March 24, 2015

in: Reviews

Stave Sessions Bend Genres

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The Boston debut of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider came Friday as one of five “Stave Sessions” which have extended the regular fare of Celebrity Series programs. From what I saw and heard, the concept should be adjudged a huge success.     [continued]

March 24, 2015

in: Reviews

Beethoven’s Chorale Tribute to God

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Back Bay Chorale’s well-balanced and thoughtful performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis  at Sanders  Theater on Saturday was a gift; even with sizable forces it elucidated the work’s intricacies.     [continued]

March 23, 2015

in: Reviews

. . . Trio’s Engagement and Apologias

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The Ellipsis Trio’s broad repertoire includes an ongoing focus on Americana. On a program at Killian Hall Saturday that also offered a premier by Igor Iwanek, the threesome’s spoken and written apologias belied their technical prowess and sympathetic emotional engagement with Arthur Foote and Ives.    [continued]

March 23, 2015

in: Reviews

Another Blue Heron Triumph: Ockeghem, Part II

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Saturday’s “Ockeghem @600” outing at First Church, Cambridge was devoted to composers, dubbed by NES professor Sean Gallagher, the Ockeghem Five. Blue Heron’s nine singers performed with exemplary polish.   [continued]

March 22, 2015

in: Reviews

Emmanuel’s Fervent Passion

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Emmanuel Music’s wide mood swings in Bach’s St. John Passion took a toll on storytelling Saturday night, but the highly extroverted performance was certainly rewarded with an ovation.    [continued]

March 21, 2015

in: Reviews

New Symphonists at Old Church

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Symphony Nova engaged in 90 uninterrupted minutes of “Soulful Searching” in a darkened Gordon Chapel Friday. Their goal is nothing less than to “reinvigorate the classical music scene through a transformative process.”   [continued]

March 20, 2015

in: Reviews

Valedictory Mozart Under Dohnányi

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BSO played Mozart’s last three symphonies Thursday under Dohnányi with impeccable taste—perfect for everyone who likes such a thing.     [continued]

March 20, 2015

in: Reviews

Cheeky Teeth at Stave Sessions

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The virtuosic, genre-bending vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth played gleaming, glass-encased cafetorium in the fourth concert in the Celebrity Series of Boston’s essential new festival, Stave Sessions.    [continued]

March 19, 2015

in: Reviews

Sacred Bach by Musica Sacra

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Saturday night’s performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor by Musica Sacra at First Congregational Church in Cambridge set a very high standard. They did this monumental work justice, and then some.     [continued]

March 16, 2015

in: Reviews

Safe Haven for March Ides

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On the Sunday that broke Boston’s snowfall record, Schumann and Kurtag flared about Jordan Hall at the hands of Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players and guest artist Emanuel Ax: maximum poise arrived in the midst of inexorable despair.     [continued]

March 15, 2015

in: Reviews

Aizuri Brings Vigor and Depth

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The Aizuri Quartet uplifted us with Haydn, Janáček and Schubert at Calderwood Hall as a feature of Curtis on Tour; cellist Peter Wiley joined for an incandescent C Major Quintet of Schubert.     [continued]

March 15, 2015

in: Reviews

Total Technique, Lesser Affect

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The large and enthusiastic crowd that greeted Daniil Trifonov’s arrival on Jordan Hall’s stage Friday night heard an object lesson in piano virtuosity, but some of us were left wanting more poetuosity.     [continued]

March 15, 2015

in: Reviews

Vigorous Realization From BLO

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With Leoš Janáček’s Kátya Kabanová at the Shubert on Friday, Boston Lyric Opera provided a feast for the eyes, a parade of sharply drawn characters, and an acoustically dry but vigorous realization of a fascinating score.  Continues through March 22nd.   [continued]

March 14, 2015

in: Reviews

Ax on Fire in Rockin’ Church

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Avi Avital and the Venice Baroque Orchestra rocked on for BEMF at the soldout First Church Congregational, Cambridge,  gleefully channeling greatest hits from the 1700s.     [continued]

March 13, 2015

in: Reviews

BSO and Ax Genial and Restless

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Back with the BSO for his yearly visit, Christoph von Dohnányi brought two middle-period Mozart works along with two pieces from the far ends of Richard Strauss’s career. Pianist Emanuel Ax was on hand to play the Mozart concerto, K. 449, and the later German’s Burleske.     [continued]

March 10, 2015

in: Reviews

Silence and Sound Icon

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Sound Icon’s Saturday somewhat lopsided concert at the Fenway Center was dedicated to two works by Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino: the 10-minute Fanofania and the much longer “Invisible Action” for actress and ensemble entitled Lohengrin.     [continued]

March 9, 2015

in: Reviews

Brilliance From Two Chameleons

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Cellist Rafael Popper-Keizer and pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit served up duos by Strauss, Carter, Bridge, and Beethoven at the Goethe-Institut last Sunday afternoon, cabaret-style.     [continued]

March 8, 2015

in: Reviews

Historical Works of the Future & Some of the Past

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Two bona-fide historical works bookended the eclectic program while two newer ones—one a premiere—invoked the past variously at Radius Ensemble’s Saturday appearance at Longy-Bard’s Pickman Hall.     [continued]

March 8, 2015

in: Reviews

Terezin Composer Interpreted at Tufts

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Pianist Jeanne Golan gave accounts of three of the seven piano sonatas of Czech composer of Jewish ancestry Viktor Ullmann at Tufts University’s Distler Auditorium last night. The composer should be better-known for his works which are expertly crafted music, unfailingly strong in character, and even charming.     [continued]

March 7, 2015

in: Reviews

H+H Elijah Gets Me Hence

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H+H Music Director Grant Llewellyn along with orchestra, chorus, and soloists transformed me with an unforgettable Elijah performance honoring the late Christopher Hogwood (H+H 1986– 2001) on Friday night at Symphony Hall. Repeats Sunday at 3:00 in Symphony Hall.  [continued]

March 7, 2015

in: Reviews

A Three-Part Project From BMOP

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The major work for Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s project on Thursday, Paul Moravec’s Blizzard Voices, shared the Jordan Hall Stage with Stephanie Ann Boyd’s Ondine and John Harbison’s Concerto for Bass Viol and Orchestra.     [continued]

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March 25, 2015

in: News & Features

Composer Michael Gandolfi Talks With BMInt

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Decorated organ pipe mouth from Boston Music Hall

Decorated organ pipe mouth from Boston Music Hall

On Symphony Hall’s first opening night, October 15th, 1900, the brand new Hutchings organ gave stately support to Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. Since then the hall’s instrument has been used for many first performances, and apropos of firsts, the BSO’s Robert Kirzinger and Brian Bell told BMInt that the concept of formal commissions from the BSO began 84 years ago with the ensemble’s 50thanniversary. Nevertheless, both before that time and afterwards, BSO music Director Serge Koussevitzky willed numerous composers (sometimes without remuneration) to write works for the orchestra. One of the first such was Copland’s Symphony for Organ and Orchestra; the first performance of the work was in New York, but Nadia Boulanger famously played the subsequent performances with the BSO in 1925. Another example of a commission that included an incidental BSO premiere with organ, was Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge’s for Harvard’s Germanic Museum (now the Busch-Reisinger) of Walther Piston’s Prelude and Allegro for organ and strings. Its premiere took place with E. Power Biggs on the CBS radio network with strings from the BSO. The Symphony Hall premiere took place shortly thereafter in October, 1943.

An outsider might imagine that a commission from the Boston Symphony would come set in stone and that the composer would work for months or even years to complete it far in advance of the premiere. On Thursday, however, Michael Gandolfi, will hear the BSO and organist Olivier Latry debut his  Concerto for Organ and Orchestra “Ascending Light,” a work he completed only in December and which emerged from a rather vague agreement made with the orchestra in 2009. [continued…]

March 25, 2015

in: News & Features

Concert Hall Organs: Some Thoughts

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ago-sealwBMInt asked organ historian Jonathan Ambrosino to contribute a discussion of the BSO organ and concert hall brethren as part of our our coverage of the upcoming premiere of Michael Gandolfi’s Concerto for Organ and Orchestra “Ascending Light,” commissioned by Gomidas Organ Fund in memory of long-time BSO organist Berj Zamkochian and in commemoration of the 100th anniversary the Armenian genocide. French organist Olivier Latry will preside at the organ, and Andris Nelsons will conduct.

The existence of pipe organs in concert halls has a history roughly parallel to that of full orchestras themselves in concert halls. Noisy England led the way, with the famous 1834 organ in Birmingham Town Hall, built by William Hill. In this organ was introduced the Tuba Mirabilis, a solo trumpet stop louder and darker than its smaller brethren, which blended into the ensemble. This large organ, with its imposing façade and grand sound, established a trend that would persist for a century particularly throughout the English-speaking world. Boston was hardly immune, and in 1857 commissioned a large concert organ from E.F. Walcker in Germany for its Music Hall. The instrument finally arrived in 1863 (after running an ineffective Confederate blockade of the Boston Harbor), and was installed within an American-designed and -built case of preposterous opulence, the whole endeavor splashed across the press nationwide. [See interesting writeup here] [continued…]

March 20, 2015

in: Reviews

Collaborative Finds Handel’s Essentials

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bewigged-handelwRather like a ship in a bottle, Handel’s elaborate 1711 opera Rinaldo will gleam within a miniature architectural tribute to Symphony Hall thanks to the singer-run Boston Opera Collaborative. Beginning March 26th, the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology’s 160 seats will resound with sorcery, warriors, sirens and furies

Respectfully shorn of excrescences and longueurs, the production will convey Handel’s pleasures in “a fully staged, costumed and choreographed production, though there is no scenery in the traditional sense. We are using a forest of coat-racks in various ways. The costumes are gorgeous—rich in color and imagination—a suggestion of antiquity melded with Alexander McQueen-type high fashion,” according to co-artistic directors Patricia-Maria Weinmann and Greg Smucker.

“We’ve taken the most compelling parts of the narrative to distill the three-hour story into a compact 90 minutes. Some arias have been cut but all the characters have at least two arias (Rinaldo and Arminda more). There are also two duets in this opera, which is a bit unusual for Handel. [continued…]

March 18, 2015

in: News & Features

6 Days and Counting to Phoenix Ignition

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Concert or barbecue?

Concert or barbecue?

The birth of an ensemble is hardly rare in this cultural mecca, but it’s not every week, or every year even, that we get to be present for the birth of a new orchestra. Apparently, we’re all invited to get to know the 30 musicians of Phoenix Orchestra in a social setting of 120 seats—mostly at tables with tinkling glasses—“and experience the launch of a new kind of concert! There’ll be fantastic music, great drinks, and lots of chances to meet the players behind the stands.” Conductor/President Matthew Szymanski has fashioned an ensemble of post-conservatory freelancers (10 of whom come from the late lamented Discovery Ensemble) who will debut with serious repertoire and low-set hurdles at Club Oberon on March 24th. Our questions for Matt elicited some flavor of this new endeavor.

LE: Phoenix proposes to “attract an audience by offering something new and exciting and embrace its members by providing an open, welcoming atmosphere as well as exceptional music.” We need specifics.

MS: We try not to boil ourselves down to a list, but since you asked…. It’s hard to overstate how important the attitude and personality of every musician involved are to making this work. Every person in the orchestra was handpicked as both a person and a musical talent. [continued…]

March 17, 2015

in: News & Features

Take a Chance on Mark!

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Nicholas Church, Leipzig

Nicholas Church, Leipzig

This March has truly been a Bach spectacular in Boston. Starting with Boston Baroque’s St. John Passion in late February and  Musica Sacra’s B Minor Mass last weekend, the exposure will continue with  all-day birthday celebrations on March 21st at First Lutheran Church, with St. John again at Emmanuel Music, and the Handel & Haydn Society’s St. Matthew Passion on the 27th; the spectacle concludes at King’s Chapel with a rarely performed Bach work readers probably have not heard before.

Though musical settings of the Passion story were quite common in the Baroque era, only Bach’s two towering masterpieces are often performed today. Where Bach only occasionally interjected contemporary words into the gospel text for arias and choruses, other composers such as Handel and Telemann used the famous text of Hamburg poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes who wrote a libretto where the entire story was told in his own words. [continued…]

March 12, 2015

in: News & Features

Bach Immersion for Sebastian at 330

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 The joy of hearing a full day of the dazzling music of Johann Sebastian Bach awaits all at “Boston Bach Birthday 330” on Saturday, March 21st. Held at the First Lutheran Church of Boston, this birthday observance opens at 9:00 with a children’s event followed by ten concerts of the master’s works before concluding at 6:30. The performers include internationally renowned artists and four students from distinguished schools of music. The day of tribute to Bach continues at Emmanuel Church with Emmanuel Music’s 8:00 pm performance of the St. John Passion.

In homage to the universality of Bach’s music, admission to BBB330 is free, and all are invited to attend. The schedule, complete with repertoire, is found [here]. Contributions are greatly appreciated to help defray expenses and may be made either at the door or online. Reservations for noontime sustenance in the form of a German lunch, prime balcony seating, and contributions may be made [here].

Boston Bach Birthday began in 2009 (BBB324) as a collaboration of the American Guild of Organists, Boston Chapter, and the First Lutheran Church. Two organists, Joyce Painter Rice and Bálint Karosi, who is Music Director at First Lutheran, have been the primary planners. Now in its seventh consecutive year, the collaboration has continued and the celebration has expanded. In 2013, all the concerts were webcast live on WCRB online; Emmanuel Music and other musical groups have become helping partners. [continued…]

March 10, 2015

in: News & Features

The BSO and Those Empty Seats

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_bso_200x260A recent review of the BSO featuring Charles Dutoit and Julia Fischer [here] engendered a number of pointed reader comments about empty seats and BSO policies. Suspecting that the comments might be not fully informed, BMInt staff directed them to the attention of BSO management and received policy explanations from Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Kim Noltemy.

“We do our best to make sure every young person who wants to attend a BSO concert can do so through one of the orchestra’s generous discounted-ticket programs, put in place for students from high school age through young professionals up to age 40, and our records indicate that these programs are being used in a very healthy and robust way. During the current 2014-15 season, the BSO has sold between 200 and 500 discounted tickets for every concert except seven. [continued…]

March 7, 2015

in: News & Features

Пиковая дама aka Piqued Lady

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queen-of-spades-lLowell House Opera has been mounting opera at Harvard since 1938, giving it pride of place as New England’s oldest such company. This spring a combination of professional, student, and community artists will fully stage Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades (Pique Dame). Sung in Russian with orchestra and English supertitles, the show will run will from March 25th through April 4th.

The story concerns the plight of Gherman, whose fascination with the beautiful (and betrothed) Liza turns into an obsession with learning her grandmother’s strategy for winning at cards. When the elderly Countess dies without revealing her secret, Gherman’s fixation turns to madness. With a final card game imminent, the Countess’s ghost returns, to reveal the winning hand and exact revenge.

The cast of more than 40 singers includes tenors Adam Klein (Metropolitan Opera House) and Mikhail Urusov (Bolshoi Theater) in the lead. Sopranos Zoya Gramagin (Moscow Contemporary Symphony Orchestra) and Samantha Schmid (Boston Conservatory) share the role of Liza.

Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya and Stage Director Roxanna Myhrum are prolific in the local and regional performing arts, with directorships in multiple organizations and ensembles. This is their eighth operatic collaboration in the Boston area, and their fourth consecutive production with Lowell House Opera.

BMInt had questions, first for stage director Roxanna Myhrum: [continued…]

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