October 1, 2014

in: Reviews

Vivat the “World of Klezmer” and More

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Music Director Richard Pittman and his extraordinary Boston Musica Viva opened their 46th season Saturday at BU’s Tsai Performance Center with recently composed music by Jewish composers, including one world premiere during celebrations of the Jewish New Year.     [continued]

September 30, 2014

in: Reviews

BCMS in Top Form

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Yoking Dmitri Sitkovetsky’s 1985 arrangement of the Goldberg Variations with Mendelssohn’s D Minor Trio at Boston Chamber Music Society’s  Sanders Theatre  on Sunday provided a remarkable gathering and release of tension, producing a rare sense of completion and catharsis.     [continued]

September 30, 2014

in: Reviews

Kotzschmar: 100 Stops After 100 Years

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Merrill Auditorium in Portland (ME) City Hall welcomed home a much-missed, multi-ton friend on Saturday. The Hermann Kotzschmar Memorial Organ had been removed from the hall in August 2012, almost exactly 100 years after its inauguration, and was absent for two years undergoing a complete renovation. It was heart-warming to see this 1900-seat hall nearly full to greet the renovated Municipal Organ.     [continued]

September 30, 2014

in: Reviews

Paul Biss Fêted at 70

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Is there a better way to celebrate a big birthday than to throw a concert with friends and family? This is exactly what N.E.C. violist/violinist/conductor Paul Biss did for his 70th birthday this past Sunday at Jordan Hall.     [continued]

September 30, 2014

in: Reviews

The Steady Excellence of the Chameleons

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The  Chameleon Arts Ensemble’s concert Saturday at First Church, Boston, marking the beginning of the groups 17th season, gave me cause to reflect on why I have heard and praised them at least nine times in this journal. In my fifth season following this group I have yet to leave a concert feeling less than elated.     [continued]

September 30, 2014

in: Reviews

Moving Music for Moving Images

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This year’s SeptemberFest at the Longy School of Music, entitled “Moving Image: music inspiring images inspiring music” was dedicated to the synergy between sound and images, speech, or film, with Saturday’s concerts, curated by artistic director Wayman Chin, focused on the interplay between music and film.    [continued]

September 30, 2014

in: Reviews

Science and Music Meet with LSO

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Sunday at Jordan Hall the Longwood Symphony Orchestra began its 31st season with a pleasing amalgam of the classical and the 20th-century American canons; the concert also featured Russian pianist Vasilly Primakov.     [continued]

September 29, 2014

in: Reviews

Being Sharon Isbin

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Last night Rockport Music hosted a screening of the documentary film, “Sharon Isbin: Troubadour” (2014), followed by a Q&A with Susan Dangel, producer/director, and the guitarist. Thereafter Sharon Isbin took to the Shalin Liu stage and shared her incomparable musical prowess.     [continued]

September 28, 2014

in: Reviews

Substantial Froth Celebrates New Maestro

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Coming after some years of anxiety over the leadership of the orchestra, the debut performance of Andris Nelsons as 15th music director in the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 134 years heralded a welcome return to normality and, hopefully, developing greatness.     [continued]

September 28, 2014

in: Reviews

Jue Wang and the Limits of Color

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Under the auspices of the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts, the multihued piano recital Saturday night at Jordan Hall by Shanghai-born prizewinner Jue Wang was a decidedly mixed Romantic affair.     [continued]

September 28, 2014

in: Reviews

Intrigue, Lure & Lucier Sounding

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A dry MIT Media Lab room E 14-674 hosted “Sounding Bodies—Music by Alvin Lucier and Arnold Dreyblatt” yesterday. With pitch creating rhythm, pure, simple, lovely, and fascinating effects were sometimes all we got.     [continued]

September 27, 2014

in: Reviews

Parker Quartet’s Erudition Shorts Context

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The inaugural concert of the Parker Quartet as Blodgett Artists-in-Residence came Friday night at Harvard’s Paine Hall featuring music of Haydn, Dutilleux, and Dvořák; the ensemble’s bow and string acumen made more obvious a shortage of cultural and chronological context.     [continued]

September 27, 2014

in: Reviews

Plushy Playing in Parched Acoustics

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The latest musical manifestation of the pantry-filling Music for Food came from Triple Helix on Thursday night in the form of an all-Brahms concert at BU’s Tsai Center. The Brahms chamber œuvre, for this listener, is the avatar for its entire species.     [continued]

September 26, 2014

in: Reviews

Lee Hyla Remembered

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Jordan Hall resounded last night with the music of Lee Hyla, who taught composition at New England Conservatory (his alma mater) from 1992 until moving to Northwestern University in 2007. Hyla died early this summer at the age of 61, and this concert memorialized him with performances of his compositions for diverse instruments.     [continued]

September 25, 2014

in: Reviews

Not All That Horribly Noisy

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Steven Drury’s Callithumpian Consort kicked off its 30-somethingth season Monday night at Jordan Hall, offering four intensely expressive pieces, in forms that were wildly divergent. The evening ended noisily, but not at all horribly.     [continued]

September 23, 2014

in: Reviews

Polished and Expressive COB

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“Changing Colors,” a rewardingly eclectic concert delivered by the Chamber Orchestra of Boston (COB) under David Feltner at First Church in Boston on Saturday, was apt not only for the imminent autumnal equinox but also for the featured repertoire ranging from Mozart to a world premiere.    [continued]

September 23, 2014

in: Reviews

A Chamber of Thwarted Pleasures

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Freisinger Chamber Orchestra’s Sunday concert at Old South Church competed from the start with disco thrumming leaking in from a festive Copley Square. Despite some pleasures from the soloist and an interesting new piece, listening was sometimes a chore.      [continued]

September 22, 2014

in: Reviews

A Master Gives a Tale of Two Organs

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Listening to William Porter on the 1929 Skinner Opus 793 and the CB Fisk Opus 139 (2012) at Harvard’s Memorial Church brought abundant joy to a good turnout, which clearly recognized organ sounds brimming with immeasurable know-how and unassailable naturalness.     [continued]

September 22, 2014

in: Reviews

Russians at the Gardner

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As programmed by the Borromeo Quartet at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Calderwood Hall on Sunday afternoon, a pairing of quartets by Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky seemed just right. Their carefully thought out attention to every detail of articulation, phrasing, dynamics, and texture contributed to an overall sense of stylistic rightness in performances that were both probing and illuminating.     [continued]

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October 1, 2014

in: News & Features

From the Top Records Live at Jordan Hall

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Christopher O'Riley

Christopher O’Riley

Meet “young musicians who will knock your socks off” (NBC’s Today) when From the Top, the preeminent showcase for young musicians heard weekly on WCRB 99.5, tapes its NPR radio show at Jordan Hall on Sunday, October 5th. This session of the popular program hosted by pianist Christopher O’Riley will mark the beginning of its 15th season. For tickets and information, click here or call 617-437-0707 x 128. From the Top may be heard locally on WCRB on Sundays at 7 pm; this episode will air nationally the week of November 17th.

Featured on the show will be 12-year-old violinist Maria Lakisova from Vernon Hills Illinois, a student at Midwest Young Artists, and 17-year-old pianist Yun-Chih Hsu from New York, a student at the Juilliard Pre-College Division. Also featured will be the Snitzer String Quartet from the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, comprising violinist Carolyn Semes, violinist Beatrice Hsieh, violist Joseph Burke, and cellist Zachary Mowitz.

BMInt recent had a pleasant conversation with host O’Riley: [continued...]

September 27, 2014

in: News & Features

Epochal Evening at Symphony

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A delighted Andris Nelsons (Stu Rosner)

A delighted Andris Nelsons (Stu Rosner)

A distinct buzz was emanating from Symphony Hall Thursday when this writer joined counterparts from two other electronic journals in a one-hour interview with new Music Director Andris Nelsons and Managing Director Mark Volpe. PBS was there doing special lighting and setting up camera positions for what isn’t even going to be opening night, although it may be the beginning of an epoch. Time will tell. As readers must already know, the excitement is about a first among firsts. Andris Nelsons, who has already had made noted BSO first appearances as guest conductor, as Tanglewood conductor, as Music Director Designate at Tanglewood and as Music Director Designate at Symphony Hall, is now (in a one-night-only special event with two stellar singers) making his regular season debut as music director in a season in which he will conduct 10 sets of concerts.

Much has been said of the Maestro’s youth, and indeed at 35 he is the second-youngest conductor to begin his tenure as BSO music director. The full-bearded George Henschel began as the orchestra’s first leader at age 31, while Seiji Ozawa, even with beads and turtleneck, began as a comparatively ancient 37-year-old. Nelsons’s enthusiasm is indeed youthful and exuberant—he seems astonished at his good fortune—and both press and management hope that this will translate into younger audiences.

Tonight’s operatic gala with lustrous soprano Kristine Opolais (the wife of Andris Nelsons) and the heroic tenor Jonas Kaufman promises to be a memorable chapter in the BSO’s storied history. A rather lengthy interview begins below the break. [continued...]

September 24, 2014

in: News & Features

Music World Loses Christopher Hogwood

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hogwood-purkrissFollowing an illness lasting several months, Christopher Hogwood died peacefully on Wednesday today, a fortnight after his 73rd birthday. He was at home in Cambridge, UK, with family. The BBC tells us in a fine tribute [here] that Hogwood worked with many leading orchestras around the world and was considered one of the most influential exponents of the early-music movement. He famously founded the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM) in 1973, directing it across six continents for some 30 years. The AAM also made more than 200 CDs, including the first-ever complete cycle of Mozart symphonies on period instruments.

“We are simply heartbroken by this news,” said Handel and Haydn Society Executive Director and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard. “Chris left a permanent footprint on this organization. We were very much anticipating his return in March to lead the Mendelssohn Elijah during the H+H Bicentennial. It’s a milestone that I know meant a great deal to him.”

“Chris Hogwood was a wonderful colleague, and many of us will miss his earthly presence,” Hogwood’s former concertmaster Dan Stepner told BMInt.

According to H + H publicist Matthew Erikson, “The Handel and Haydn Society’s conductor laureate, Christopher Hogwood, the ensemble’s artistic director from 1986 to 2001, profoundly changed the direction and vision of this venerable institution, and added tremendously to its renown and international profile.” [continued...]

September 24, 2014

in: News & Features

National Prize Recognizes Local Composer

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laneIt’s welcome news when young Bostonian musicians receive national recognition, and especially pleasing to this writer when such musical citizens also have connections with the Intelligencer. While he has been a doctoral student, a freshly minted PhD., sitting on the advisory board of Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble, on Juventas New Music Ensemble’s board of directors, and a member of Composers in Red Sneakers, Peter Van Zandt Lane also had the dedication to write 51 reviews for this journal. We salute him on winning second prize for his ballet HackPolitik [reviewed here] from the American Prize Competition.

The American Prize competition, 2014, recognized HackPolitik, a ballet in two acts for chamber ensemble and electronics in the professional theater works division from applications reviewed this summer from all across the United States. The American Prize is a series of new, non-profit competitions unique in scope and structure, designed to recognize and reward the best performing artists, ensembles and composers in the United States based on submitted recordings. The American Prize was founded in 2009 and is awarded annually in many areas of the performing arts. Moreon the story is here.

Peter, whose website is here, provided an autobiographical sketch: [continued...]

September 21, 2014

in: News & Features

An Orchestra of Six Strings and Two Hands

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Enrique Granados
Enrique Granados

Ed. Note: Sbaron Isbin returns to Rockport after a power failure forced the cancellation of an earlier date.

The guitar is hardly an instrument that needs an introduction; everyone has either played one or known someone who has played one. But to project demanding music from the guitar without technical limitations, and to allow audiences to drop all previous associations with the genre—only Sharon Isbin and a handful of others, can give us. Her upcoming mostly Spanish concert at Rockport Music, re-scheduled for Sunday September 28th at 7:00 (see details here) will also include the New England premiere of “Sharon Isbin: Troubadour,” a documentary produced and directed by Susan Dangel. A YouTube preview is here. The evening includes an Artist Meet and Greet Reception following the concert. Tickets: $28-$46

A three-time Grammy Award winner, Isbin has released more than 25 recordings covering a wide range of styles, genres and composers—from Baroque to Spanish/Latin to crossover jazz to contemporary new music. She’s played with more than 170 orchestras over the world, has commissioned more concerti than any guitarist in the modern era, and has won numerous awards and accolades, including being the first guitarist to win the renowned Munich Competition.

BMInt: How did “Troubadour” come about? Is it about you, your instruments, your relationships with composers? [continued...]

September 16, 2014

in: News & Features

Britten by the Month Starts Sunday

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brittenw“…It is the composer’s duty, as a member of society, to speak to or for his fellow human beings.” So said Benjamin Britten in a 1964 speech accepting the Aspen Award, by which time he was regarded as the greatest English composer since Purcell and one of the greatest of any nationality in his century. Out of context the quote invites questions, interpretations, and challenges (Should communicating with a wide audience be the composer’s priority? What happens when the desire for understanding is at odds with his desire for expression?). Britten goes on to elaborate, outlining two obstacles to artistry that come from taking this principle too far: “true proletarian music” and “avant-garde tricks.” Britten says the composer should follow above all his own “private and personal conscience” while taking into account the audience.

The issues Britten raises are particularly relevant to classical music written in the 20th century, when the musical language of the previous 300 years (at the very least) was going through a radical upheaval, leading to a wonderful diversity of music but also in many instances creating rifts between composers and their audiences. That Britten described the creative process as he did says something about his own music, which is itself a balancing act between clarity of line with harmonic warmth reminiscent of Mozart, Schubert, and Purcell and an acidic emotional intensity derived from Schoenberg and Berg, not to mention Bartok and Stravinsky. The conflict between opposites—sweetness and harshness, individual and society—are genuine strengths of Britten’s music, music that continues to speak to new performers and audiences.

Boston-area listeners will be able to hear selections from Britten’s chamber music on Sunday, September 21st, in the first of a series of monthly chamber concerts to be held in Inman Square, Cambridge. [continued...]

September 15, 2014

in: News & Features

Mem Church Recital Benefits Ashmont Skinner

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Ernest M. Skinner, organ  builder.

Ernest M. Skinner, organ builder.

Renowned organist William Porter’s recital at Harvard’s Memorial Church on September 21st at 4 pm will help meet a challenge grant to fund restoration of a recently relocated 1929 E.M. Skinner organ at the Parish of All Saints, Ashmont, in Dorchester.

In the midst of the final stages of restoring its historic building—the first church designed by Ralph Adams Cram—the Parish of All Saints represented an opportunity to acquire a vintage Skinner from a closed church. Ideal in size, sound and pedigree, the Skinner Organ Co.’s Opus 708 was a welcome and timely replacement to the church’s failing chancel organ. Thanks to a generous gift and with the help of church volunteers, All Saints was able to acquire and store the instrument, arranged through organ consultant and parishioner Jonathan Ambrosino and restorer Joe Sloane.

Skinner organs excel at choral accompaniment, a requirement at All Saints, where the chancel organ’s primary use is accompanying the Parish’s rare Choir of Men and Boys. Founded in 1888, the choir is one of fewer than 20 such left in America today. In addition to helping to lead the liturgy at All Saints, the choir provides structured afterschool, weekend, and summer programming for urban boys and teenagers. [continued...]

September 11, 2014

in: News & Features

Young German Violinist To Stand with A Far Cry

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Augustin Hadelich (file photo)

Augustin Hadelich (file photo)

The German violinist Augustin Hadelich, who played in the opening BSO concert last year [see review here], opens the Jordan Hall season for A Far Cry this Friday. Crier violinist Alex Fortes conversed with him earlier this week.

AF: We in A Far Cry are very excited to be working with you this week.  What’s your experience with the Shostakovich Sonata, in this arrangement or in other versions?

AH: I first started looking at this piece a long time ago, when I was around 12 years old. I got the music to the Shostakovich Sonata because I heard the recording of Oistrakh playing it with Sviatoslav Richter. I was really taken with the piece and started learning it, but I never got around to performing it. Again and again, I’ve thought about the Shostakovich Violin Sonata but I’ve often found it hard to program.  It doesn’t get performed a lot because it can sometimes be a bit dry to audiences in its original form. [continued...]

September 8, 2014

in: News & Features

On Playing the Harmonium with Odyssey Opera

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Errol Flynn, beloved rogue.

Errol Flynn, beloved rogue.

When Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Die tote Stadt sweeps into Jordan Hall for its first performance in Boston in anyone’s memory, it will be thanks to Odyssey Opera’s presentation under Gil Rose of a concert version of the extravagant score with a large orchestra and excellent soloists. Tickets to the single performance on Saturday at 7:30pm can be purchased here. More details and cast list appear at page bottom.

My first exposure to Korngold must have come on some rainy afternoon in my youth when I vaguely remember seeing some swashbuckling on TV. Michael Curtiz’s 1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn is unforgettable—an arrow shot straight through all time. And part of its timeless appeal is the wonderful Korngold score [on YouTube here]. I next came to Korngold’s oeuvre performing on my celesta for the Korngold Violin Concerto with the New Bedford Symphony some years ago, and remember that music being colorful and muscular.

Fast forward to last Thursday when I found myself playing Lee Eiseman’s beautiful 1934 Mustel harmonium (I have an 1897 Etienne harmonium, which is quite different) for the first rehearsal of Die tote Stadt. This has taken my experience of Korngold’s music far beyond Robin Hood, Captain Blood, and the Violin Concerto. I am reminded of Bernstein’s famous quote in his Harvard Norton Lectures that after Mahler late Romanticism ‘collapsed under its own weight’. But what a glorious and gorgeous weight it was. I’ve played also on harmonium with the BSO for Richard Strauss’s Salome and the experience is probably something like surfing a giant Hawaiian wave. The music of Korngold resembles in places Strauss, but also in other places Gershwin, and of course in other places resembles one of my lifelong heroes, thanks to the influence of my old brother, the film music of Bernard Herrmann (American despite the name).

[continued...]

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