Nelsons has the Boston Symphony playing at the top of their collective game. That Wagner is simply radiant, with meticulous blend and soaring climaxes. He also keeps the music moving, with warm brass and supremely articulated strings. In the Sibelius, the orchestra already has a well-regarded version under the late Principal Guest Conductor Colin Davis, but this one is better. The Boston players bring a freshness and fluidity that this warhorse desperately needs. The entire ensemble is extremely impressive. The first movement never drags, thank heavens, and displays enormous confidence from both conductor and orchestra. The inner movements are exceptionally impressive rhythmically, and really do allow us to appreciate music we've heard many times. In the finale, Nelsons refuses to drag out the final pages (my least favorite aspect of Davis' fine Phillips rendition) and instead allows them to both glow and flow. I've read other reviews that preclude this from a top recommendation here and there, and I could comment that the Wagner occasionally seems to drag despite being otherwise excellent, or that the Sibelius occasionally seems a little reined in dynamically (something I've read from those smarter than I on such matters). However, nothing can stop my anticipation for what I hope promises to be a highly successful musical partnership. If this disc is any indication, it will be.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman

Trumpet