Arts review

Lehninger leads impeccable BSO

Season premiere sets the tone for the BSO’s 134th season

Marcelo Lehninger, the young Brazilian-born Associate Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra proved himself worthy of widespread praise Saturday night. Leading the BSO through program centered around Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor Op. 67, Lehninger captivated the audience’s imagination and left them awestruck.

Obviously the BSO had worked extensively with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, as the other pieces appeared to be small time-commitments compared to this massive undertaking. Excellence showed through in both Lehninger’s interpretation and the execution by the BSO. The balance between instruments, the timing between phrases, the juxtaposing moods and the numerous colors were all perfectly chosen and incredibly precise, yet they offered a breath of fresh air through Lehninger’s youthful interpretation.

The BSO’s performance was nothing less than stellar. Beethoven’s famed commanding “fate” opening four-note motif shook the building to its core. His timid transitions begged for sympathy, but any sign of humility was thrown away in seconds with cascading minor strings and exploding horns. The performance was captivating for the entirety of the symphony until the tantalizing and drawn-out conclusion. With this spectacular and moving performance, the BSO confirmed the Fifth Symphony as a classic that deserves its rightful place in orchestral repertoire.

As with many famous pieces, classical aficionados have strong opinions on how a piece should be performed. However, Lehninger went above and beyond the audience’s preconceptions and received, unsurprisingly, a lengthy standing ovation. Lehninger had the perfect character in mind for the symphony: expressive but not exaggerated, pompous yet humble when necessary, clean phrasing with bipolar mood swings. The BSO flourished under his command and the result was an extremely satisfied audience.

Prior to the intermission, Lehninger paid tribute to his home country with a beautiful piece by Heitor Villa-Lobos: “Bachianas brasileras” No. 5. The unique ensemble of singer Nicole Cabell and eight cellos was surprisingly coherent and moody, with the cellos providing the texture and accompaniment as well as the occasional counter melody and the singer exhibiting acrobatics above the undulating accompaniment.

“Bachianas brasileiras” No. 5 was extremely captivating, with marked changes in character when the singer is instructed to sing bouche fermée (“with mouth closed”) during “Aria (Cantilena)”. The “Danca (Martelo)” movement was a beautiful yet unsure butterfly who explodes a section of elation and color. Without a doubt, Villa-Lobos crafted a masterpiece with this strange ensemble.

Lehninger opened the program with the Mozart “Sinfonia Concertante” in E-Flat for Oboe, Bassoon, Horn and Clarinet, K.297b. Here the audience was presented with an interesting ensemble with roots in the Baroque Concerto Grosso, all while in a familiar Mozartian territory. Light, whimsical melodies and short counterpoint lines were passed between the concertino.

Interesting texture contrasts were created in the transitions from the bubbling bassoon to the stately horn. Unfortunately, the piece suffered from a lack of harmonic ambition, and many scholars believe that Mozart himself did not write it. However, with such an exciting season premiere, the BSO certainly set the stage for an amazing season ahead.