Arts concert review

An evening of strings with Pinchas Zukerman

Israeli violinist guest-conducts BSO with gusto

Tchaikovsky, Elgar, and Schubert

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Symphony Hall

October 29, 2015

The Boston Symphony Orchestra continued its wide-ranging selection of fall programs with a collection of works by Tchaikovsky, Elgar, and Schubert, featuring guest conductor-violinist Pinchas Zukerman last weekend.

A renowned violinist, Pinchas Zukerman performed as a soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Sérénade mélancoliqueand Melodie, before conducting for the rest of the evening. I’m a huge fan of Zukerman because of his enthusiasm for instructing younger generations of violinists — it spills over from his incredibly emphatic playing and conducting.

He conducted in a distinctively punctuated style as he led the orchestra through Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, my favorite work of the program because of its expressivity.

The introduction to Serenade for Strings’ first movement, Andante, is slow and lilting — it plays like an elegy. Then, there comes a section of highly accentuated and vivacious playing from the violins before the movement ends with a slow, tonally layered coda.

The final movement finishes on many of the themes with which the piece began. The cellos and five double basses are set against the violins, creating a wonderful asymmetry. The piece concludes beautifully with the coda from the first movement.

Edward Elgar, the composer of the next piece, is best known for his Enigma Variations and Pomp and Circumstance marches, the latter of which is played at high school graduations in every corner of the country. A relative rarity, Chanson de la nuit warmly and softly welcomed the appreciative audience back from the intermission.

The program finished with Schubert’s No. 5 in B-Flat, which was rendered nimbly under the able hands of Zukerman.

Schubert was an avid admirer of Mozart. Symphony No. 5, composed when Schubert was 19, is well-known to be reflective of his infatuation with

The piece is scored for only one flute, two oboes, two bassoons, and two horns beyond a string section. With this very sparse instrumentation, the woodwinds are brought out, and they sound as if they’re conversing with each other, like birdsong. But the orchestra lost some of its vivacity in the third movements, even as Zukerman attempted to inject some of his own with foot stomps and powerful strokes.

The BSO’s fall season continues with assistant conductor Ken-David Masur leading a November program featuring pianist Louis Lortie.

1 Comment
Robert Padgett over 7 years ago

The hidden melody to Elgars Enigma Variations is 'Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) by Martin Luther. Multiple music ciphers in the work confirm this remarkable discovery. To learn more, read my free eBook at