View recent media reviews, quotes, and articles about the Boston Philharmonic, the BPYO, and Benjamin Zander.
"Perhaps it was the 1892 score’s performance indications, but Zander seemed to have Mahler in mind as he created an unusually human Bruckner, channeling the composer who played fiddle for town dances, loved dancing himself, and fell in love more than once." -Jeffrey Gantz
"In the end, then, this was an epic performance of an epic piece. The night’s large, preternaturally attentive audience — there was nary a cough during any of the Symphony’s several luftpausen — intuited this. They rewarded the BPO’s effort with the rowdiest ovation I’ve heard at Symphony Hall since it reopened for concerts in September: rarely has the Eighth’s hard-won sense of perseverance and achievement seemed to fit a moment and resonate with the public so potently as it did on Friday." -Jonathan Blumhoffer
"Bold and beautiful, this season-opening performance proved a Bruckner experience to relish... Zander’s reading ultimately oriented this religiously charged music to the sublime." -Aaron Keebaugh
"Benjamin Zander is ready to go. After being largely homebound since March 2020, the irrepressible founder and conductor of the Boston Philharmonic (BPO) and Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestras (BPYO) can’t wait to return to the concert hall." -Jonathan Blumhoffer
"Benjamin Zander, music director of the Boston Philharmonic and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, is surely the most charismatic classical musician in Boston. This year, we’ll find both orchestras at Symphony Hall. Both fall PBO concerts are prime Zander territory..." -Lloyd Scwartz
"Zander’s probing interpretation drew attention to every bold contrast: the dark and mysterious opening theme striking a perfect balance with the incisive rhythms that followed; and the second theme exhibiting a charming sweep and grandeur before another bout of agitation. Zander steered the entire first movement decisively through its climactic peaks and releases." -Aaron Keebaugh
"It’s hard to argue with the lineup of soloists Benjamin Zander and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) have brought to town this season. Their trend of finding and presenting some of the most striking artists of the day continued Thursday night at Sanders Theatre with the local debut of Lucas Debargue."-Jonathan Blumhofer
"Zander and the orchestra triumphed with the Dvořák’s Seventh. This treasure trove of Bohemian nationalist tunes, multiplied by Brahms-worthy orchestration, shone from every quarter, with horns and flutes particularly rewarding this listener’s ear and with all string sections providing even and robust support throughout." -Victor Khatutsky
Interview of pianist Lucas Debargue by Victor Khatutsky.
"The gifted young French pianist Lucas Debargue is the keenly anticipated soloist in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Boston Philharmonic under Benjamin Zander’s baton, on a program that includes works by Kodaly and Dvorak (Feb 20-23, www.bostonphil.org)." -Jeremy Eichler
"Ben Zander is admired for having his Boston Philharmonic Orchestra bring to fresh life old warhorses. Their February concert includes Kodaly’s popular Dances of Galanta, Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto with the fascinating young French pianist Lucas Debargue (Zander is also famous for bringing to Boston the most compelling instrumentalists), and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7. (Sanders Theatre and Jordan Hall; Feb. 20, 22 and 23) Zander also leads another orchestra, the astonishing Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. Their spring concert is a wonderful pairing of two pieces that tell colorful and fantastical stories, Stravinsky’s “Petrushka” and Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.” (Symphony Hall; March 12)" -Lloyd Schwartz
Best Solo Performance
"For rapport between soloist and orchestra (and/or conductor), the fall of 2019 brought two mesmeric programs from the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. My favorite of those – by a hair – was Liza Ferschtmann’s account of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in November. Augustin Hadelich played the same piece with the Boston Symphony in September. Then, it was beautifully done, but sterile: his interpretation took no risks; parts of it were even a bit sleepy. Ferschtmann, on the other hand, brought the music to life with a panache and vigor that should be a model for all violinists navigating these well-trod pages." -Jonathan Blumhofer
"it rocked, it rolled, it unrolled, the ensemble ablaze. … More than once during the concert I wished I had brought my children and grandchildren." -David Moran
"Ferschtman is a violinist with unimpeachable technique and a compelling stage presence. Her tone is silvery and pure. In Thursday’s performance, her playing was consistently poetic, whether in the Concerto’s delicate, exposed textures or in its hearty, rustic gestures." -Jonathan Blumhofer
"Zander led the Boston Philharmonic in a delicate reading of the familiar concerto that yielded a fresh sense of poetic depth. Violinist Liza Ferschtman proved an equally sensitive soloist in her Boston debut." -Aaron Keebaugh
"BOSTON PHILHARMONIC The Dutch violinist Liza Ferschtman makes her local debut with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto under the direction of Benjamin Zander, who also leads Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. Nov. 14 and 17 in Sanders Theatre; Nov. 16 in Jordan Hall. 617-236-0999, www.bostonphil.org"-Jeremy Eichler
"Throughout, the ensemble and Deljavan exhibited a lively rapport, the pair responding to and bouncing off of one another with energy and delicacy. Afterwards, the pianist rewarded a lusty ovation with a pair of encores: the “Aria” from Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Frederic Chopin’s Mazurka op. 17 no. 4." -Jonathan Blumhofer
"The Philharmonic achieved rigorous success throughout under Zander’s direction and performed with outstanding verve in the colorful Bartok concerto."-Michael Johnson
"Leading an orchestra with considerably more strings than Mozart was accustomed to, Zander gave admirable clarity to the opera buffa fugue sections and propulsion to the whole."-Jeffrey Gantz
"Sporting his trademark fingerless black gloves, Deljavan from the opening cadenza onward played with clarity, relentless charge and a generous ear." -Andrew Sammut
"GET YOUR PHIL: If you haven’t experienced Benjamin Zander helming your experience of classical music, listen to his TED Talk on its “transformative power,” and then watch him lead the Boston Philharmonic through a program of Mozart (Overture to “The Magic Flute”), Brahms (Piano Concerto No. 2, featuring the spellbinding Italian pianist Alessandro Deljavan), and Bartok (Concerto for Orchestra) this weekend at Jordan Hall (on Saturday evening) and at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre (on Sunday afternoon). And get there early to hear Zander’s lucid and elucidating introduction to the program, which will be like getting fit with a fresh pair of ears. Find full program info and tickets here. (And hear former Globe chief critic Richard Dyer discuss the “incredible ear and imagination” of Deljavan here.)" -Michael Andor Brodeur
"BOSTON PHILHARMONIC Pianist Alessandro Deljavan makes his Boston debut with Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2, under the baton of Benjamin Zander. Program also includes Mozart’s appealing overture to “The Magic Flute” and Bartók’s heady “Concerto for Orchestra.” Oct. 17-20. Sanders Theatre, Harvard University, Cambridge (Oct. 17 and 20); Jordan Hall (Oct. 19). 617-236-0999, www.bostonphil.org" -Zoe Madonna
Article by Richard Dyer about Alessandro Deljavan, soloist for the BPO's first concert of the season.
Benjamin Zander feature.
Benjamin Zander feature.
Benjamin Zander feature.
"Zander is also the conductor of the phenomenal Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. Their fall concert features the extraordinary young Boston violinist Stefan Jackiw in the irresistible Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, on a program that also includes Verdi’s stirring Overture to "La Forza del Destino" and, a Zander specialty, Mahler’s haunting (and haunted) Symphony No. 1." -Lloyd Schwartz
"Zander, observing Mahler’s request to accelerate, got the exuberant humor of it, showing both the music and his orchestra at their best." -Jeffrey Gantz
"This performance of Ives’ Third was the most welcome entry in the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra’s celebratory season – a beautifully considered, powerfully rendered account of this too-neglected score. " -Jonathan Blumhofer
"for Mahler enthusiasts, Boston has no better advocate than Zander." -Aaron Keebaugh
Article by Benjamin Zander.
Feature article on Benjamin Zander.
Feature article on Benjamin Zander.
"By any measure, this is an impressive orchestra, as technically accomplished as any number of professional ensembles, domestic and international." -Jonathan Blumhofer
"From the outset, with the famous opening four-note theme, Zander’s touch carved out something entirely individual yet inevitably familiar given the material...The whisper of Zander and the Boston Philharmonic can be as exciting as their roar...This was the Boston Philharmonic at their biggest and most balanced, from timpanis down to piccolo. A packed house responded with a five-minute standing ovation, including whistles for each of the sections and multiple curtain calls for Zander." – Andrew Sammut
"Long renowned for his groundbreaking interpretations of Beethoven, Boston Philharmonic Orchestra founder and conductor Benjamin Zander burnishes that legend with three all-Beethoven programs, Feb. 14 and 17 at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, and Feb. 16 at Jordan Hall in Boston. " -Nancy Olesin
"Zander has a history of bringing old chestnuts to fresh life, especially when he uses Beethoven’s notoriously faster metronome markings" - Lloyd Schwartz, WBUR
"Every moment felt secure and right under Zander’s leadership...I commend Zander and the BPO (in its 40th year) on their exhilarating promenade through three mutually informing pieces which blended exhilaration and introspection to well-judged effect. Fun but demanding this must have been for the players!" – Lee Eisman
"Throughout the concert, Zander’s direction combined attention to detail with grand, well-defined gestures...Zander also spoke about the music between pieces and conducted excerpts with the excitement of someone playing these works for the first time." – Andrew Sammut
"Zander and his orchestra strove for maximum impact. To that, it really feels like “his” orchestra. It’s tough to imagine what the Philharmonic would be without Zander, who celebrates both 40 years with the orchestra and 80 years on Earth this season. Not only does he know the music, he knows the musicians" –Zoe Madonna
Jonathan Blumhofer reviews the BPYO's concert and live stream: "The BPYO was in particularly fine fettle in Berlioz’s harrowing “dramatic symphony.” Inspired by the composer’s obsession with the actress Harriett Smithson, the Symphonie famously depicts a love-addled artist on an opium trip that culminates with him murdering his beloved and being tormented by her (and a coven of witches) in hell.Thursday’s performance captured its ardent twists and turns vigorously. Tempos in the opening “Visions and Passions” were flexible, dynamics carefully balanced, and textures – even at the busy apex of the movement’s recapitulation – lucid."
Vance R. Koven writes about the live stream of the BPYO concert and live stream in general.
"in the right hands even a group of talented kids can give us the best Mahler of the year." -Lloyd Schwartz
"If there were an award for performances of standard fare played with fresh purpose and zest this fall, the Boston Philharmonic would have won it: their canonical October and November concerts teemed with energy, brilliance, color, and – above all – elemental life force...Of course, the common denominator between both groups is Benjamin Zander, who remains as spry, enthusiastic, and intellectually engaged a conductor as ever, even when he’s conducting pieces we’ve all heard countless times." -Jonathan Blumhofer
"Hearing this contingent for the first time, and, believe or not, Zander for the first time, I can attest as a satisfied listener and critic that much of the execution reached completely professional levels" -Crawford Best
"Once again Zander had drawn out the very best from these young players, and a delighted crowd in Symphony Hall made its gratitude seen and heard." -Jeremy Eichler
"Wonderful, then, and I'd also give an unqualified thumbs up to another, very different live performance from Benjamin Zander’s implausibly well-drilled Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. More volatile and unpredictable, the players’ energy is totally convincing." -Graham Rickson
BPYO Tour to Brazil.
Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra plays Strauss, Mendelssohn, and Mahler (November 24)
Boston’s best classical ensemble of 2019 (according to Boston Magazine – and I’m not about to argue with that assessment) returns to action with music by Mahler and Verdi framing a performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. The brilliant fiddler Stefan Jackiw is soloist in the latter. -Jonathan Blumhofer
Article about the Northeastern students who performed in the BPYO for the Brazil Tour by Irvin Zhang.
About the BPYO Brazil Tour by Jonathan Blumhofer.
"Rising from the insuppressible enthusiasm of maestro Benjamin Zander—who founded the (senior) Boston Philharmonic Orchestra 40 years ago—this ensemble of fantastically talented 12- to 21-year-olds delivers exactly what you want from a night at the orchestra: to be blown away. Whether playing the notoriously difficult Mahler (one of the maestro’s specialties) or another canonical composer, they deliver youthful energy and just a touch of wonder." -Boston Magazine
BPYO Brazil Tour Review by Jonathan Blumhofer.
Mahler 6 Album review by John Quinn.
"One could not hope for brighter, more attractive and hope-inspiring emissaries from the America we hold dear. They can serve with certainty to summon our better angels." -Lee Eisman
Radio feature of the BPYO.
"there was no want of love in the orchestra’s playing, or in the interpretations of BPYO founder and conductor Benjamin Zander." -Jeffrey Gantz
"Surely, this is an orchestra that plays at a level rivalling top-flight ensembles. And, in Zander, they’ve got a dynamic conductor who’s both an inspiring teacher and experienced Mahlerian." -Jonathan Blumhofer
"This account of Mahler’s Ninth is a formidable achievement and all the more so when one considers that it is given by young musicians and that it is a live performance. It’s not just the technical accomplishment that has impressed me, however; it’s also the orchestra’s engagement with the music and their commitment. The performance is conducted superbly by Benjamin Zander and if his excellent booklet notes don’t convince you that he has thought deeply about the symphony then listening to his interpretation of it will do so. I can only say that each time I’ve listened to this performance I’ve been gripped by it from start to finish." -John Quinn
"If the idea of a youth orchestra tackling a work as deep and profound as Mahler's Symphony No. 9 appears incongruous, don't be deceived: under the unerring stewardship of Benjamin Zander (b. 1939), the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (founded by the conductor in 2012 and comprising 120 musicians ranging in age from twelve to twenty-one) delivers a mature performance that's not just credible but superb." – Ron Schepper
"Benjamin Zander’s 80th birthday celebration this season has, so far, resulted in some fine and, last weekend, revelatory performances by his Boston Philharmonic and Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (BPYO)." - Jonathan Blumhofer
"Playing with the kind of presence and passion you'd normally only expect from Euro versions of ensembles like this, the AFM needs to step up to make sure kids like this never have to take day jobs in order to keep the music alive. Just glorious." – Chris Spector
"For all of you who thought that the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, when it was conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, was just the berries as a young musical aggregation, you need to hear this recording. It’s really an impressive achievement." -Lynn Bayley
There was an elegiac quality to the BPYO’s spring season finale: the program was both a commemoration of the end of World War 1 and a farewell to the ensemble’s graduating members. And its inclusion of Ives’ visionary The Unanswered Question served as a memorial for guest conductor John Heiss’s son, Frank, who had died unexpectedly a few weeks earlier. The latter, given the full spatial treatment – string aureoles emanating from the lobby in Sanders Theater framing a solo trumpet up in the balcony and a quartet of flutes onstage – was this packed year’s unforgettable moment. Full review here. -Jonathan Blumhofer
"But listening to the overall enthusiasm and energy on display, I began to think that “Youth” in an orchestra’s name should be a positive." – Jeffrey Gantz
"Without question, this BPYO rendition of Shostakovich Ten was one of the most urgent and necessary of any symphonic score I’ve heard all year." – Jonathan Blumhofer
"The BPYO is way more than just a youth orchestra: it’s a world-class ensemble that happens to be made up (mostly) of teenagers. They return to action for the new season the Sunday after Thanksgiving with Anna Federova playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 and music director Zander conducting further works by Carl Maria von Weber and Dmitri Shostakovich." -Jonathan Blumhofer