The Boston Lyric Opera’s reduced production of  Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle Ryan McKinny in the title role and Naomi Louisa O’Connell as Judith made for an indispensable Bluebeard on Wednesday night, but the wait for the real thing goes on. The sold-out run continues tonight, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon.   [continued]

Chineke! Orcherstra won cheers from a crowd that included a handsome titer of racial and ethnic diversity three-quarters filling Jordan Hall for the Celebrity Series.   [continued]

A celebration on the eve of the Afghan new year, Nawroz, featured arrangements of the country’s traditional music along with original compositions in a Longy-sponsored concert at First Church Cambridge last night.   [continued]

Piano Plus emerged from its pandemic hiatus with a concert by Bard colleagues violinist Yi-We Jiang and pianist Frank Corliss at the Olive Free Library on Saturday.   [continued]

Benjamin Zander celebrated his 84th birthday in the company of 2,000 Symphony Hall votaries last night, mounting a pair of warhorses with the visceral energy inherent in the mutual admiration and stimulation raging among the hormonally charged players in the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and their particularly inspired and inspiring leader.   [continued]

New Music Mosaic put across eight new pieces with true dramatic and artistic commitment, boldly leaning into the multicolored moods with full intention in virtuosic performances ranging from serious to comedic at the Out of the Blue Community Arts Gallery in Somerville on the final Sunday in Februrary.   [continued]

The final installment of “A Fine Balance: Piano Music by Women and Men”  paired female composers with male counterparts, based on the timbre, character, and theme of the music. Keeping with the unmatched tradition of this series, two young pianists from the preparatory school, joined the festivities in a unique and inspiring partnership.   [continued]

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Artem Belogurov at the Cristofori

First Lutheran Church of Boston’s fabulous free Boston Bach Birthday concert begins at 8:45 AM on Saturday.  A German lunch comes at noon and the concluding Vespers Service begins at 5:00.

Amongst the nonstop early music making in between comes a piano, albeit a reproduction of an early one that Bach might have played. At 2:10 Pianist/harpsichordist Artem Belogurov, visiting from Haarlem, NL, will present a core solo recital of remarkable breadth and interest for the Boston début of builder Kerstin Schwarz’s acclaimed “Red Cristofori,” her replica of the 1726 original in the Grassi Museum, Leipzig.Brilliant Florentine keyboard instrument builder Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) worked for the final generation of the Medici, that tumultuous Tuscan ruling family. The security of a good workshop, access to select materials, and a protected existence allowed him a rare degree of freedom. We know little of his first harpsichords-with-hammers, but three 1720s pianos, each configured somewhat differently, exist in New York, Rome, and Leipzig. Exact modern copies by builder Kerstin Schwarz stand next to two of them.

Many Crisotoforis were or are agreed to have been exported to Würzburg, London, Dresden, and other mainland European centers. When Domenico Scarlatti left Naples for the Lisbon court, his interest in the new cembalo col pian’ e forte led to the importation of many Florentine pianos to Portugal. Sparked by his and his royal employer’s move to Madrid, a rich heyday of the new piano and its older plucked sibling ignited waves of new music in Iberia. Iberian instrument makers soon copied Cristofori’s elegant Florentine design, some with excellent innovations. A precious few of these early Iberian pianos survive.   [continued]

A rubab (Marcus Yam photo)

Bostonians are about to have a rare chance to hear traditional Afghan music performed by some of its most-skilled masters. They will be gathering to perform along with Afghan musicians who were schooled in western classical music in Kabul but who now live in exile in the U.S. Billed as a Concert in Solidarity with Afghan Musicians, it takes place on March 20th at 7:00 PM at the First Church, 11 Garden Street, Cambridge. Produced in association with the Longy School of Music, the concert is happening on the Persian New Year, Nawroz, which is widely celebrated in Afghanistan. The participating musicians aim to direct attention to “the Taliban’s inhumane ban on music and persecution of Afghan musicians.”

The concert has been organized by Arson Fahim, who though only 22, has already had successes as a pianist, composer and conductor. Two weeks before the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021, Arson left his home there to start studies at the Longy School of Music. It was an unexpected destination for someone born in a refugee camp in Pakistan, and who had not started playing piano until he was 12. Arson tells how a few months after returning to Kabul, he was at a children’s learning center. “From behind a closed door came this wonderful sound. Someone was playing a beautiful piece of music on the piano,” he remembers. “I knew I should not go in uninvited, but couldn’t help myself.” The teacher was giving a lesson, but he let Arson walk up to the piano.

I gently touched it and pressed every single key, for the first time in my life. From that moment, I knew I had to learn piano. I had to become a musician.

He says he took his first piano lesson that day.   [continued]

A portrait concert of composer Derek David will feature new vocal and chamber works that reflect upon Jewish identity and Yiddish culture in a contemporary landscape. The Boston Festival of New Jewish Music event, hosted by MIT Music & Theater Arts in Kresge Auditorium, on Saturday, March 18th at 7:00pm will feature the full premiere of Derek’s Clarinet Quintet Oh World, Goodnight  by Del Sol Quartet with Andrew Friedman (and a surprise appearance by Carduus Choir), and the premiere of String Quartet No. 4 Kaddish with Verona Quartet. Vocal works will include Four Yiddish Folksongs from members of Ezekiel’s Wheels (Nat Seelen and Abigale Reisman), pianist Renana Gutman, and soprano Megan Jones; and choral works with A Besere Velt, the world’s largest Yiddish chorus.

David Stevens interviewed Derek David:

DS: The Boston Festival of New Jewish Music (BFNJM) is a young organization, only in its second season. How did your involvement with this festival come about and how does your project participate in their theme?   [continued]

Composer Julia Wolfe

Vocal ensemble  Lorelei Ensemble, celebrated for inventive programs that champion the virtuosity of the human voice, will give the Northeast premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Her Story with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a subscription-series concert led by Giancarlo Guerrero on Thursday, March 16, 2023 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, March 17, 2023 at 1:30 p.m.; and Saturday, March 18, 2023 at 8:00 p.m. at Symphony Hall that also includes Góreki’s Symphony No. 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. The New York Times described Her Story as having “a ferocity that is literally written into the score, but also an absence of resolution as it looks back to suffrage with one wary eye toward the future steps this country still needs to take for something resembling true equality.”

Written for Lorelei Ensemble and co-commissioned by the BSO, Her Story invokes the words of historical figures and the spirit of pivotal moments to pay tribute to the centuries of ongoing struggle for equal rights for women in America. The 30-minute piece for orchestra and women’s vocal ensemble incorporates text from throughout the history of women’s fight for equality, ranging from a letter written by Abigail Adams, to words attributed to Sojourner Truth, to public attacks directed at women protesting for the right to vote, to political satire, and is the latest in a series of Wolfe’s compositions highlighting monumental and turbulent moments in American history and culture, and the people—both real and imagined, celebrated and forgotten—that defined them. A siren for our times, Lorelei’s Artisic Director Beth Willer answered a few questions for BMInt.

FLE: How did Lorelei put together the commissioning group of the Boston, Chicago, and Nashville symphonies for Julia Wolfe’s Her Story ? Apparently you know the composer and had proposed the concept of commemorating the 19th amendment.   [continued]

BMInt’s Chi Wei Lo, a DMA candidate in Contemporary Improvisation at NEC had an interesting discussion with Bruce Brubaker, co-chair of the piano department at NEC, about the curation of “A Fine Balance: Piano Music by Women and Men,” and developments in the department.

CWL: How did the idea to include such a highly unusual selection of repertoire, with some pieces rarely performed, come about?

BB: The idea for the concert began with the realization that both Fanny Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky had written sets of 12 pieces for the piano, with each piece representing a different month. I was intrigued by the idea of bringing together these two monumental works from the 19th century and thought it would make for an interesting concert. This was part one of the series. The exploration of Fanny Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky’s works led us to consider how women were often excluded from the musical world of Europe during that era. I then started to think about other examples of pieces by women and men that could be juxtaposed on the same subject, material, or formal basis.

How do you see the link between pairs?

Some of the pairings were quite obvious, like Clara Schumann’s variations on Robert Schumann’s Bunte Blätter, which were intended to be published together with Brahms’s variations on the same theme. Other pairings were more thematic, like Joan Tower and Alkan’s “train” pieces.   [continued]

For over three decades, Musicians of the Old Post Road have delighted in their mission of uncovering and performing works by historically overlooked individuals and communities. Based in the Greater Boston area, the ensemble specializes in the period instrument performance of dynamic, diverse, and little-known music from the Baroque to early Romantic eras.

In March, the group returns for the second half of its 34th season with more live performances for both in-person and online audiences. On March 11th and 12th, the ensemble pays homage to one of the original superstar prima donnas, Faustina Bordoni. Born to an aristocratic family in Venice in 1697, she studied with Michelangelo Gasparini under the patronage of brother composers Alessandro and Benedetto Marcello. She made her operatic debut in Venice in 1716 in Carlo Francesco Pollarolo’s Ariodante and continued singing in her home city for 10 more years, performing in operas by Albinoni, the Gasparini brothers, Giacomelli, Leonardo Leo, Giuseppe Maria Orlandini, the Pollarolos (father and son), and Leonardo Vinci, among others. It was during this time she met soprano Francesca Cuzzoni, who would become her greatest rival.   [continued]

The Boston Bach Birthday is back! First Lutheran Church of Boston will hold its annual celebration of Johann Sebastian Bach and his music on Saturday, March 25th to honor the 338th anniversary of Sebastian’s birth. All musical events are free, with donations gratefully accepted. Tickets are only required for the famous, not-to-be-missed German lunch ($15 at the door), presented by the FLC Young Adults.

This year’s program returns to the BBB’s roots as an organ-centric event, featuring heavily “Boston’s Bach Organ,” built in 2000 by Richards, Fowkes & Co. FLC’s Kantor Jonathan Wessler will play a two-part program (8:30am and 1:10pm) featuring all six of Bach’s demanding trio sonatas, interspersed with lesser-known trio-texture chorale preludes. At 11am local organist Rosalind Mohnsen will play a program of music by Bach and friends, and at 4pm Heejin Kim, the most recent Yuko Hayashi Memorial First Prize winner of the Boston Bach International Organ Competition, will play a program of music in the keys of Bach’s name: B-flat, A, C, and H (B).

The BBB traditionally features programs for children of all ages, and this year is no exception. At 10am silent film accompanist Peter Krasinski will present “Peter and the Pipes,” a multimedia presentation as to the many parts that make up FLC’s brilliant pipe organ, and provide an improvised organ accompaniment to the famous French film The Red Balloon. Prior to Peter’s program, the Young People’s Concert at 9:30 will feature young instrumentalists playing Bach’s music, demonstrating that Bach truly speaks to all ages.   [continued]

Cerha in 1977

Today’s New York Times gives a half-page notice of the death on February 14th of Viennese composer Friedrich Cerha three days short of his 97th birthday. Noted for music for the stage and the concert hall, he was well associated with postwar Viennese modernism and avant-garde. He directed the new-music ensemble “Die Reihe,”after the short-lived, very German-oriented new-music periodical of the same name. When I met him at an Empfang (reception) in Vienna in 1986, I enjoyed hearing his nicely Viennesesounding Gschwandtner Tänze for chamber ensemble.

As the Times obit by David Allen says, “… at least outside of Austria, Mr. Cerha was known less for his own work than for his celebrated contribution to another composer’s masterpiece,” namely his completion of the orchestration of Alban Berg’s second opera, Lulu, which had been left unfinished at the time of Berg’s death in 1935. Lulu was performed as a two-act torso, with a third-act unsung fragment, in Switzerland in 1937, and this makeshift remained the rule for performance for the next 42 years. Berg’s widow Helene, for reasons of her own, decreed a permanent ban on all attempts to reconstitute Berg’s third act as he wrote it, and prohibited access to his manuscript materials even for study; these prohibitions were included in her own last will and testament as well as into the articles of incorporation of the Alban Berg Foundation, which went into effect upon her own death in 1976. Helene’s successors in the foundation, including the president, the composer Gottfried von Einem, adhered strictly to her testamentary wishes, and these were also supported by Berg’s self-chosen biographer, Willi Reich. Nevertheless, Berg’s publisher, Universal Edition, retained possession of the manuscripts, and having contracted with Berg for a complete three-act opera, did not feel bound by Helene’s prohibitions. In 1963, Universal engaged Friedrich Cerha to complete the score of the opera, but their agreement was kept secret so as to avoid provoking a legal dispute with Berg’s widow.   [continued]

We think of motives as short melodic units that are capable of development, always less than a phrase — often less than half a phrase. Beethoven’s da-da-da-DA in the Fifth Symphony is certainly a motive that comes to mind immediately — it is identified by its rhythm first of all (Morse Code letter V: ••• ), next by its three repeated notes, and then, flexibly, by its melodic shape; the motive appears three times in the first phrase, three times in the second phrase, and so forth. The development of this motive resides in its flexibility — it can be moved around everywhere and repeated as often as necessary, and you can even do it in your head if you know the symphony — even when, near the end of the Development section, the motive is shortened to two notes, and then to just one.

Less often do we look for harmony when we think of motives in music. But the 19th century introduced recurring individual harmonies as motives, without necessary connection to melodies. A succession of chords can be motivic if it is distinctive. An elegant harmonic leitmotive is found in Wagner’s Meistersinger, where the proud knight Walther speaks of his “wonderful dream” in Scene 3 of Act III. This begins with a deceptive cadence from C major to E major, then to A-flat major and finally (IV-I) to E-flat major: [EX. 1].   [continued]

After decades of wrestling with the master’s metronome markings and learning from “successes and errors” in performances and recordings, Benjamin Zander told BMInt that he thinks he has found a way of reconciling the two contrary ways of interpreting the work – the Romantic and the more historically informed approach. Thus, in the Boston Philharmonic performances at Symphony Hall on February 24th and at Carnegie Hall on February 26th (replacements for planned performances in the anniversary year) audiences will learn how Zander has decided that adherence to the tempo markings needs to be leavened with flexibility and rubato, (which Beethoven himself certainly practiced in his piano playing), so that the thrilling and driven tempi he indicates with his metronome marks are interspersed with more lyrical and “romantic” passages. In this way,  he can reconcile dueling maestros―descended from Wagner on one side, and from the more classical Mendelssohn on the other―into a single interpretation.   [continued]

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