September 19, 2014

in: Reviews

A Brazilian Goal Scores for the BSO Opener

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Last night Marcelo Lehninger led the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Mozart, Villa-Lobos, and Beethoven for the opening night of the 134th season concert, leaving the audience and this writer enthused and excited for things to come.     [continued]

September 16, 2014

in: Reviews

A Heroic Return to the Gardner

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The well-established Eroica Trio made its first appearance at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Calderwood Hall in a wide-ranging program on Sunday. The threesome endures as champions of the prototypical New York style—powerful, impassioned, theatrical, heroic.    [continued]

September 15, 2014

in: Reviews

The Dead City Brilliantly Revived

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Korngold’s Die tote Stadt flooded Jordan Hall with sumptuous tones on Odyssey Opera’s concert version Saturday night. The sold-out house testified to a continued appetite for late-late high-High Romanticism.     [continued]

September 15, 2014

in: Reviews

Colin Carr’s Lucid, Lively Bach at BoCo

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Last night cellist Colin Carr, offered J.S. Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello Nos. 2 in D Minor, 4 in E-flat Major, and 6 in D Major, in riveting, fluid, tastefully understated performances at Seully Hall, Boston Conservatory as the opening of the seventh season of BoCo’s String Masters Series.     [continued]

September 13, 2014

in: Reviews

Hellish and Idyllic Moods from the Criers

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Beginning its eighth season at Jordan Hall on Friday night, A Far Cry once more evinced a carefully constructed stage presence. Their challenging and thoughtful program “Return to the Idyll”, featuring young German violinist Augustin Hadelich, provided truly superior music making.     [continued]

September 12, 2014

in: Reviews

Adventures with Callithumpians Shouldn’t Be Missed

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Stephen Drury’s Callithumpian Consort of 15 musicians affiliated in some way or another with New England Conservatory chattered,  buzzed, yelped, grumbled, and snorted  away at the Gardner, demonstrating a high technical acumen as well as a pronounced penchant for the stuffs in which Drury thrives.     [continued]

September 11, 2014

in: Reviews

13 Opera Companies: #IAMOPERA at Club Oberon

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Musical entrepreneur Julia Noulin-Mérat set out to confront aesthetc elitism with #IAMOPERA (pre-hashtagged for the social media set) at the American Repertory Theatre’s Club Oberon on Monday night with a 13 course feast from Boston’s thriving opera scene.     [continued]

September 8, 2014

in: Reviews

Sultry Serenades from the Criers

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A cleverly curated assortment of night pieces intended to contextualize Tchaikovsky’s Serenade in C came from A Far Cry Saturday at St. John’s Church in Jamaica Plain and repeated on Sunday at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Musem. The Criers have truly made themselves essential on the local scene.     [continued]

September 1, 2014

in: Reviews

Pacifica More Challenging Than Pacific

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The Pacifica Quartet brought a challenging program to Maverick Concerts on Sunday. Two late works of Elliott Carter stretched the audience’s ears, and the last quartets of Mendelssohn and Beethoven were far from candy. The alert, involved performances kept the audience enthralled.     [continued]

September 1, 2014

in: Reviews

Historical Piano Concerts 30th Fall Season

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In her third appearance for the Fredericks’ Collection, Junghwa Lee* opened its milestone season Sunday afternoon in the sanctuary of the Ashburnham Community Church with a brilliant performance of music by the Schumanns on the Collection’s 1830 Tröndlin. Her consummate handling of the piano and this music gave us brilliant, powerful, and spectacular sound moderated at times by classic French restraint.     [continued]

August 26, 2014

in: Reviews

Another Maverick Marathon

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For the second consecutive day the Maverick Concerts program was unusually long. The Jupiter String Quartet played Mozart, pianist Ilya Yakushev played Bach-Busoni, and they collaborated on Strauss’s rare Piano Quartet and Brahms’s deservedly popular Piano Quintet in performances which generally served the music well.     [continued]

August 25, 2014

in: Reviews

Free But Not Alone

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Works of competition laureate Josh Newton along with some Vivaldi and Brahms concluded the season for the Portland Chamber Music Festival Saturday at the University of Southern Maine’s Abromson Center. There were no grounds for cavil at the performances.    [continued]

August 24, 2014

in: Reviews

Maverick Spanish Marathon

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The annual chamber orchestra concert at Maverick Concerts in Woodstock was indeed an “extravaganza,”  lasting 3 hours and 15 minutes, and including two mezzo-sopranos, a pianist, and a widely varied chamber orchestra. All the Lorca-related music was performed very well, but there may have been too much of it.     [continued]

August 22, 2014

in: Reviews

PCMF Delivers Robust Performances

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Featuring works of Boccherini, Copland and Elgar, the final weekend of this year’s Portland Chamber Music Festival kicked off on August 21st was dedicated to the memory of Marc Johnson, long-time cellist of the Vermeer Quartet and PCMF participant for the past five years.     [continued]

August 21, 2014

in: Reviews

Old West Hall Needs To Be Wilder

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Local Baroque keyboardist and musicology scholar Matthew Hall essayed all Bach on the Fisk Organ in the Old West Organ Society summer series last Tuesday to mixed results but with much promise.     [continued]

August 20, 2014

in: Reviews

A Best of All Possible Candides

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The spirit of Bernstein smiled Saturday night on a first-rate rendition of his convoluted farce by the BSO, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Bramwell Tovey, and a coterie of soloists. [continued]

August 19, 2014

in: Reviews

CCCM at 35: Lights-Out Fireworks

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Old instruments fought imbalances as a half-dozen sterling musicians, alone and together, created a wide-ranging and effective festival tribute to founder Samuel Sanders  at the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival last Friday.     [continued]

August 19, 2014

in: Reviews

Fellows’ Orchestra Luxuriates in Russians

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There was a buzz in the air on a brilliant Sunday afternoon as the young residents of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra entered the Koussevitzky Shed stage with conductor Charles Dutoit for the Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert. This year’s all-Russian affair offered Stravinsky’s Scherzo Fantastique, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and Stravinsky’s Firebird (complete).     [continued]

August 18, 2014

in: Reviews

Bayreutherdämmerung

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As in the rest of his Bayreuth Ring, Frank Castorf’s Götterdâmmerung came and went with unclear messages and happenings. By many accounts, he did not look at Wagner’s score or evidently listen to much of it.     [continued]

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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...]

September 4, 2014

in: News & Features

An Orchestra of Six Strings and Two Hands

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Enrique Granados

Enrique Granados

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 on Saturday September 6th 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 2, 2014

in: News & Features

It’s Fall at the Frederick Collection

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Sébastien Érard

Sébastien Érard

The 30th year of concerts on historic pianos in Ashburnham continues September 7th with newcomers: Belarusian clarinetist Maksim Shtrykov (playing modern French instruments) will be accompanied by Misuzu Tanaka playing the Collection’s 1871 Streicher, the same model as Johannes Brahms’ studio instrument for his last 25 years, in a program that opens with Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 73 (1849) and includes Brahms’ Sonatas in F Minor and E-flat Major, Op. 120, Nos. 1 and 2 (1894), and Carl Maria von Weber’s Grand duo concertant in the same key, Op. 48 (1816).

After a week’s hiatus, the Frederick Collection’s 1877 Érardextra-grand modèle de concert, will be played by NYC-based Geoffrey Burleson, a Saint-Saëns specialist (The first 3 of his projected 5-volume complete traversal of the solo piano music are out on Naxos’ Grand Piano label and are excellent.). He will return on September 21st  for his second recital here, offering, in addition to some Saint-Saëns, a Gavotte by Jean-Philippe Rameau (Saint-Saëns edited his complete Pièces de clavecin in 1895.), Maurice Ravel’s Miroirs (1904-5), two works by Franz Liszt, and Saint-Saëns’ transcription of a Scherzo from Georges Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de perles (1863). You can read my review of his first recital in these pages [here]. [continued...]

August 29, 2014

in: News & Features

Another Boston Historical First

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conservatorioOn last Wednesday evening, 15 years of research to shed light on a long-overlooked page of Boston’s rich history culminated with a gala reception and performances by the Rowe’s Lane Quartet of compositions of F. J. Haydn, Filippo Trajetta and George Onslow. The Commemorative Ceremony honoring the American Conservatorio of Boston, founded in 1800 by three immigrant musicians, Francis Mallet, Gottlieb Graupner and Filippo Trajetta, was celebrated courtesy of the Hyatt Regency Boston Hotel. A memorial plaque in recognition of this historic “first” conservatory of music in Boston and in the United States is installed on the Bedford Street facade of the Church Green Building, where Summer Street and Bedford Street converge.

As a second-generation Bostonian, I had always believed that New England Conservatory and Boston Conservatory were the “first” conservatories of music in Boston and in the United States (due to their founding date in 1867), but my belief of such “firsts” was being challenged in 1999 by what I read in a then-recently published book “The Italian Americans of Greater Boston,” Arcadia Publishing, Copyright 1999 by William P. Marchione, Ph.D. Chapter One, The Lure of Italy, has the following information: “Filippo Trajetta, a Venetian conductor and composer…established the first American conservatory of music in Boston.” [continued...]

August 19, 2014

in: News & Features

Sing What Thing?

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Ben Roe's parting gift.

Ben Roe makes parting gift.

As a huge fan of choral music—okay, I might consider myself infatuated—I sometimes wonder what it means to be a “choral ensemble.” What is choral singing?

The latest attempt to answer that question may be from WGBH-TV, in the form of an 11-part cattle call and beautyfest for local groups. Beginning this fall, a friendly competition called Sing That Thing! makes its debut, as it happens, in something of a swan song for the newly departing Ben Roe, who had only left his previous role as WGBH radio’s Director of Classical Services last January. (The next chapter in Roe’s working life opens at the Heifetz International Music Institute, a six-week summer program for string students, based in Staunton Virginia. We wish him well there.)

According to Roe and WGBH-TV GM Liz Cheng, along with Boston Children’s Chorus conductor Anthony Trecek-King, the station is creating an exciting and novel program. The initiative intends to celebrate the choral tradition by hosting a multi-round competition that encourages choruses of all sizes, dynamics, and genres. In the final rounds there will be discussions, as a way to engage and educate audience, to better understand the inner workings of this fascinating ensemble form. [continued...]

August 16, 2014

in: News & Features

Remembering Donald Teeters (1936-2014) Updated

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teetersA funeral service will be celebrated on Wednesday, September 3 at 7:30 p.m. at All Saints Church, Brookline.  The address of the church and directions can be found here.  There will be other celebrations of his life and work in October and November.

The recent, very unexpected death of Donald Teeters fills me with profound sadness.

Former Music Director of The Boston Cecilia, former Music Director of All Saints Parish, Brookline, and current Professor of Music at the New England Conservatory, Donald apparently died of heart disease just shy of his 78th birthday, which we were to celebrate—as we do annually on September 2nd—with a lobster dinner in my home in Gloucester.

Donald was a mentor extraordinaire, teaching hundreds of students at the conservatory and coaching countless singers and instrumentalists. One of his many passions was to seek out young, highly gifted musicians, and give them a chance on the Boston stages such as Jordan Hall or Sanders Theatre.

[continued...]

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