CONCERT REVIEW BSO Presents Saint-Saëns and Stravinsky

Lise de la Salle Impresses, But ‘Petrushka’ Disappoints

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by Fabio Luisi, featuring Pianist Lise de la Salle

November 14, 2009

An anxious group exited the Symphony T stop at the Green Line, bee lining to the greeters at the door of Symphony Hall. Exactly at 8:03 p.m., the symphony finished tuning and welcomed the rushed audience with a sweet poem: “Pastorale d’été,” a symphonic poem by Arthur Honegger. Honnegger’s style in “Pastorale d’été,” generally associated with the 1920s avant-garde, contrasts with his peers’ — coined the “Groupe des Six” — in that Honegger believed that the new era of music resulted from transitioning from the traditional, as opposed to cleanly breaking away. He embraced the value in balance and virtue, which is exhibited in “Pastorale d’été.” One flute, an oboe, a clarinet, a bassoon, a horn, and strings create a lyrical song of a pleasant summer day in the fields.

The melodious “Pastorale d’été” prepared the audience for the true treat of the evening: 21-year-old French piano soloist Lise de la Salle. De la Salle has toured extensively — including performances in Paris, London, the Lucerne Festival Piano Series, Stuttgart, Copenhagen, Luxemburg, Munich, and Berlin. Furthermore, two of her recordings have been awarded Gramophone’s “Recording of the Month.” She has also been featured in Vanity Fair Germany. De la Salle began playing the piano at age 4 and at age 13, made her debut in Avignon and Paris. She then began her impressive career at that age by touring with the Orchestre National d’Ile de France. More information on de la Salle is available at

She performed Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Opus 22 — a significant performance; Saint-Saëns’s final performance of the piece in 1906 was also with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Paralleling Saint-Saëns’s mastery of technique, de la Salle impressed the audience with the deft and lucid finger work that the piece required. All three movements of the piece, although each colored by their own tone, calls for intense focus and concentration. The final Presto movement required constant movement up and down the keyboard. In contrast to the somewhat playful air of Saint-Saëns’s piano concerto, the lasting impression left by the quality of Lise de la Salle’s performance and talent characterized the evening. After her performance, the audience’s applause forced de la Salle to return to the stage three separate times. Every time, la Salle humbly accepted the praise.

The second half of the evening was less remarkable. The full symphony performed “Petrushka,” by Igor Stravinsky. The piece seemed incomplete; the scenery, dancers, and sets were missed for this ballet score. The audience was at best mildly enthusiastic towards the performance.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra continues its 2009–2010 season with a performance featuring Sir James Galway, the Women of the Tanglewood Festival Choir, and John Oliver as the conductor. This performance will take place November 19–21. Other artists for this season include Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, and Frank Peter Zimmerman. For interested students, there is also an open rehearsal, usually on the Wednesday evening before the performances, with reduced priced tickets. View the Boston Symphony Orchestra website — — for more information.