Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 16, 2022

REVIEW: Boston Symphony Orchestra, "Clyne/Elgar/Debussy/Enescu"

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA 
August 14, 2022 
by Michael J. Moran 

Yo-Yo Ma and Cristian Macelaru
Besides James Taylor, no performer attracts larger audiences to Tanglewood than the world’s favorite cellist, Yo-Yo Ma. But other attractions to Sunday’s BSO concert included a stimulating musical program, a dynamic guest conductor, and spectacular Berkshire weather. 

It opened with Anna Clyne’s five-minute 2013 “Masquerade,” introduced by the London-born, New York-based composer, who briefly explained the piece’s roots in London’s pops-like “promenade concerts” and the old English drinking song “Juice of Barley.” Cristian Macelaru drew spirited playing from the BSO in a rousing take on this high-energy score; Clyne joined them in a well-earned curtain call. 

Next came Sir Edward Elgar’s 1920 cello concerto, which Ma played with exactly the “very full, sweet and sonorous” tone the composer called for. Still exuding the youthful ardor of his 1985 recording, he added the gravitas of his maturity to the wide emotional range of this autumnal masterpiece, from a wistful “Adagio-Moderato,” an exuberant “Allegro molto,” and a serene, reflective “Adagio,” to a bold, thrusting “Allegro ma non troppo” finale, with an achingly poignant interlude before an abrupt closing outburst. 

In his tradition of unconventional encores, Ma praised the “enduring human spirit” of Elgar and recently bereaved friends before reading the lyrics of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” and joining the orchestra’s cello section in a tender yet jaunty arrangement of that uplifting song by Sébastien Walnier, principal cello of Belgium’s La Monnaie Opera Orchestra. 

This was followed by a thrilling account of Claude Debussy’s 1905 tone poem “La Mer” (“The Sea”), which he subtitled “three symphonic sketches.” Marcelanu highlighted the iridescent colors of this path-breaking work, with a scintillating “From Dawn to Noon on the Sea,” a shimmering “Play of the Waves,” and a dramatic “Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea.” Every detail emerged clearly through Debussy’s artful orchestration, none more welcome than the refreshing washes of sound by harpists Jessica Zhou and Krysten Keches. 

The concert ended with George Enescu’s first “Romanian Rhapsody,” which, as led with warmth and brio by the internationally acclaimed Marcelanu, felt like an homage to both his native country and its greatest composer. With dazzling solo turns by principal clarinet William R. Hudgins and principal flute Elizabeth Rowe, the brilliant climax of this popular classic brought the overflow audience joyously to its feet.