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BU Symphony Orchestra Returns to Symphony Hall Tonight

Ken-David Masur conducts works by Haydn, Hindemith, and Bartók

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The Boston University Symphony Orchestra will perform its annual fall concert at Boston’s Symphony Hall this evening, November 21, with a program featuring the work of celebrated European composers from two centuries: Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 95 in C minor, Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, and Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra.

The Austrian classical composer Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) completed his Symphony No. 95 in C minor among five others, often referred to as the “London Symphonies,” during the first of two musical residencies in England during 1791 and 1792. “His day job as court composer to the Esterházy family resulted in a regularity and intimacy of his symphonies composed in the court’s service; as he began to market his symphonies abroad, first in Paris and now in London, he expanded their length, scope, and variety in melodic and harmonic content,” writes were written by Brett Kostrzewski a CFA PhD student in musicology, in his program notes for the concert. The symphony’s andante movement “is a beautiful variation set for string orchestra with occasional interjections from the rest of the band and a final cadence that will leave everyone smiling.”

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), a German composer and violinist, created his symphony Mathis der Maler from orchestral movements drawn from his opera of the same name, which he was working on concurrently. “This work is strongly enmeshed with the politics of early National Socialist Germany,” according to Kostrezewski. Based on the story of German Renaissance painter Mathias Grünewald (1470-1528), the opera that inspired the symphony explores the themes of artistic expression amidst institutional repression during the early years of the Reformation. While the symphony was performed in Germany in 1934, the political climate there made it impossible to stage the opera when it was completed a year later. Soon after, Hindemith was forced to leave Germany to seek artistic freedom, first in Switzerland and later in the United States, the program notes say, describing the opera as reflecting “an explicit parallelism with Hindemith’s own plight in Nazi Germany.”

The Concerto for Orchestra, by the Hungarian composer and pianist Béla Bartók (1881-1945), masterfully blends the pre-Romantic with a modern aesthetic, Kostrzewski writes. Composed in 1943, the piece premiered at Boston Symphony Hall, marking the end of a three-year lull in productivity for the composer, who had found it difficult initially to compose in his new country after immigrating to the United States in 1940. The concerto was hailed by critics and was one of the last major pieces written by the versatile Bartók. He died in New York in 1945, and in the decades since, the piece has become his most popular work.

Tonight’s guest conductor, Ken-David Masur, is internationally known and has been referred to by critics as bold, brilliant, and charismatic. Currently the assistant conductor of the BSO, Masur has conducted in France, Germany, Japan, Korea, and Russia and has led the New England Conservatory Orchestra at Jordan Hall. A 1996 alum of the BU Tanglewood Institute (BUTI), he conducted the gala concert celebrating BUTI’s 50th anniversary in August 2016. He also made his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic this past summer.

A graduate of Columbia University, Masur did postgraduate studies at the Manhattan School of Music and the Hanns Eisler Conservatory in Berlin, among others. He also studied conducting with his Polish-born father, Kurt Masur, an old-style maestro who was principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra from 2000 until 2007 and of the New York Philharmonic from 1991 to 2002. He died in December 2015 at age 88.

The Boston University Symphony Orchestra concert, presented by the College of Fine Arts School of Music, is tonight, Monday, November 21, at 8 p.m., at Boston Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. Seating is general admission. Tickets are $25 and student rush tickets are $10, available at the door today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Members of the BU community receive one free ticket at the door on the day of the performance. Purchase tickets here or call 617-266-1200.

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