An Evening with the Boston Symphony Orchestra
The swell of strings, the roar of percussion: a night at Symphony Hall is a passionate, singular affair, whether you’re there to revel in Beethoven or to explore intrepid contemporary works. But in order to get the most out of a Boston Symphony Orchestra performance, it’s helpful to know a bit of background. Read on for a guide to this longstanding Boston institution:
An Illustrious History
1881: Founded by philanthropist Henry Lee Higginson, the orchestra gives its first performance at the Boston Music Hall.
1900: Symphony Hall opens and becomes the orchestra’s permanent residence. Its fin de siècle architecture enthralls audiences to this day.
1940: Inspired by Higginson, music director Serge Koussevitzky founds the Berkshire Music Center. Now known as the Tanglewood Music Center, it trains musicians and puts on a popular summer concert series.
1950s: The BSO begins performing internationally. In 1956, it tours the Soviet Union—the first American orchestra to do so.
2004: James Levine takes over as music director, a post he holds until 2011. During his tenure, Levine embraces the work of contemporary artists and expands the orchestra’s reach over new platforms, successfully ushering it into the 21st century.
What to wear: Unless you’re there on the opening night of the season, black tie is not necessary. Men can get by with a dark suit; women can wear a dress that’s at least knee-length, or a pair of dressy slacks.
When to clap: Use your program (or the rest of the audience) as your guide. Don’t applaud in between movements of longer pieces; wait until the piece is completely finished to signal your appreciation.
Who to bring: Children younger than 5 are not allowed at performances, but older kids may enjoy the orchestra’s sights and sounds. Specifically tailored to the preschool set, the BSO’s Concerts for Very Young People are free events held at the Boston Children’s Museum.
Before and After
The neighborhood has plenty to offer those who want to make the night special. For an authentic French dinner beforehand, reserve a table at Brasserie Jo; show your BSO ticket for a glass of wine or a dessert on the house with the purchase of an entrée. After the performance, head to the intimate Lucca Back Bay, which serves cocktails until 2 a.m.