April 28, 2016

in: Reviews

NEC Youth, Wolff Create Fantastic Magic

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NEC Philharmonia under Hugh Wolff at Symphony Hall yesterday was smashing and more.     [continued]

April 26, 2016

in: Reviews

Christie’s Flourishing Arts Charm for BEMF

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William Christie and Les Art Florissants brought “Serious Airs and Drinking Songs” to  Sanders Theater on Sunday.     [continued]

April 26, 2016

in: Reviews

Vivats for Mature New Music Ensemble

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A receptive Tsai Center audience on Friday took in Richard Pittman’s ably led Boston Musica Viva performance of “Mad Scenes” containing substantive works from composers Andy Vores, Bernard Hoffer, and Arnold Schoenberg.     [continued]

April 26, 2016

in: Reviews

BPO Wakes the Dead and Lifts the Living

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Ben Zander, a musician of famously deep passions, let a breathtaking Verdi Requiem with the Boston Philharmonic and Chorus Pro Musica at Symphony Hall on Sunday.     [continued]

April 25, 2016

in: Reviews

BSO Chamber Players Almost Cavort

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For the Boston Symphony Chamber Players’ Jordan Hall concert on Sunday, Debussy, Ibert, and Brahms replaced Spohr and Lash, while trios of Françaix and Beethoven remained as planned.    [continued]

April 23, 2016

in: Reviews

Sun King Shines on Medford

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“Music and Dance for the Sun King,” a concert of Renaissance and Baroque music, took us time-traveling last Tuesday night at the at Tuft’s Distler Auditorium. Much was engaging, beautifully played and illustrated with period dance.     [continued]

April 22, 2016

in: Reviews

BSO Balancing Acts

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The Boston Symphony’s last subscription series of the season opened Thursday night with variety, including two vocal solos featuring Kristine Opolais, two century-old and one more recent French masterpiece.     [continued]

April 22, 2016

in: Reviews

Camerata’s Medieval Time Machine

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Transporting in all senses was the weekend at Longy by the Camerata singing and dramatizing the ways of courtly love.     [continued]

April 21, 2016

in: Reviews

New Music, Youth and Discipline at NEC

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New England Conservatory’s Contemporary Ensemble under the direction of John Heiss put the spotlight on young dedicated performers in works of well-knowns Crumb and Schoenberg, as well as on both a faculty and a student composer.     [continued]

April 18, 2016

in: Reviews

Unbeatable Choices from BAE

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Polychromatic polyculture of chamber music-making at the highest level came from Boston Artists Ensemble at St. Paul’s Brookline on Sunday.     [continued]

April 17, 2016

in: Reviews

Wolfgang and Benjie Come of Age

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The Pacifica Quartet gave superb readings to watershed works of Britten and Mozart at Sunday’s recital in Calderwood Hall.     [continued]

April 17, 2016

in: Reviews

NEC Sets Agrippina in Fascist Rome

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Handel’s Agrippina provided a delightful and a perfect vehicle for the NEC singer-actors at the Paramount Theater yesterday. The run continues through the 19th.    [continued]

April 16, 2016

in: Reviews

Boston Women’s Music Project Bows

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Hunneman Hall in the Brookline Library provided a relaxed, intimate venue last Wednesday night for the debut of the Boston Women’s Music Project.     [continued]

April 16, 2016

in: Reviews

Vocal Enchantment Abundant in This Flute

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The singing  in last night’s  Magic Flute from Boston Baroque prompts our suggestion that you visit your local scalper for a seat Saturday night.     [continued]

April 15, 2016

in: Reviews

Doubling Down on Cecilia

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From Schutz through Brahms, centuries of German music, choral and organ, gloriously filled All Saints Brookline last Saturday night.    [continued]

April 15, 2016

in: Reviews

Playing Against Type

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A contest between pagan gods scored by one of Western music’s most devout Lutherans preceded Kurt Weill’s 1930s screed against capitalist values during last Saturday’s all-signing, all-dancing extravaganza at Emmanuel Church.    [continued]

April 15, 2016

in: Reviews

Music Containing Multitudes

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Andris Nelsons led the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a one-work preview of repertoire for their upcoming European tour. Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 constituted last night’s Symphony Hall program.     [continued]

April 15, 2016

in: Reviews

Faeries and Lovers Cavort on Huntington Avenue

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With A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Benjamin Britten and librettist Peter Pears proved more than able operatic collaborators with the Bard. The Boston University Opera Institute’s “dream” production at the BU Theater continues through Sunday.     [continued]

April 14, 2016

in: Reviews

Filjak Dispenses Copious Charm and Power

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Boston Conservatory’s Piano Master Series concluded Tuesday at Seully Hall as prizewinning Croatian pianist Martina Filjak hypnotized.     [continued]

April 12, 2016

in: Reviews

Violist’s Bravery Rewarded

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Violist Dimitri Murrath’s welcome Monday night faculty recital at Jordan Hall with his frequent collaborating pianist Vincent Planès delved into repertoire that the general concertgoer might not often hear.     [continued]

April 11, 2016

in: Reviews

Crusader Tale as Plea for Tolerance

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In Cambridge and Newton over the weekend, Cottage Industry Theater performed Claudio Monteverdi’s dramatic setting of the Tasso’s stanzas depicting the Combat of Tancred and Clorinda.     [continued]

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April 28, 2016

in: News & Features

Saul’s Rage and Handel’s Maggots

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Harry Christophers (H + H photo)

Harry Christophers (Stu Rosner photo)

Harry Christophers, one of today’s finest Handel interpreters, promises to deliver an emotional wallop in the master’s big and dramatic three-hour oratorio Saul. Acclaimed baritone Jonathan Best sings the title role of the Israelite king who reluctantly yields his throne to David. A triumph at its 1739 premiere, Saul receives its first-ever complete H+H performance on Friday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 3pm at Symphony Hall. Tickets here.

Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus with Frances Kelly, harp; Jonathan Best, bass-baritone (Saul); Iestyn Davies, countertenor (David); Robert Murray, tenor (Jonathan); Elizabeth Atherton, soprano (Merab); Joélle Harvey, soprano (Michal)

FLE: Handel was a creature of the opera house to begin with, yet because of changes in taste, and because of censors and religious objections, he created his English oratorio style. How different really is Handel’s oratorio from his opera?

Harry Christophers: Not very different, that’s the principal thing. Handel was an incredible businessman and, as a Brit, you know, gosh, we’re so thankful for Handel coming to our shores and doing something about our dearth of music. And as you say, the English public began to get fed up with opera and they wanted something slightly different. For him to dream up the idea of Biblical oratorio subjects is incredible, but I’m a firm believe in that he never ever left being a man of opera, because what he brings to the oratorio is his incredible insight into character. [continued…]

April 27, 2016

in: News & Features

BLO’s Widowed Merriment on Era’s Cusp

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Franz-LeharThe production of Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow which runs from this Friday through Sunday, May 8th at the Shubert Theater, constitutes stage director Lillian Groag’s fourth for Boston Lyric Opera. Her Idomeneo, Agrippina, and Butterfly have all earned good reviews in these (and other) pages. Sung mainly in English, with projected (adapted) translations, the frothy operetta “draws us into the opulent Paris of the legendary Maxim’s in this first-ever BLO production. Featuring a lush design and a new book by director Lillian Groag, Widow cavorts in 1913 Paris during the last glittering gasps before the City of Light would be overshadowed by war—a party at the end of the world.” Tickets here.

BMIInt shares revelations from extensive conversations with stage director Lillian Groag and BLO general and artistic director Esther Nelson. The first 1600 words belong to Groag.

FLE: Can you talk about how you rewrote the book? You moved the time period? What else?

LG: I moved it from 1905 to 1913—under 10 years, so that I could get it close to on top of the beginning of World War I, making it closer to the end of that world, which is hinted at only ever so slightly in the original setting. I wanted the situation to be more dire: the world we speak of is about to end completely with World War I. [continued…]

April 25, 2016

in: News & Features

A Far Cry Announces Executive Direction

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Bridget Mundy to lead AFC

Bridget Mundy to lead AFC

Last Thursday found me at Back Bay’s venerable St. Botolph Club for a relaxed gala among friends and supporters of A Far Cry, where 13 Criers entertained in the cramped front parlor filled to the brim. Mozart’s B-flat Major Divertimento (K.137) opened the evening with an intimate Andante movement that settled into a surefooted Allegro second and third movement. Violinist Megumi Lewis described the second movement of Bach’s D-minor Concerto for Two Violins, which followed, as a big hug: Alex Fortes joined Lewis as soloist in a luxurious read, underscored by a stately yet sensitively transparent orchestral accompaniment. Bach led to Johann Strauss’s Fruhlingsstimmen, whose comedy was presaged by knowing smiles from the performers. Although the over-the-top melodrama received many audience chuckles, the performance never lost sight of the inherent elegance of Strauss’s waltz. The evening then moved from fin de siecle Vienna to the American West, with a soulful setting of Red River Valley, arranged by AFC bassist Karl Doty. The famous cowboy melody is initially set for a solo violin (sensitively performed by the arranger’s wife, Liesl Doty), expanding into a surprisingly moving full-orchestral treatment. [continued…]

April 23, 2016

in: News & Features

Oh No—Not Again!

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Barolomo Veneto's femal lute player (Gardner Museum)

Bartolomo Veneto  (Gardner Museum)

The Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee recently recommended slashing the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s (MCC) annual budget by 28%, from $14 million to $10 million. Every year, one or another draconian measure to cut funding comes up, and those who believe that their life is better from arts exposure have to fight for that view. The process is like an annual tooth extraction.

“We like to pride ourselves that Massachusetts is the most cultured state in the country, that the arts are a form of ‘common wealth,’ as good for business as for our own wellbeing. And yet how shockingly low we rank in our support for public higher education and arts funding,” bemoaned Lloyd Schwartz, local Pulitzer Prize-winning classical critic. “The Massachusetts Cultural Council provides crucial support both for our arts groups and for talented individual artists, and now—once again—the House Ways and Means Committee is threatening to cut a big chunk of MCC’s funding. Will we ever get our priorities right?” [continued…]

April 20, 2016

in: News & Features

300 Years Later, Ristori Restored

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Sarah Darling one of the gang of seven

Sarah Darling, one of the gang of seven

Beginning Friday at Old South Church, seven Musicians of the Old Post Road gather to revive some notes that haven’t been heard much in the last 300-odd years with the regional premiere of Nice e Tirsi, a passionate and fascinating cantata written in 1749 by the little-known Giovanni Alberto Ristori, and restored, from the manuscript, by the group.

Over the years, the physical condition of the manuscript for Nice e Tirsi at the Sachische Landesbibliothek in Dresden, Germany had deteriorated, resulting in extensive ink bleed-through. The library’s color reproduction made deciphering easier, allowing the black notes on one side of the page to distinguish themselves from the “brown” printing-through. The business of score preparation involves entering the whole work into music notation software as a first step, and then delving into specific editorial decisions. This all happens months before the first rehearsal, when the sounds themselves are still far away. Composers will recognize this process, but it’s a fascinating twist to go through it with a work that originated in an entirely different era. [continued…]

April 19, 2016

in: News & Features

Graham’s Songs of Life and Love

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Susan-GrahamOrganized as hypothetical responses by Grieg, Strauss, Fauré, Mahler, Ravel, Poulenc, and Granados to the songs in Schumann’s Frauenlibe und -Leben, mezzo Susan Graham’s April 29th recital at Jordan Hall with pianist Bradley Moore will be her fourth appearance for the Celebrity Series. “America’s favorite mezzo” (Gramophone) achieved international stardom within a few years of her professional debut. Her operatic roles span four centuries, from Monteverdi’s Poppea to Jake Heggie’s Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking), which was written for Graham, and her other repertoire is equally wide-ranging. She was last seen here with soprano Renée Fleming in February 2013.

BMInt found her engaging.

Did most women of the 1830s see themselves as subservient to men as the poet Chamiso imagined them to be, or was this an insecure man’s fantasy?

I’m sure some women did, and I’m sure society did as well. However, in Chamiso’s poems, this woman was actually a governess in the man’s house. So her “subservient” references (“I’m a lowly maid,” “I’ll serve him and curtsy to him”) are more a reflection of her job status. [continued…]

April 16, 2016

in: News & Features

Putting On Airs with Flourish, Serious and Less So

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christieHarpsichordist-conductor William Christie and his Les Arts Florissants promise virtuosic theatricality in an evening exploring the air de cour (court air), a genre of secular vocal music that delighted the elegant salons of 17th-century France. In “Serious Airs and Drinking Songs,” 10 singers and instrumentalists bring passionate performances of wistful laments and courtly songs of pleasure by Charpentier, Lambert, and others to Sanders Theater on April 24th. Details of this Boston Early Music Festival presentation are at the end.

FLE: It’s been 14 years since you’ve been in Boston, apparently—any reason you know of?

WC: Obviously, one thinks of managers who haven’t perhaps sold the programs that they needed to sell; perhaps the people in Boston aren’t interested in me. I don’t know. There are many things and many reasons, I suppose. There’s a lot of music going on in Boston.

We certainly do have an active early-music scene here. Here’s what BEMF director Kathy Fay told us. [continued…]

April 10, 2016

in: News & Features

Medieval Love and Combat Joust at Longy

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tounois002Le Tournoi de Chauvency, written c. 1285 by the French poet Jacques Bretel, narrates a courtly celebration in Lorraine, and is the inspiration for Anne Azéma’s musical theater piece “The Night’s Tale,” to be presented by the Boston Camerata and the Longy School of Music at Pickman hall, Cambridge, April 16th-17th. The poem, and this performance, evokes a day’s festivities at the chateau of Chauvency. Daylight is the domain of men, who joust and fight in ritual encounter; when night falls, women converse in music and dance, far from the masculine violence of the daytime. Mutual desire aroused during the day culminates in the evening’s rites — aggressive and courtly, passionate and playful.

Azéma’s program notes follow. [continued…]

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