August 4, 2015

in: Reviews

A Pianist Like No Other

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Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts recitals continued at Walnut Hill on Monday with a very meditative and pearly take on Bach, Scriabin, Chopin, and Liszt from Hung-Kuan Chen.     [continued]

August 4, 2015

in: Reviews

Summertime Ivorian Power

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The Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts recitals kicked off its summer festival at Walnut Hill; in Sunday’s recital came power from the 19-year-old Japanese Aimi Kobayashi.     [continued]

August 4, 2015

in: Reviews

Rockport Chamber Festival Conclusion Worth Wait

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The Shalin Liu Center audience certainly responded rapturously to pianist Benjamin Grosvenor on Saturday. This was one tough program which the former child prodigy handled with maturity and aplomb.     [continued]

August 3, 2015

in: Reviews

Whimsy and Expressivity with Ma and Nelsons

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After the previous night’s weighty Shostakovich, it was a pleasant contrast on Sunday afternoon to hear music of a generally more whimsical nature. And it didn’t hurt that Yo-Yo Ma was on hand.     [continued]

August 3, 2015

in: Reviews

BSO: Sunshine in the Triple, Starlight in the Tenth

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After a disappointing Friday in Tanglewood, Saturday night replenished our spirits with sparkling Beethoven and rewarding Shostakovich.   [continued]

August 2, 2015

in: Reviews

Escher Qt. Stood Out—Somewhat

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This Escher String wasn’t out to wow the Maverick audience on Sunday; it just wanted to make music, and its lyricism and precision satisfied greatly.     [continued]

August 1, 2015

in: Reviews

Collective Clanging and Controlled Chaos

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“Bang On a Can Presents John Cage” at MASS MoCA last Sunday proved once again that his music is incredibly trippy stuff that makes you reconsider every assumption you might have about art.   [continued]

July 31, 2015

in: Reviews

Midsummer Martha Delights

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Boston Midsummer Opera’s condensed, English-language presentation of Friedrich von Flotow’s charming Romantic opera Martha, or the Fair at Richmond opened Wednesday  at a packed and enthusiastic Tsai Center. Repeat performances, featuring the same cast, will follow on Friday and Sunday.     [continued]

July 29, 2015

in: Reviews

Mozart, Mahler, Manny, and MTT

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Saturday night’s BSO concert at the Shed featured a somewhat curious pairing of Mozart’s elegant, ebullient Piano Concerto No. 14 with Mahler’s world-quaking Symphony No. 5.     [continued]

July 28, 2015

in: Reviews

Contemporary Music: 36 to 100 Years Old?

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A gang of young fellows channeling Old Masters Bernstein, Foss, Copland, and Ives ended the 75th Festival of Contemporary music with a bang.    [continued]

July 27, 2015

in: Reviews

Rose’s Colored Glasses Brighten Monadnock Vision

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Two successive events revealed consecutively the perils and pleasures of summer festival programming in the Monadnock Hills.     [continued]

July 27, 2015

in: Reviews

The Last of FCM’s New Works

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As the Festival of Contemporary Music was winding down, the Sunday morning concert had acquired a clubby atmosphere. The unusual 10:00 a.m. start time reinforces your belonging to a group of the seriously likeminded.     [continued]

July 27, 2015

in: Reviews

All-Beethoven, All-Mozart, All-Dohnányi

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This weekend Christoph von Dohnányi led two programs that epitomized standard: an all-Beethoven concert (the Fourth Symphony and the Violin Concerto) on Friday night, and an all-Mozart program consisting of the last three symphonies on Sunday afternoon.     [continued]

July 26, 2015

in: Reviews

Pop Numberland Uncomfortable in Its Company

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The Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music’s Saturday concert with Dawn Upshaw in Michael Gandolfi’s Carroll in Numberland attracted the largest audience I’ve seen at an FCM matinee.     [continued]

July 25, 2015

in: Reviews

The Wreckers a Monumental Revelation

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The US-staged premiere of Ethel Smyth’s 1906 opera The Wreckers at the Fisher Center as part of Bard Summerscape made a strong case for the importance of this work. Remaining performances on July 26, 29, 31 and Aug. 2..     [continued]

July 25, 2015

in: Reviews

Modern Musical Poesy Through Tanglewood Rain

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Still more, and more recent, contemporary music variety was on the Friday menu from TFCM at 75, now with numerous short and/or poetical works.     [continued]

July 24, 2015

in: Reviews

Halcyon Nights, NH Chamber of Delights

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The New Hampshire-based Halcyon Music Festival opened its second season Thursday night in high style under the sage musical leadership of artistic director Heng-Jin Park.     [continued]

July 24, 2015

in: Reviews

‘Modern’ Elders in Full at TFCM

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The Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music concert Thurday night comprised mature efforts of Schuller, Maderna, Carter, Perle, and Wuorinen, complete with babies and cancellations.     [continued]

July 22, 2015

in: Reviews

FCM’s 75th Opener

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Ozawa Hall nearly overflowed Monday for the official opening of the 2015 Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music; some formidable forces, including pianist Emanuel Ax, filled the stage.     [continued]

July 21, 2015

in: Reviews

Four Premieres Open Music Center Festival

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Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music opened in a big way Monday night with five works performed by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, four of them world premieres commissioned to celebrate the Center’s 75th birthday.     [continued]

July 21, 2015

in: Reviews

American Modernists: Kinetic and Unmannered

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Monadnock Music featured ballet and similar scores Saturday night as Gil Rose set a pungent table of 20th-century works from Barber to Perle in the Peterborough Town House.     [continued]

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August 3, 2015

in: News & Features

BSO and Berlin Announce New Leaders

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A delighted Andris Nelsons two years ago  (Stu Rosner)

A delighted Andris Nelsons two years ago
(Stu Rosner photo)

“Words cannot express my feelings—everything from euphoria and great joy to awe and disbelief. I am aware of the responsibility and high expectations of me, and I will do everything in my power to be a worthy conductor of this outstanding orchestra.” On June 21st, the Berlin Philharmonic voted by a large majority to invite Kirill Petrenko to lead them.

Two weeks later Andris Nelsons accepted BSO management’s offer of a three-year extension on his original five-year contract, “I am so very honored and incredibly excited by this new chapter in my musical life with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.” According to Mark Volpe, BSO Managing Director, “After a wonderfully successful first year as music director, it is clear that the BSO under Andris Nelsons’s leadership is poised to experience another thrilling period in its 134-year storied history.” Thus Andris Nelsons will lead the orchestra through spring of 2022. The parties also agree that Nelsons will lead several programs each season at Tanglewood and preside over tours to Europe, Asia, and North America and beyond each season through the contractual period. [continued…]

July 31, 2015

in: News & Features

Tchaikovsky Medalist To Perform at Walnut Hill

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The young composer.

The eponymous one.

Nineteen-year-old Lexington resident George Li, recent winner of the silver medal in the piano division of the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition, will be performing a solo recital Friday, August 7 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the 24th Annual Music Festival at Walnut Hill. This is the first local opportunity to hear our own burgeoning international artist after his recent triumph. George’s program includes works by Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel. A 2013 graduate of the Walnut Hill School for the Arts, George is currently a student in the prestigious Harvard-New England Conservatory dual-degree program.

Shortly after returning home in early July to give his fingers a bit of well-deserved R&R following the grueling three-week Tchaikovsky Competition, George hopped back across the pond to attend the renowned Verbier Festival, in which seasoned performers and talented young musicians are stirred vigorously in a musical melting pot, with the Swiss Alps serving as inspirational backdrop. Following his recital at Walnut Hill, George heads back to Europe, this time to France, where he will perform a solo concert as part of the Festival International de Musique in Dinard.

We somehow managed to catch up with a very busy George recently. Though (and because!) George is an ardent fan, we assiduously avoided the subject of the Red Sox. [continued…]

July 29, 2015

in: News & Features

Down Southeast, Music from Big Yellow

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widmann2007

Jörg Widmann to be featured

High seriousness may be what makes Brattleboro’s Yellow Barn more than a musical summer camp—seriousness about learning, dialog, and performance. For the listener there is a festive month of Big Barn concerts, but don’t worry about roughing it, as the 125-seat high-beamed space is air-conditioned. As for the quality of the teaching and playing, both are quite elevated, to judge from the names and the critical notices.

From 1969, when founder and cellist David Wells with pianist wife Janet opened their home and barn as a summer music retreat for students, new works and composers were central. Roger Sessions and John Cage were early residents. This year the fashionable and productive German composer/clarinetist Jörg Widmann will be in residence for concerts featuring him in both of his roles.

While the concert on August 3rd includes one of his works (Skelett, which repeats the next night), Yellow Barn’s major tribute to the composer comes on the 4th, in the form of this season’s Composer Portrait, which is devoted to his compositions and conversations about them. Fourteen players, including Widmann, will participate. The next night two “hunt” quartets will arrive, Mozart’s very different from Widmann’s. In the latter, the upper strings hunt and kill the cellist, whose screams are so curdling that WGBH declined to present this piece in a Live at Drive Time performance a couple of years ago. [continued…]

July 21, 2015

in: News & Features

Yet Another Schuller Facet

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Commemorating the premiere of Schuller's "Where the World Ends" (BMInt montage)

Commemorating the premiere of Schuller’s
“Where the World Ends” (BMInt montage)

History will rightly remember Gunther Schuller as an important composer, conductor, author and teacher. But many organizations he so generously helped will remember him as a wonderful mentor and friend.

Pro Musicis is one of these organizations. In 1965 Father Eugène Merlet, a French Capuchin-Franciscan priest and musician (organ and piano), founded Pro Musicis, pioneering the concept of a classical music award combined with a social mission. He wanted to give exceptional concert musicians an opportunity to mature in their artistry by performing both in concert halls and in community service venues: prisons, hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, shelters for the homeless, centers for the disabled.

In the mid-1970s Father Merlet, seeking to establish Pro Musicis in the US, asked Schuller to chair the jury responsible for selecting artists for the Pro Musicis International Award. Schuller agreed. This was the beginning of a deep friendship spanning almost four decades and resulting in an extraordinary roster of nearly 100 artists from more than 20 countries. Describing the award, Schuller said: “The emphasis is on choosing artists who are readily committed by their nature and talent to a much broader and deeper involvement with music.” [continued…]

July 17, 2015

in: News & Features

Flotow’s Finest Inked for BMO’s 10th Season

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flotowSatisfying the needs of the opera-starved public over the summer doldrums, Boston Midsummer Opera (BMO) is staging Martha, a charming and musically gorgeous romcom of surprising depth, at BU’s Tsai Performance Center, July 29, 31, and August 2. The opera contains two of the more famous arias in the repertoire, sparkling ensembles, not to mention the luminously tender “Goodnight” Quartet.

The Wikipedia entry informs us that Friedrich von Flotow’s Martha or The Market at Richmond is in four acts and set to a German libretto by Riese, based on a story by Vernoy de Saint-Georges. Flotow had composed the first act of a ballet, performed by the Paris Opera Ballet in 1844; the time available for further composition was short, so the second and third acts were assigned to Burgmüller and Deldevez. The opera Martha is an adaptation of this ballet; despite its German and Austrian origins, it is “French in character and elegance”.

Along with the Boston Midsummer Ensemble, the English-singing cast features acclaimed soprano Joanna Mongiardo (Lady Harriet/Martha); Spanish-American tenor Eric Barry (Lionel); contralto Stephanie Kacoyanis (Nancy); bass Jason Budd (Plunkett); and bass-baritone David Cushing (Sir Tristan). Noted director James O’Leary stages the production, and nationally acclaimed conductor Susan Davenny Wyner will lead the BMO orchestra. The design team includes Stephen Dobay, (sets), John Cuff, (lighting), and Elisabetta Polito (costumes).

BMInt interviewed director James O’Leary and tenor Eric Barry: [continued…]

July 14, 2015

in: News & Features

“Rhapsody in Green” Opens BLMO’s 15th Season

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chris-wilkins-casualSeveral “Landmarks” or in this case, “Watermarks” traditions converge Wednesday night at the Hatch Shell after the 7:00 downbeat opens Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s annual green concert. Once again the festivities begin with BLMO’s signature anthem. Francine Trester has set three verses of At the River for Jayne West, whose lyrical, multi-hued voice has inspired a gorgeous vocal line and accompaniment, according to artistic director Christopher Wilkins

Continuing the water theme, we voyage with Mendelssohn by paddle-steamer to the Isle of Mull for The Hebrides Overture. In the best early Romantic tradition of nature painting, the composer evokes sonic images of rocking waves, the call of gulls, and echoes of human cries returning from the interior of the cave.

Alan Hovhaness, a Somerville-born composer of Armenian heritage, composed And God Created Great Whales in 1970, making use of whale songs provided by Frank Watlington and Dr. Roger Payne. Among Dr. Payne’s students is Dr. Salvatore Cerchio, a Massachusetts resident who, in February 1990, made what has been described as the greatest recording of humpback whale song ever made. It is a recording of a single male—only the males sing since it is a courtship behavior—singing off the coast of Kaua’i, close to a steep shelf in the sea floor allowing for nearly ideal acoustical reflections. [continued…]

July 1, 2015

in: News & Features

George Li Takes Tchaikovsky Silver

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George Li 2nd placeNineteen-year-old pianist George Li, who hails from Lexington, has been awarded the silver medal in the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition. Dmitry Masleev, 27, from Russia, took gold.

Held quadrennially in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the Tchaikovsky Competition (aka the ‘musical Olympics’) features four flavors of musician: pianist, violinist, cellist, and vocalist. The goal of the Competition is to discover and showcase young talent; competitors range in age from 16 to 32. It was in the inaugural Competition, debuted during the height of the Cold War back in 1958, that American pianist Van Cliburn vaulted onto the international stage by overcoming a frigid Soviet judging environment and capturing first prize. (The eight-minute ovation following his final performance no doubt didn’t hurt.) No American has captured the gold since. This year’s competition, commemorating the 175th anniversary of its eponymous composer’s birth, attracted a total of 623 applicants from 45 countries. [continued…]

June 27, 2015

in: News & Features

Pianist George Li Is Tchaikovsky Finalist

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George Li (file photo)

George Li (file photo)

Readers who have not been following the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow should know that this grueling and highly competitive event is held once every four years and is sometimes referred to as the ‘musical Olympics.’  It was in the first Tchaikovsky Competition, back in 1958, that Van Cliburn vaulted onto the international stage.  Pianists, violinists, cellists, and vocalists have been competing for about the last ten days.

 After a staggering amount of consistently high-caliber music-making during an audition phase, a Round I phase [50-minute solo recital], a Round II, Stage I phase [another, completely different, hour-long solo recital], and a Round II, Stage II phase [Mozart concerto with chamber orchestra], the initial field of 55 accomplished pianists from around the world has been narrowed to six finalists.  And our own George Li, from Lexington and now studying in the Harvard-NEC dual-degree program, is one of those finalists!

This competition is being broadcast live online in a surprisingly high-quality production by Medici TV.  George’s performance in the finals is tomorrow, 28 June, at approximately 12.45 p.m. EDT.  He’ll be performing not one, but two massive Romantic piano concertos, the Tchaikovsky No. 1 and the Prokofiev No. 3. A link to the live online broadcast is here, and Li’s website is here

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