March 1, 2015

in: Reviews

Pleasantries Beyond Standard Repertoire

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Solar Winds showcased admirably chronologically and stylistically varied works by women composers for wind quintet and pianos plus winds at Slosberg Hall on February 28th. Koven detected some interesting linkages.     [continued]

February 28, 2015

in: Reviews

St. John’s Sometime Passion

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Boston Baroque brought J. S. Bach’s St. John Passion to the stage of Jordan Hall with a fabulous cast of soloists last night. I wish the 24 period-instrumentalists and 21 choristers had reached the same heights. Repeats Saturday night in Jordan Hall.     [continued]

February 28, 2015

in: Reviews

Eclectic Composers and Friends

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“Composers and Friends” at Berklee’s David Friend Auditorium on Monday included a genre-defying Strings Theory Trio. Odd instruments such as a five-string violin, improvisation, and new music alongside a chestnut like Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel, made for a lively and eclectic hour.     [continued]

February 27, 2015

in: Reviews

Dutoit and Fischer Return with BSO

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Julia Fischer wowed the Thursday evening audience in the Brahms Violin Concerto, while to no surprise with Charles Dutoit at the helm, it was the Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks and Debussy’s Images that rose to heights of orchestral execution.     [continued]

February 24, 2015

in: Reviews

Beethoven Journeys with Andsnes and MCO

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The Celebrity Series of Boston took us away from Boston’s snowy climes Sunday on a grand voyage of discovery as Leif Ove Andsnes and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra brought to Jordan Hall three Beethoven piano concerti, each a world of its own.     [continued]

February 24, 2015

in: Reviews

Mozart by Any Other Name

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One of Boston’s venerable ensembles, the Boston Chamber Music Society, gave an entrancing concert of mostly Mozart in Cambridge. From an experienced and accomplished BCMS in its 32nd season, you can expect polish and commitment. Sunday’s five string players did not disappoint.     [continued]

February 23, 2015

in: Reviews

Still Another BPO Knockout

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The combined forces of Strauss, Mahler, Mikolaj, Zander, and the players drove back the snow under blankets of strings, winds, vocals, and upturned horns in Boston Philharmonic’s latest at Sanders Theater on Sunday.     [continued]

February 23, 2015

in: Reviews

Obscure Contrapuntalist Revealed

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Blue Heron’s OCKEGHEM@600 project got off to a brilliant start Saturday in the resonant First Church Cambridge. Centered on a single Mass Ordinary cycle, the program featured interrelated works by Ockeghem and his 15th-century contemporaries.    [continued]

February 22, 2015

in: Reviews

Aurora Borealis Glows for Criers

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Falling snow, emotional chilliness, Scandinavia, anger and climatological catharsis were under discussion before A Far Cry cleared the air with luminous tone, transparent texture, and intelligent interpretations at St. John’s in JP last night.     [continued]

February 21, 2015

in: Reviews

Beethoven Shows Young Composers How To Experiment

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The Los Angeles-based Calder Quartet, one of the country’s leading groups in this ever-more-crowded field, programmed admirably varied old, new, and new-ish works for the Celebrity Series at Jordan Hall on Friday, playing Beethoven and Ravel alongside Adès and Norman.     [continued]

February 21, 2015

in: Reviews

Kushner’s Drama Is Sung at BU

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Librettist Mari Mezei’s and Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös’s (b. 1944) opera of “Angels in America,” came to the BU Theater on Thursday evening in an accomplished performance shepherded by conductor William Lumpkin and stage director Jim Petosa. Continues tonight at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2.     [continued]

February 21, 2015

in: Reviews

Revisiting Paris’s Années folles in Symphony Hall

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Guest conductor Stéphane Denève leads the BSO this weekend in a concert of music linked to 1920’s Paris as a fitting conclusion to its month-long celebration of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. In adition to sets of ballet music by Stravinsky, Milhaud, and Poulenc, we heard James Ehnes in Prokofiev’s first violin concerto. Toe-tapping good fun enlightened a dark winter’s day.     [continued]

February 18, 2015

in: Reviews

Impressive Play from BPeG

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A small but enthusiastic crowd gathered in the Davis Square Theater in Somerville for Boston Percussion Group’s “Ragas, Reich and Radiohead.” The range and skill of the players impressed, but on balance the programming left one feeling a little undernourished.     [continued]

February 15, 2015

in: Reviews

200-Year-Old Organization Accents Youth

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The 200-year-old Handel and Haydn Society placed the accent on young composers and performers Friday night in “Mozart and Beethoven” at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall. Beethoven composed his First Symphony at 27, and Mozart was only 12 when he completed his “Waisenhaus” Mass in C Minor, K. 139. And high school choristers starred in the performance of Haydn’s Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo.    [continued]

February 13, 2015

in: Reviews

Musical Storms & Fireworks From NEC Philharmonia

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Hugh Wolff and the New England Conservatory Philharmonia defied the challenges of February’s fierce weather with winning performances of well-known orchestral showpieces on Wednesday at Jordan Hall.     [continued]

February 13, 2015

in: Reviews

One Conductor Not Enough for BSO

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Conductor Stefan Asbury rescued the U.S. premiere of Harrison Birtwistle’s new piece for piano and orchestra; the composer had written the work for the evening’s soloist, Pierre-Laurent Aimard. BSO assistant conductor Ken-David Masur did an able job with the rest of the program.     [continued]

February 10, 2015

in: Reviews

A Sober and Mischievous Mary in Song

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With their Cantigas de Santa Maria for Boston Early Music Festival at First Church, Cambridge on Friday, Newberry Consort and members of Exsultemus accomplished one of early music’s loftier goals: to bring modern ears and hearts closer to their long-ago counterparts.     [continued]

February 9, 2015

in: Reviews

BoCo Orchestra, Hangen, and Lewin Deliver

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The Boston Conservatory Orchestra under Bruce Hangen brought exceptional execution to Sanders Theater on Sunday with an ambitious program of two mighty works: Aram Khachaturian’s Symphony No. 2 and the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 with Michael Lewin as soloist.     [continued]

February 9, 2015

in: Reviews

Even Without the Tune, Fleming Over the Rainbow

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In her sixth Boston Celebrity Series appearance, Renee Fleming appeared resplendent in a billowing blue dress and shawl, looking radiant, poised, and joyful for her Symphony Hall recital with pianist Olga Kern on Sunday.     [continued]

February 9, 2015

in: Reviews

Dialogues of the Carmelites in Majestic Production

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Francis Poulenc’s only sacred opera, which opened at Boston’s Cutler Majestic Theater on Saturday night for a four-night run, provided moving stage direction and the haunting characterizations from the first of two New England Conservatory’s Opera Department casts.  This performance ranks with those of the best national preparatory companies.     [continued]

February 8, 2015

in: Reviews

Goose Eggs Not Goose Bumps

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Paavali Jumppanen, Jeffrey Means, and Hans Tutschku performed Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Kontakte for piano, percussion, and electronic sounds at the Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Sunday Concert Series causing at least one listener to wince while covering her ears. On the other side of the program, Jumppanen’s idea of Robert Schumann’s Carnaval could be best described as a jumble.     [continued]

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February 28, 2015

in: Reviews

Grosvenor Gardners Sunday

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Benjamin Grosvenor

Benjamin Grosvenor

The young pianist Benjamin Grosvenor—so young, that he is in fact, the youngest British musician ever to sign a contract with the record label Decca (who released his latest album, Dances, last summer)—is no stranger to Boston. His appearance on the Celebrity Series in November 2013 was reviewed here. On Sunday, he returns with Rameau, Bach-Busoni, Franck, Chopin, and Granados at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

THG: Tell us about the thread that binds your Boston program.

BG: It started out because I really wanted to play the Franck Prélude, Chorale, and Fugue ever since I heard the Cortot recording in my teens, and that led me to conceive a Baroque-inspired first half. So you have Rameau, the Gavotte and Variations, and then the Bach-Busoni Chaconne, sort of going from the Baroque to a Romantic re-envisaging of a Baroque piece, and then the Franck, which is a sort of Romantic neo-Baroque. And then in the second half, it’s a different world. Two very nationalistic composers—Romantic era, Romantic styles—Chopin is Polish and Granados Spanish—two composers with great melodic gifts. I suppose you could say Granados is very indebted to Chopin in the kind of piano writing that he produced. And Goyescas is his most complex and his greatest work, and one of the crowning edifices of Spanish piano music. [continued…]

February 24, 2015

in: News & Features

A Warm, Safe, Stage Seascape

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David Deveau will be in the audience this time.

David Deveau will be in the audience this time.

Rockport has been a coastal summer destination for more than a century, the more so for music aficionados since the advent of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival in 1981. And for the last five years the warm and handsome Shalin Liu Center has beckoned classical music lovers year-round. Saturday night’s appearance by the Brentano Quartet gives us another reason to dig out our cars and exercise our ears. The promising program of this top foursome (the sumptuous voice of the unconvincingly coached onscreen foursome in the 2012 movie A Late Quartet) features Charpentier’s Suite in D Minor, Debussy’s String Quartet, and Brahms’s Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 67.

Artistic Director David Deveau had some questions for violist Mark Steinberg:

DD: Was there a single event or competition that propelled Brentano into the top tier of today’s quartets?

MS: We were very fortunate in being given some opportunities to play early on by people who knew us as individuals and had faith that we might be able to be a good group. The chamber music world seems very much driven by word of mouth and we had the good luck that some people saw something in what we brought to the music and told their friends. We have gotten nice awards and such, but I think the trust between lovers of chamber music accounts for most of what we’ve been able to do.

Your repertoire is remarkably wide, from far back in time to music written today. What inspired you to go back to the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods and transcribe that era’s music for quartet? Or have the transcriptions largely been done for you by your favorite contemporary composers, like Charles Wuorinen? [continued…]

February 23, 2015

in: News & Features

MitJ: More Than “Madamina”

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A slender reed. (John Dee)

A slender reed. (John Dee)

Blair Tindall’s Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs and Classical Music (Atlantic/Grove Press 2005), the autobiographical treatment of an oboist’s lot in the hot ’80s commercial-music scene in New York, may have attracted a different reader from The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2007), but like the later scholarly, nonetheless personal overview of the entire musical 20th century, Tindall’s more narrowly focused account also revealed essential truths about indispensable practitioners of the art we celebrate in these pages.

MitJ’s sendup of the music biz, the celebrity biz, sex, drugs, and timpani rolls made for a fine porridge that attracted Amazon Studios to produce a web video series starring Malcom McDowell, Gael Garcia Bernal and Bernadette Peters (written by Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Alex Timbers, and directed by Paul Weitz). Don’t look for depictions of bedroom scenes with Keith Lockhart, but do expect to find fast-paced vignettes of attractive struggling artists, celebrity conductors and dissipated impresarios.

BMInt recently talked with author/consultant Blair Tindall.

LE: Do you know how many people are watching the video? Is Amazon happy? [continued…]

February 19, 2015

in: News & Features

Touring Organ To Receive First Local Exposure

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A few of the stops waiting to speak.

A few of the stops waiting to speak.

What do organists want? Flamboyant Sony Classical organist/entertainer extraordinaire Cameron Carpenter will bring his trademark theatricality to Sanders Theater on March 5th for the Celebrity Series. We had questions for the world’s organ exponent of the moment.

LE: Having seen such a range of your work on YouTube, I am intrigued at the chance to hear you, but we don’t have any idea what repertoire to expect. Please enlighten us.

CC: Thank you so much for your interest, Lee. I’m likely to play some Bach and Scriabin, and probably some of my own music. I don’t think it’s necessary anymore to announce programs, and I’ve always suspected that doing so allows initiated, biased listeners to think they know what to expect, while simultaneously slightly alienating the uninitiated, who don’t know a BuxWV from a WoO, and shouldn’t need to.

Enlightenment I can’t promise either, but I’ll try, though it requires an open mind.

Have you ever played in a church, and is there any organ repertoire that ought to be played straight? [continued…]

February 18, 2015

in: News & Features

Keeping Score of Dynamic Range

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vu-meterFrom psst to ffft and beyond: Everything you always wanted to know about -issississimos, piano and forte, from BMInt’s resident Deep Thought.

Dynamic markings like piano and forte go all the way back to Gabrieli’s 1597 Sonata pian e forte and Vincenzo Capirola (1474 – after 1548), but the earliest scores in which I can find p and f are of Baroque keyboard music, and even then I can’t be sure that it was not a 19th-century editor who put them there. Even a big organ work like Bach’s B-minor Prelude and Fugue S.544 doesn’t need them, because pro organo pleno says it all at the beginning. I’ve played that piece on half a dozen instruments and never deployed all the stops available on any of them, but neither did I feel I was depriving the listener of full organ sound. I mention this because I mostly want to consider how composers use the fff marking and why. [continued…]

February 17, 2015

in: News & Features

Ueno’s Providential Sound Art

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Ken-uenoI want to inscribe the sounds from my body in communion with the flesh of the audience, that we might extend each other’s lives. The temporality of engagement continues as long as there is a bodily trace, a memory.

Ken Ueno was a local new-music presence for nearly a dozen years before taking a faculty position at UC-Berkeley. Which is not to say that he became a stranger. Little over a year ago, he was in town [review here] for the world premiere of his Hapax Legomenon. The composer’s Talus was reviewed here in 2008 and Gallo [here] played Boston in last June.

Ueno is preparing for another return, this time at the RISD Museum in Providence on March 29th, with Four Contemplations. Sound art installations come in all shapes and sizes. John Kochevar thought BMInt readers might be interested in a current composer’s inspirations and experiences, with reflections on how Boston compares with other active new-music centers.

JK: Talk about the Providence concert.

KU: I was commissioned to create a site-specific piece for the RISD Museum’s Dainichi Buddha (c. 1150). An unusual idea for a composition, the work, titled Four Contemplations, will unfold in three iterations. First, March 26th, I’ll be performing with 11 members of the Community MusicWorks Players, led by Sebastian Ruth (a 2010 MacArthur Fellow), in the Asian art gallery spaces of the museum, including the room with the Buddha, in four 30-minute chunks throughout the evening. On Sunday, March 29th, we will perform an hourlong concert piece in the RISD Museum concert hall. During these live events, the music will be recorded, and at a later date will be accessible on the museum guide in the Asian art galleries. Four Contemplations was inspired by the Buddha and also the four fundamental meditations in Buddhist practice. It was influenced as well by my recent attempts to compose music specific to architectural spaces and people moving through them. More on the event is here. [continued…]

February 15, 2015

in: News & Features

Remembering Ezra Sims

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ezra-simmsWhile other obituaries will doubtless cover more of the standard CV details, BMInt is posting my personal reminiscence of Ezra Sims, a composer long resident in Cambridge and closely identified with the Boston musical scene, who died on January 30th, a couple of weeks after his 87th birthday.

I had known Ezra Sims since around 1977, when I first became involved with Dinosaur Annex, of which he was a co-founder, along with Rodney Lister and Scott Wheeler (for the curious, the name was an amalgam of Toby Armour’s New England Dinosaur Dance Company, of which Ezra had been music director, and The Annex Players, an instrumental group that had performed at the annex of the School of the MFA, whom Ezra recruited to be Dinosaur Dance’s “pit orchestra”). But I had known about Ezra a decade earlier, when as a research assistant to Eric Salzman in the production of the first edition of his Twentieth Century Music: An Introduction, I had compiled a listing of microtonal composers for the relevant chapter of Salzman’s book. Although microtonal music wasn’t one of my special interests, the subject attracted me, as another of my teachers, Joel Mandelbaum, was pursuing this avenue. [continued…]

February 14, 2015

in: Reviews

Let It Snow. Wait, What? Again? More?

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The publisher shovels his roof.

The publisher shovels his roof.

Cancellations are coming in again for concerts, so readers are admonished to trust our calendar but verify in this season of multiple storms. What’s up from the heavens? Is it the result of permanent climate change? Should we cancel all concerts this month and in all Februarys to come?

Mike Rocha, a valued BMInt critic, who happens to have an MS in meteorology from MIT, responded thus:

Needless to say, my meteorological antennae have been all aquiver, and I’m enjoying every flake of our unprecedented winter! But to give a succinct answer: the long-wave jet stream pattern is amplified, with a pronounced ridge in the west and trough in the east. This pattern has been persistent for months. In December, the trough axis was a bit farther west, with an associated storm track that brought in mild air. For the first three weeks of January, the axis shifted to the east, bringing cold air and storms that tended to stay offshore. Now the storm track is quite close to us, bringing this potent winter combo of cold air and storminess.

Among other things, it’s related to a climatological surface-pressure pattern called the North Atlantic Oscillation. Very hard to say whether something like this is exacerbated by climate change.

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