Helene Grimaud Shines in Symphony Hall, Boston.

After having a rough week, I decided to treat myself to the Boston Symphony with an all-Brahms program.

The concert began with a new work (and BSO commissioned) titled “The Space of a Door” by Eric Nathan. The composer was born in New York City and currently resides in Providence, Rhode Island.

Nathan’s inspiration began at the Providence Athenaeum Library and its cultural power. He began to write this piece in January 2016, and the following month, his mentor, Steven Stucky, passed away.

When Nathan first walks into the establishment, he is reminded of the high C major chord that appears at the beginning of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle. Not only was Stucky’s death a part of Nathan’s inspiration, but also numerous tragic events that occurred in the world during the period of his composition. Nathan realized while writing this piece that he wanted to include complex emotions that could express grief and wonder, tragedy and beauty.

He incorporated Brahms’ Symphony No.2 in the first few bars, followed by the great C major chord from Bartok. The strings create mysterious colors while the winds paint a bright sparkle of light. The music gradually increases in tempo and volume, causing a frantic texture. The sound then die’s down to a subtle and calming atmosphere, leaving the audience in peace.

Here is Eric Nathan in a brief interview with the Boston Symphony.

Next on the plate was Brahms’ Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor, Opus 15.

I’ve heard this piece before in Symphony Hall about two years ago. I wanted to come back and listen to what Helene Grimaud could perform after releasing her album of Brahms’ piano concertos with Andris Nelsons and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Brahms completed his first piano concerto in 1859 when he was just twenty-five years old. This composition cost him years of struggle, with rewriting and alterations. Some materials were derived from making an actual symphony.

After a brief introduction from the musicians, Helene began by creating dark colors within the music. She carefully placed her solos without making any mistakes. Her expression gave the audience a jolt of peace, energy, and smiles.

Here is an interview of Helene describing her years of studies of the Brahms’ Piano Concertos.

Last up was Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor. Johannes completed this work in 1876 at the age of forty-three. This was a significant milestone for Brahms after finishing his first Piano Concerto and Variations on a Theme by Haydn.

I give this performance an A plus. Nelsons never exaggerated with his choice of dynamics and textures during the work. Malcolm Lowe (Violin) performed his solo with grace and debonair lyricism. Elizabeth Rowe (Flute) and James Somerville (Horn) passed off their solo’s between the two and gave beautiful expressions and colors.

On a side note, it was so sad to hear of the passing of the Principal Cellist, Jules Eskin. Jules gave remarkable performances, from his time with the symphony and the BSO chamber players. He was unique and a once in a lifetime cellist that was described one of the best.


More Information –

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Alex Avery – Flute

WCRB Classical Radio Boston

Eric Nathan (Composer) 

Helene Grimaud 


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