A Night of Bach and Mendelssohn at The Boston Symphony Orchestra

February 13, 2018 | By Kristen Flaherty

“Salvation is in great music that has been written and exists. Just like [the] paintings that survive from [the] past, so do certain pieces that will be relevant today, [and] a hundred years later. [...] We ought to concentrate on [classical music’s] existence, rather [than] on its disappearance,” stated Russian pianist Kirill Gerstein, when asked about the dwindling interest of classical music by today’s millennials.

Living in the modern world of electronic dance music (EDM) and rap, classical music has become something of the past. However, classical music can evoke a sense of mysticality, maturity, and timelessness, that withstand the test of time and influx of new genres. I was never able to fully appreciate the beauty of classical music until I had the privilege of attending the Boston Symphony Orchestra. 


Walking into the hall is an experience like no other. The smell of the 300 year old wooden floors filled the room. The golden organ and matching Greek statues add to the aged beauty of this hall. The crowd was eclectic, mixed of young, old, traditional, and artsy music-goers. They were here for a “casual Friday” performance, which is less formal than the usual BSO performances. The main attraction of this February performance was the celebration of “Leipzig Week in Boston,” the new alliance between the BSO and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, which is a world-renowned orchestra from Leipzig, Germany. Andris Nelson, conductor, trumpet player, and opera singer, is the music director for both orchestra, and the reason for the collaboration onstage. Nelson bombastically conducted this Friday night performance to perfection. Three pianists, Kirill Gerstein, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Thomas Adès, performed alongside the orchestra for the first composition.

To start the performance, the giant, gold organ at centerstage immediately called the crowd’s attention. The orchestra and pianists, dressed in all black, waited patiently for Nelson’s cue to begin. Amidst an intrigued audience, Bach’s “Concerto in D Minor for the Three Pianos, BWV 1063, ALla Siciliana, Allegro” filled the hall. The passion and concentration of the musicians was seen in all of their faces. However, Russian pianist Kirill Gerstein’s enraptured expressions were definitely the most entertaining. The second piece, “Express Abstractionism” (2017), written by Sean Shepherd, took the performance on an unexpected turn. It is akin to cinematic masterpiece soundtracks such as the “Star Wars” compositions. With loud, dramatic moments and erie vibes, the audience never knew what sound to anticipate next. Listening to this piece in an antique concert hall definitely felt strange, but it was interesting to hear how this modern composer is giving classical music a new spin. 

The third and final piece was “Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Opus 56, Scottish, Introduction and Allegro agitato,” written by Mendelssohn. This piece was filled with feelings of triumph and perseverance. However, quieter moments in the piece created feelings of humility and reverence. 

While listening to each composition, the imagination can create a narrative that runs parallel with the twists and turns of the music, and ultimately roam free. Even while being a young student constantly surrounded by all different genres of music, I have learned to appreciate classical music’s tradition. Just like the more popular EDM songs, classical music, such as these prestigious compositions played at the BSO, holds the power to influence the minds of the listeners.