Music Review

Winding down its season, the BSO tunes up for an Asian tour

Charles Dutoit conducted Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,’’ in which Behzod Abduraimov (right) made his BSO debut.
Charles Dutoit conducted Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,’’ in which Behzod Abduraimov (right) made his BSO debut.

When an orchestra journeys far from home, what music does it pack in its bags?

The answer no doubt depends, in varying proportions, on who is conducting and where the concerts will take place. For the BSO’s last international tour, to Europe in 2007 under James Levine’s baton, the orchestra brought fistfuls of 20th-century repertoire, including one program with works by Ives, Ravel, Bartok, and Elliott Carter.

Things look fairly different this time around, with the BSO poised to depart next week on a trip to Asia that will include its first visit to China since 1979. Lorin Maazel was supposed to conduct, and had planned three programs laden with symphonic chestnuts, and with nary an American composer in sight.


Maazel has now withdrawn from the tour, and Charles Dutoit, signed up in his stead, has been on hand to close out the Symphony Hall season with performances of the three (unchanged) tour programs. Tuesday night’s featured Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

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The Rachmaninoff brought the evening’s freshest performance, thanks to the presence of the gifted young Tashkent-born pianist Behzod Abduraimov, making his BSO debut.

Abduraimov, 23, is still enrolled as an undergraduate in Kansas City but has already launched an international career.

On Tuesday he played with impressive poise and immediacy, navigating the quiet passage work of Rachmaninoff’s much-loved Rhapsody with a certain feline grace but also displaying an unforced strength sufficient to project boldly above the orchestra when necessary. He is a talent to watch.

The orchestra played well in Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” performed here in the famous Rimsky-Korsakov orchestration, though if Dutoit has new things to say in this music, they have not yet crystallized.


The most memorable moments in the Tchaikovksy came in the second movement, and included Dutoit’s beautiful layering of the string sound to set the stage for the iconic horn solo, eloquently delivered by James Sommerville.

At the end of Thursday’s repeat performance of this program, this year’s retirees will take their bows. They are violist Edward Gazouleas, cellist Jonathan Miller, and librarian William Shisler, leaving the orchestra after 24 years, 43 years, and 57 years of service, respectively.

Jeremy Eichler can be reached at