February 13, 2016

in: Reviews

Mostly Machaut From the Orlando Consort

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Boston Early Music Festival set the scene at First Church in Cambridge Friday for a fine performance by the Orlando Consort. The audience showed remarkable enthusiasm for the group’s “Guillaume de Machaut (ca. 1300–1377): Portrait of a Genius.”     [continued]

February 13, 2016

in: Reviews

Switch(ed) at Birth in Le Lab

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John Aylward’s Switch, a 90-minute theater piece with music, told a story about a kind of love at its premiere Friday evening at Le Laboratoire in Cambridge. Switch will be presented again February 13, 14, 19, and 20 at 7:00 pm.     [continued]

February 12, 2016

in: Reviews

Themed Programs? Play On!

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Continuing the series linked to the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the BSO offered accessible works by Strauss, Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, and a world premiere of four tone poems by George Tsontakis for BSO English horn player Robert Sheena.     [continued]

February 8, 2016

in: Reviews

Reviewer Adds Voice to Praise Choir

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Resident Chamber Orchestra A Far Cry looked inward Sunday at the Gardner, as “Intimate Voices” brought us under their spell.     [continued]

February 8, 2016

in: Reviews

Brahms Follows Vanishing Act

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In “Of Love and Remembrance,” Mistral sent a “valentine” from a vanished world to the auditorium of Temple Ohabei Shalom, Brookline Saturday.     [continued]

February 7, 2016

in: Reviews

NEC’s Vivacious Vixen

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NEC Opera gave a colorful reading of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen last night at the Cutler Majestic Theater. Performances follow on Monday and Tuesday.     [continued]

February 7, 2016

in: Reviews

Finely Finished Fragments from Blue Heron

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Under Scott Metcalfe, Blue Heron served up a motley of complex early-16th-century choral works to moving effect Saturday night at First Church Cambridge.     [continued]

February 7, 2016

in: Reviews

Harlem Quartet Brings Smiles to Kids of All Ages

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The prescient vision of Ashmont Hill Chamber placed the Harlem Quartet before a very diverse audience at the parish of All Saints in Dorchester on Saturday.     [continued]

February 6, 2016

in: Reviews

Zander and BPYO in Revolutionary Mode

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The Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra brought two masterworks that changed the course of musical history to Symphony Hall Friday under Benjamin Zander’s driven baton.    [continued]

February 5, 2016

in: Reviews

Sinking in Prestini’s Labryinth

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Stir’s “Paola Prestini’s Labryinth: House of Solitude and Room No. 35” was a program of violin and cello solos backgrounded by projections at Calderwood Hall on Thurday.     [continued]

February 5, 2016

in: Reviews

BSO Continues Shakespeare Salute

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BSOs second concert marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death focused this time on Hamlet  and Romeo and Juliet.     [continued]

February 5, 2016

in: Reviews

Modernist Masterpiece Given by Harvard Players

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Harvard College Opera Society coped with the near impossible and largely overcame it, in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress at the Aggasiz Theater. Performed again on Friday and Saturday.     [continued]

February 2, 2016

in: Reviews

Power Couple: A Far Cry Meets Blue Heron

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Aptly titled Devotion, Friday evening’s union of A Far Cry with Blue Heron made of Old South Church a great cathedral.     [continued]

February 2, 2016

in: Reviews

Haydn to the Power of Four

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H+H dished out voiceless Haydn in Symphony Hall over the weekend with four works of its more neglected namesake.     [continued]

February 2, 2016

in: Reviews

Handel Shows Relish for the Plagues

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Cantata Singers gave a riveting and heartfelt performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt on Sunday in Jordan Hall.     [continued]

February 1, 2016

in: Reviews

BCMS Courts Connoisseurs

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“Parisian Providence,” BCMS’s latest  challenge concert, brought erudite iterations of Maurice Ravel, Enescu, and Franck to Cambridge Rindge and Latin on Sunday.     [continued]

February 1, 2016

in: Reviews

Six New “Brandenburgs” Show Vigor

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As it played out at Jordan Hall on January 22nd, BMOP’s experiment to put six newly reimagined Brandenburg concertos into a single program achieved a decided success.     [continued]

January 30, 2016

in: Reviews

Ziporyn Leads Tribute to David Bowie

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The familiar-faced but ad hoc Ambient Orchestra cohesively offered long-delayed Boston premieres of Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 1 “Low” (1992) and Symphony No. 4 “Heroes” (1996) as a tribute to David Bowie last night at Kresge.    [continued]

January 29, 2016

in: Reviews

Fairies and Sprites in Symphony Hall

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Marking the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death, last night the BSO offered music inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Andris Nelsons presided over the familiar—Weber’s Oberon Overture, and Mendelssohn’s Overture and Incidental Music (thereto), and the newer—Henze’s Symphony No. 8—in a combination concert and performance art event.     [continued]

January 28, 2016

in: Reviews

Hub New Music Debuts With “Strength in Fragility”

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Hub New Music debuted at Jordan Hall Sunday night with stunningly varied works that clearly revealed Kati Agócs.     [continued]

January 27, 2016

in: Reviews

Verdi Not Let Down By Youth Orchestra

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Two Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras each performed two acts of Verdi’s Otello under Federico Cortese Sunday at Sanders Theater in company with BYSO Opera Chorus, Convivium Musicum, Voices Boston, and a fine cast of professional singers, including Simon O’Neil in the title role.    [continued]

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February 12, 2016

in: News & Features

Pianist Arlene Kies Dies

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The close friend and colleague of BMInt reviewer Mark DeVoto died yesterday. We have appended his eulogy to a review [here] from two years ago.

February 10, 2016

in: News & Features

BSO and Bard Full with Feasting

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tsontakisThe Boston Symphony continues its Shakespeare days with a third week of dedicated compositions.  Beginning Thursday night, Andris Nelsons and English hornist Robert Sheena will be giving the world premiere of George Tsontakis’s BSO-commissioned Sonnets: Concerto for English horn and orchestra. Inspired by several of the poems, Tsontakis’s 23-minute work is dynamically expressive and architecturally satisfying. Also on the run will be Strauss’s Macbeth, Dvořák’s Othello Overture, and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.

Tsontakis was born in Queens in 1951 and still lives in New York; Sonnets dates from last year. This upcoming event is the the first time the BSO has performed his music.

Many musical responses to Shakespeare are vocal, but Tsontakis’s tone poems seek not to set four sonnets but to respond to their complex, mercurial, sometimes obscure imagery.

Growing up in a Greek family, Tsontakis had early training in violin and heard Greek traditional and popular music, but was also fascinated by such musical theater as Rodgers and Hammerstein. At some point during his teens his interest shifted, he recalls, from the big vocal numbers to the overtures. After high school he attended Queens College, studying with Hugo Weisgall, and earned his doctorate at Juilliard, working with Roger Sessions. He continued training in Rome, on a Fulbright with Franco Donatoni. A conductor and educator, Tsontakis is distinguished composer in residence at Bard and since 1975 has been on the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival.

Tsontakis’s awards include the Grawemeyer, the Berlin prize, the Charles Ives Living from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and two Kennedy Center Awards. Commissions are equally prolific: Midnight Rain Song, by the Naumburg Foundation for soprano Sari Gruber; Man of Sorrows, a piano concerto for Stephen Hough and the Dallas Symphony; Mirologhia, a percussion concerto by the National Symphony for Evelyn Glennie; works for the Albany Symphony including the double violin concerto Unforgettable, trumpet concerto True Colors for soloist Eric Berlin, and the clarinet concerto Anasa for soloist David Krakauer. The half-hour solo piano Ghost Variations was written on a Fromm Foundation commission for Stephen Hough, and Tsontakis has written several works for the New York Virtuoso Singers. Having participated in new-music activities in Greece at the invitation of composer Theodore Antoniou, he became an important figure in that country’s musical life, and in 1979 took over the directorship of the Metropolitan Greek Chorale. He has been composer in residence with the Albany Symphony Orchestra, Music from Angel Fire, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and his chamber music catalog includes seven string quartets, three piano quartets, and extensive works for chorus. [continued…]

January 29, 2016

in: News & Features

From Hip Club to Opera House

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Composer John Aylward

If not entirely quieting the cry for more classical performance spaces of high quality, the announcement that a hip spot in Cambridge is becoming our latest opera house causes salivation—especially when a restaurant of no little pretension is associated. As part of a year-long residency, Le Laboratoire in Cambridge has invited the Ecce Ensemble to stage the world premiere of John Aylward’s opera Switch. The run will extend from February 12th through February 20th.

Founded in Paris in 2007 by inventor, writer, and Harvard biomedical engineering professor David Edwards, Le Laboratoire is an art and design culture center “aspiring to the frontiers of science and innovation now open in the Kendall Square area. From plastician Fabrice Hybert to chef Thierry Marx and designer Philippe Stark, Le Lab Paris has showcased world-renowned artists, designers, scientists, and engineers. In keeping with this cross-disciplinary approach, Le Lab Cambridge will highlight original work by leading international artists and designers in collaboration with scientists from the Boston and Cambridge areas and around the world.” [continued…]

January 28, 2016

in: News & Features

Fine Chemistry or Strange Fruit: New Collaboration

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Will its voice be heard?

Will its voice be heard?

A Far Cry will be teaming up with Blue Heron for a performance of Faure’s Requiem this Friday. The first half of the program centers on the “Song of Songs,” and features a “conversation” between the two groups as they perform, separately but interspersed, a combination of Nicolas Gombert’s motets on the “Song of Songs,” Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur’s Le Cantique des Cantiques and Jean Francaix’s Symphonie d’Archets. Jason Fisher, the Crier program curator, and Scott Metcalfe, Blue Heron’s director share their discussion to BMInt readers.

BMInt: How did this collaboration initially come about?

Jason: Well, the program and collaboration are really two different tracks that came together early on. The program began in the way that many A Far Cry programs do, with one person coming up with the initial conception. I came to the group wanting to do a Faure Requiem program, using the original 1893 version, and once that hit the ground with the group, it turned into an all-French program idea. Very early on, before the program was even approved, we brought up the question of who we wanted to do it with. Of course we would do it with Blue Heron if they said yes. But would they say yes? After all, they’re an early music group! [continued…]

January 26, 2016

in: News & Features

Rowing Together, Past to Present and Back

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floyd-003Floyds Row is a dead-end street beside Oxford’s music faculty that also lends its name to a four-year-old British-American fusion/crossover ensemble which most recently has been synthesizing early, folk, contemporary classical and Northumbrian traditional musics. The ensemble explores early, folk, and classical idioms, often pulling from the early British repertoire: works by Tobias Hume (c.1579-1645), Henry Purcell (1659-1695), Solomon Eckles (1618-1683), Thomas Campion (1567-1620), John Cooper/Coprario (c.1570-1626), Francesco Barsanti (1690-1775), and others, and additionally new folk/classical works.

The chamber collective comprises Asako Takeuchi, fiddle; Andrew Arceci, viola da gamba, double bass, and cittern; Chris Ferebee, mandolin, guitar, and cittern; and George Lykogiannis, accordion; and such colleagues as Alistair Anderson, concertina and pipes, and Hannah James, soprano and accordion. Floyds Row perform in the Boston environs the week starting February 7th (see schedule at end). Some of what they were up to as of a year or so ago may be heard here . BMInt was keen to speak with them. [continued…]

January 20, 2016

in: News & Features

Kati Agócs Featured in Hub New Music Debut

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Kati Agócs (Samantha West photo)

Kati Agócs (Samantha West photo)

At its debut concert at Jordan Hall on Sunday (Jan. 24), Hub New Music, an organization founded by NEC graduate Michael Avitabile, will play music of Kati Agócs, member of the NEC composition faculty. Hub is also in residence at Northeastern in February. Despite these local connections I was unfamiliar with the group and the composer, so I asked Avitabile to fill me in.

“Five years ago, if you had told me I would be running a contemporary music organization, I would have told you that you were insane.” Avitabile completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, where he had started his a career with the goal of playing in an orchestra. However, a creeping sense of disillusionment with the orchestral track made him especially susceptible to the message delivered by flutist Claire Chase at Northwestern University’s 2013 commencement. Chase’s speech [here] opened by noting the gloom surrounding the traditional prospects for classical employment, but was ultimately a call to arms to see this change as an opportunity for a new kind of music making and for creative ways of engaging a new audience; the speech was enough of an internet sensation for Anthony Tommasini to write about it in the December of that year in the New York Times. Chase’s words changed Avitabile’s idea of what was possible and worthwhile for a classical musician, furthered by his study at NEC with Paula Robison. [continued…]

January 19, 2016

in: News & Features

Rose B-Mops Up With Bachian Inspirations

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bachwwwWhether he plans for an orchestra of 100 for Korngold or 20 for Bach, Gil Rose can be counted upon to lead Boston’s best players in fresh directions. His Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) continues its 20th-anniversary season with six modern takes on the latter: the “New Brandenburgs,” six works commissioned as responses to Bach’s six namesake concertos, resulted from a four-year project by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. On Friday January 22nd at 8pm (preconcert talk at 7pm) BMOP will give the Boston premieres of Brandenburg Gate (inspired by Bach’s No. 2) by Paul Moravec, Muse (inspired by No. 3) by Christopher Theofanidis, Little Moonhead (inspired by No. 4) by Melinda Wagner, Sea Orpheus (inspired by No. 5) by Peter Maxwell Davies, and Concerto with Echoes (inspired by No. 6) by Aaron Jay Kernis, and (a repeat performance of ) A Brandenburg Autumn (inspired by No. 1) by Stephen Hartke.

LE: The conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra commissioned the six “New Brandenburg” over several years. Do these homages to J. S. Bach evoke specifics from the master? And is there any sense that the new composers have been listening to one another?

GR: The most specific thing is the instrumentation, how each composer features the instruments that Bach did in each of the concertos. Some are closer to Baroque style than others, but each is unique, and I don’t imagine that the composers listened to anybody but their own muses and the Cantor of St. Thomas. [continued…]

January 17, 2016

in: News & Features

Mourning French Play Boston

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Alexandre Tharaud

Alexandre Tharaud

The Orchestre National de France’s performance with music director Daniele Gatti and piano soloist Alexandre Tharaud on Sunday January 24th at 3pm at Symphony Hall marks its seventh appearance with the Celebrity Series and Gatti’s debut with the ensemble. This event constitutes Alexandre Tharaud’s Celebrity Series debut as well, although he appeared in a private recital at the Harvard Musical Association last year.

Comprising Debussy’s Prélude à l’après midi d’un faune, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, K.488, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, the program carries extra-musical meaning. Several of the ONF strings played in a UNESCO concert as part of the World Orchestra for Peace three days after the Paris attacks, and the 25-year old son of concertmaster Bertrand Cervera was among those called to the Bataclan concert hall as a firefighter. The Tchaikovsky Fifth, also programmed long ago, has an interesting history of popularity during WWII in order to keep spirits high. Tharaud additionally recently played at the official ceremony honoring the Paris victims. The ONF and its soloists are important in helping their country recover.

Soloist Alexandre Tharaud, who is also famed for his role in the 2012 French film Amour, talked to BMInt about music and about human nature.

LE: Were you in Paris during the Bataclan murders and bombings last November? [continued…]

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