August 7, 2011
by Michael J. Moran
Rising 25-year-old French conductor Lionel Bringuier, music director of the Castille orchestra in Spain who just completed a four year term as associate conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, made a stunning debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He lead a mixed program that showed off his versatility in three staples of the classical and romantic repertoire.
Smetana’s “The Moldau” opened the program in a colorful performance that highlighted the beauty of the BSO strings and woodwinds. Bringuier conducted not only with his baton but with his whole body, using clear, animated hand gestures to mold the music into loving shape. A modest and generous leader, he invited the full orchestra to stand and faced them for a moment before turning to acknowledge the audience’s enthusiastic applause.
Tanglewood favorite Emanuel Ax was the soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat, K. 482. Backed by about 40 BSO players, Ax found an ideal balance between the piece’s lyrical and dramatic elements. His tone was especially limpid in the heart-rending central Andante, one of Mozart’s most poignant and inspired slow movements. As modest as the conductor, Ax shared his bows to the audience ovation with Bringuier and the orchestra, taking only one solo bow himself.
The program closed with longtime audience favorite and BSO specialty since the Koussevitzky era, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor. Here Bringuier really came into his own, taking to heart the composer’s wish for flexibility of tempo, particularly in the tender Andantino second movement. From the symphony’s dark, slow opening through the playful third movement waltz to the triumphant closing notes of the finale, taken at a thrillingly fast pace, he maintained a strong forward momentum that never rushed the quieter passages and gave the piece an uncommonly satisfying cohesion.
The strong rapport that Bringuier established with the orchestra was evidenced by the smiles on many of their faces as they played. His musical maturity, professional generosity, and audience appeal clearly mark him as a man to watch, hopefully in many more performances at Tanglewood.