reviews of kalmar bso performances come in

Carlos Kalmar conducts the Boston Symphony in the Harbison Double Concerto with soloists Mira Wang and Jan Vogler. (photo: Michael Lutch)

The reviews are mixed, but generally positive thus far.  Jeremy Eichler in the Boston Globe has a review which gives precious little to indicate how the performance went at all, other than to single out a few sections to praise the quality of their playing, and to describe the basic structure of the Harbison premiere, with little given to the Mahler performance, though it is positive:

After intermission came Mahler’s Seventh, in a way the most enigmatic of his symphonies. Kalmar, who directs the Oregon Symphony Orchestra, led a clear and energetic account, even if there were times when one wished for a bit more spaciousness and transparency in the orchestra’s sound.

Philip Kennicott, culture writer for the Washington Post, was more specific and much harsher in his blog’s critique:

This was as unfocused and episodic a performance as I’ve heard the BSO give in the years since I started visiting Boston regularly. Kalmar simply didn’t have a solid sense of the piece, its larger architecture, or its details. Everything was in the foreground—the brass especially—without texture, depth or complexity of sound behind it. You were torn between wishing the piece would be over, and frustration that he wouldn’t just slow down a little and let it breath. He never found the balance between indulging the wildness of Mahler’s heterogeneous material, and forging a coherent narrative to carry it forward.

Completely at odds with Kennicott is Mark DeVoto, of the Boston Musical Intelligencer, who among other things writes:

Carlos Kalmar, visiting from Oregon, had to learn Harbison’s score in a hurry when he took over from an ailing James Levine, and he can be congratulated for his good work. Kalmar’s conducting is precise and elegant; a large gesture got a large response, his small gestures were carefully followed, his left hand was fully independent, and his accents were clean every time. Like most younger conductors, he bends his knees too much, but this is a small complaint; I have seen too many guests at the BSO relying on histrionics far more egregious than this.

And here’s another blog review from Let’s Call This Music:

This was only my second live performance of Mahler, both by the BSO, and they naturally did their part exquisitely to convey the range of emotions with verve. Notably absent from tonight’s performance was James Levine, our music director who is out with further health issues. Here’s to his speedy recovery, and thanks sincerely to Kalmar for doing a fantastic job, especially considering the emergency scheduling. From above, one saw Kalmar’s hair and almost wondered if Albert Einstein might have been conducting on stage. Also missing on stage this evening was concertmaster Malcolm Lowe, assistant principal Tamara Smirnova, and Bo Youp Hwang. However, Alexander Velinzon took over in the first chair spot, playing the solos and small ensemble first violin parts wonderfully.

In the photo above, you can also see former OSO cellist Adam Esbensen just above and to the left of Carlos’ head.

10 Replies to “reviews of kalmar bso performances come in”

  1. Kennicott’s review is a perfect example of why classical music critics can be so irritating. It appears from the last paragraph that Carlos’ and the BSO’s performance got an enthusiastic audience response. This left Kennicott in a dilemma. How does he reconcile that with his negative opinion. Ah, yes. They must have stood for some other reason than because the performance was good. I must congratulate Kennicott on his ability to divine the true intentions of the audience. Surely, the explanation for the standing ovation could not possibly be that he was wrong. This review does illustrate the high risks of filling in at the last minute at a major orchestra, one with which Carlos was unfamiliar and in a complex work that can easily provoke strong opinions either way. Kennicott’s opinion notwithstanding, I suspect that the audience reaction and the opinions of the other critics are closer to the truth.

  2. hi curtis.

    your letter is very thoughtful. that said, i hardly think a standing ovation is an indication of much these days.

    1. I would largely agree, Bob. However, from the times I have attended BSO performances, I have found their audiences to be be pretty knowledgable and discerning. I suspect that an enthusiastic audience reception there means more than it might at other venues.

  3. hi curtis,

    never having been to a BSO concert, i will take your word for it.

    something has to be truly exceptional for me to get my lard-azz outta my seat. when i saw/heard Rattle conduct M’s 7th in LA with his Birmingham pals, i couldn’t get off my duff fast enough.

  4. I listened to the Mahler 7 under Kalmar on the Internet tonight….. it was strong , straight-ahead performance that did everyone proud ! What a fine band they have in Boston now days….. almost as good as his own group in Oregon, I dare say !!LOL

  5. I must admit that I’m far from a professional critic (as evidenced by my ramblings!). I also do not possess the technical acumen of someone trained in music. I also don’t know much about most pieces I hear at the BSO, which to me is one of its charms. However, I do know what I like, and I prefer to tell the stories of what I enjoyed about a performance unless I have a specific observation on something that left me wanting. Thanks for the conversation!

  6. Charles, finally there is a sentence in a review that i REALLY like:
    Like most younger conductors, he bends his knees too much.
    Did you see?? YOUNGER is the word of the day….
    not bad for a man of 52…..

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