The 2012-2013 season of the Boston Philharmonic opens with a masterpiece by Sibelius that you probably have never heard, Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island. That The Swan of Tuonela, drawn from the same cycle of works as this tone poem, has become a universal favorite while The Maidens has remained relatively unknown outside of Scandinavia is truly a mystery. This musical description of the hero’s boat journey to the island and his adventures there – mostly amorous – is a work of stirring, craggy Nordic beauty and searing intensity. It is bound to make a deep impression on all who are encountering it for the first time.
Prokofiev wrote his stunningly virtuosic Second Violin Concerto around the same time that he was composing the ballet Romeo and Juliet, and the similarity of much of the music of the concerto to that of the beloved ballet has certainly played its part in endearing it to audiences. Its first movement has a soaring big theme that instantly brings to mind the young lovers of the balcony scene. The second movement is tender and graceful, and the finale is like a crazed fiddler stalking a village dance. Stefan Jackiw is the extraordinary soloist. This young violinist is familiar to BPO audiences from his unforgettable performances of the concertos of Sibelius and Beethoven. Jackiw is renowned for the poised elegance of his playing, his impeccable technique, and the sincerity and depth of his interpretations.
And to end, Richard Strauss’s enthralling tone poem Don Quixote. The composer creates a lush orchestral soundscape in which the first cello plays a virtuosic, soulful, unpredictable Don Quixote to the first viola’s more down to earth and wry Sancho Panza. Two of fiction’s great characters achieve their definitive musical form in this Strauss masterwork. The Don in these performances will be none other than Rafael Popper-Keizer, a luminary on Boston’s musical scene who for many years has been the BPO’s brilliant first cellist.