February 19, 2019

in: Reviews

Beethoven Propelled

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Beethoven, Benjamin Zander, Robert Levin, and the Boston Philharmonic joined forces Saturday night at Jordan Hall for propulsive takes on familiar middle-period masterworks.    [continued]

February 18, 2019

in: Reviews

Gluck Tells Superb Tale of Seduction

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Odyssey Opera and its ever-curious conductor Gil Rose brought the inspiring Helen to Boston again last weekend. BMInt’s second take follows.    [continued]

February 18, 2019

in: Reviews

Gardner Breaks New Staging Ground

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Guest curator Helga Davis invited relaxed young women in street clothes to take the Gardner Museum well beyond  Sunday afternoon expectations. In “The City of Women,” she presided over a comfortable, welcoming community.    [continued]

February 17, 2019

in: Reviews

Love’s Labored Lauds

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Odyssey Opera claimed the Boston premiere laurels for Gluck’s Paride ed Elena  at the Huntington Avenue Theater Friday night. The Gil Rose-conducted and Crystal Manich-directed show repeats on Sunday afternoon.    [continued]

February 17, 2019

in: Reviews

Weilerstein Summits Cello Kilimanjaro

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Alisa Weilerstein’s “heroineiac” Celebrity Series traversal of all six Bach Cello Suites in a single span provided both a spectacle and spectacular gift.    [continued]

February 15, 2019

in: Reviews

Wang Ignites Schumann; Bruckner’s Lights Dimmed

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The BSO celebrated Valentine’s Day with a pair of love letters: Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor for his pianist wife Clara, and Bruckner’s unfinished final symphony, dedicated to his “beloved God.”    [continued]

February 14, 2019

in: Reviews

ACRONYM Restores Republic in Rare Scarlatti Gem

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Love, mercy, and harmony triumphed over a corrupt, lustful tyrant in ACRONYM’s resuscitation of Alessandro Scarlatti’s La caduta de’ Decemviri (The Fall of the Decemvirs) a vocally uneven Boston debut at the ISGM Sunday.    [continued]

February 12, 2019

in: Reviews

On Blue Wings of Polyphony

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Five rare early English Catholic a cappella votive antiphons from Blue Heron’s Gramophone Classical Music award-winning wowed a capacity crowd on Saturday night in First Church Cambridge.    [continued]

February 11, 2019

in: Reviews

Collage Moves Souls and Chairs

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A small but receptive audience braved the cold weather for Collage New Music’s second concert of the season at Pickman Hall on Sunday. The evening’s main success belonged to David Rakowski, whose Dream Logic (2017), in seven short movements, revealed itself as the night’s most persuasively mature work.    [continued]

February 11, 2019

in: Reviews

Goldberg Derangement Syndrome Continues Apace

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A Far Cry and pianist Simone Dinnerstein partnered terrifically at Friday at Jordan Hall in their au courant arrangement of BWV 988.    [continued]

February 11, 2019

in: Reviews

Confronting Miller’s Daughter in Taproom

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At Aeronaut Brewery of Somerville we shared a heady taste of Frank Kelley and Joshua Rifkin on a soulful musical and poetical journey in Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin last night.    [continued]

February 11, 2019

in: Reviews

Beyond Guitar Music

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The Great Necks Guitar Trio arranged works by Holst, Sibelius, Bach, Scriabin, and Márquez for their three-guitar format at First Lutheran Church on Friday.    [continued]

February 11, 2019

in: Reviews

Rewards From European Women Composers

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Kudos to Cantata Chamber Series director Allison Voth for the profound and prodigious program of German, French and English songs by women composers which rewarded the listeners at a concert at the AAAS Saturday night.    [continued]

February 9, 2019

in: Reviews

Risky But Enlightening Program at BSO

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In three works spanning eight decades of the 20th century, Andris Nelsons excited Central European hyper-impressionism, American neoclassicism, and American postwar expressionism to Symphony Hall Friday afternoon.    [continued]

February 9, 2019

in: Reviews

Fourteen Paragraphs on Hydrogen

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The music of Philip Glass felt agnostic alongside texts by Allen Ginsberg in Boston Conservatory’s Hydrogen Jukebox production at BoCo’s Center stage. The run continues through Sunday.    [continued]

February 8, 2019

in: Reviews

劉孟捷 鋼琴家 and Friends in Recital

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Graceful chamber-music transcriptions of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 13 in C Major (K. 415) and 17 in G Major (K. 453) bookended pianist Meng-Chieh Liu’s tour-de force faculty solo recital at Jordan Hall last night.    [continued]

February 7, 2019

in: Reviews

NEC Composers Shine

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NEC composers past and present gave pleasing evidence of the faculty’s continuing innovativeness over a wide breadth of styles in the NEC Composers’ Series’ Arthur Berger Memorial Concert Monday at Jordan Hall.    [continued]

February 3, 2019

in: Reviews

Viva Defends Earth Under Attack

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Boston Music Viva enacted a virtual Saturday Night Live at Tsai Performance Center as Pittman and his Pierrot ensemble made up of some of Boston’s finest musicians took on the Patriot Act, NEA, the environment, and the moon.    [continued]

February 3, 2019

in: Reviews

Playful Gaiety Meets ¿Churlish Critique?

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Lovers of the lower register flocked to Jordan Hall on Friday for a Celebrity Series winter warmer cheekily titled “No Tenors Allowed,” with baritone Thomas Hampson and bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni.    [continued]

February 2, 2019

in: Reviews

From Ashes to Comeuppance at Agassiz

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Harvard College Opera’s glowing production Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon came across as a practical but satisfying take on a durable French repertory number; the run continues through February 10th at the Agassiz Theater.    [continued]

February 1, 2019

in: Reviews

Rachlin, Mena, BSO Bust the Chart

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The 43-year old Lithuanian-born Julian Rachlin, standing at 83rd among “The World’s Greatest Violinists,” should certainly rise in ranking after his appearance Thursday evening at Symphony Hall. Conductor Juanjo Mena’s organic approach lead to sound-structure substance.    [continued]

more reviews →

February 21, 2019

in: News & Features

Organist Katelyn Emerson’s Gratitude

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The rapidly up-and-coming concert artist plays solo recitals Friday, February 22nd at 7:30 pm at Park Street Church in Boston (free) and on Friday, March 22nd at 7:30 pm Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Providence.

Not yet 30, Katelyn Emerson already possesses an almost encyclopedic knowledge of some of the world’s greatest organs and the architecture and cultures around them, and she has played them and photographed them for her extensive website and blog. After graduating with degrees from Oberlin in organ performance and French with a minor in fortepiano, she took advantage of a Fulbright to study in Toulouse for the French equivalent of an Artist’s Diploma, and is now working on a Masters’ degree in Stuttgart, Germany thanks to winning the German equivalent of a Fulbright. She has already studied with some of the organ world’s greatest luminaries. Besides all this, she possesses appealing groundedness. When not riding in a plane, train or automobile, she’s bound to be found riding horses, flying in gliders, jogging the local terrain, attending community suppers for the under-privileged or just simply sitting in a concert enjoying the talents of friends old and new. She is the real-deal as a person and as an artist with a seemingly inexhaustible energy for life and for learning. I managed to catch up with her after several reschedules and squeezed in a delightful chat on a cold morning in Boston. She had just flown in from Germany to spend a month concertizing here in the US. To speak with her and to hear her speak makes you smile. It is this attitude of gratitude and how she embodies her own personal space that makes her unique.

In Maine, her birthplace, Emerson’s hands-on parents dedicated themselves to helping her: find the best teachers, have the best chance at developing a good technique, and seeing the world, and music through a well-informed mind. When I asked her how she has the energy to do all she does and to also document it so thoroughly on her blog, she admits it was originally for her grandmother and her family in Maine so they could keep up with her and enjoy her experiences along with her. She said that people seemed to like it, so she continued. Indeed, she cares more about experiences and less about career markers and building a list of successes. [continued…]

February 19, 2019

in: News & Features

Dolores Claiborne To Slay in New Booth Theater

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a frightful moment in the theater

The BU Opera Institute presents an original production of a new version of the Tobias Picker opera Dolores Claiborne in its New England premiere as the first opera in the state-of-the-art Joan & Edgar Booth Theater, February 21st–24th.

Based on Stephen King’s 1992 realistic novel comprising the testimony of a 65-year-old Maine island housekeeper accused of murdering her wealthy employer, “It’s about humanity at its most challenged, and I don’t want to say depraved, but certainly its most raw,” says director Jim Petosa, College of Fine Arts professor of directing and dramatic criticism and School of Theater director. Suspected of killing Vera Donovan, Dolores Claiborne tells police the story of her life, harking back to her disintegrating marriage and the suspicious death 30 years earlier of her violent husband, Joe St. George.

Picker’s operas have been produced to critical acclaim by such respected companies as the Metropolitan Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, and the San Francisco Opera. But the Opera Institute remains at the top of Picker’s list. “They’ve done some of the best productions of my operas that have ever been done,” Picker says. “The Thérèse Raquin they did is, I think, the most extraordinary production of any opera of mine that I’ve ever seen, anywhere.” [continued…]

February 19, 2019

in: News & Features

Musician-Scientist Dies

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Manfred Eigen (Ingrid von Kruse photo)

Manfred Eigen, renowned German biochemist, who won the Nobel Prize in 1967 for his elucidation of ultrafast chemical reactions, died on February 6th. I never read much about Eigen’s kinetics research, but I do remember a surprisingly readable and fascinating article that he wrote on “viral quasispecies” in Scientific American. I also remember the CD “Musikalische Spezialitäten 1991”that has Mozart’s Piano Concertos in A major, K. 414, and G major, K. 453, with the New Orchestra of Boston conducted by David Epstein, with Manfred Eigen the scientist as the piano soloist; the performances are very good indeed. Eigen’s own liner notes for the record include this: “Mozart himself would probably have had no objection to the fact that the solo part was played by a dilettante since he wrote so many of his works for his own pupils. One day when I accompanied Rudolf Serkin at a rehearsal, I mentioned that I was only a dilettante at playing the piano. He paused for a moment and then said gravely: ‘But we are all dilettantes!’”

Eigen’s recording testifies not only to the ability of amateur musicians to rise to professional proficiency, but also, and more so, to the priceless value to our art of the amateur musician’s role; amateur musicians keep alive the musical art just as surely as do the professionals, whether in community orchestras and choruses or theater groups, church choirs, chamber musicians who play one concert a year instead of 40, and record collectors who can remember and sing more themes from more 19th-century symphonies than can most professional violinists or pianists.  [continued…]

February 16, 2019

in: News & Features

Lost Baroque Jewish Oratorio Found

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Rembrandt’s wife modeled Esther

A month before Purim, the rattlingly joyful holiday celebrating a Jewish queen’s triumph over evil shegetz Haman, the ensemble MIRYAM, founded three years ago to bring Jewish early music to New England audiences, will debut the rarely heard Baroque oratorio Esther by Cristiano Giuseppe Lidarti. Rediscovered two decades ago and performed only a handful of times since (never on the East Coast), the Hebrew-language oratorio, written for the Jewish community of Amsterdam in 1774, is unique in a number of ways. An Austrian Christian of Italian descent composed it to a commission from a community of Portuguese Jews, employing a Venetian rabbi’s translation of Handel’s Esther libretto into Hebrew. It is the only complete oratorio surviving from the Baroque  with an entirely Hebrew text.

Aside from possessing historical and cultural significance, the oratorio also contains gorgeous music, with striking arias, beautiful choruses, and rich orchestration. MIRYAM’s roster, based mostly in Boston, draws also from Connecticut and NY. The ensemble will present the Boston and East Coast premiere on Saturday, March 2nd at 7:00 PM at Emmanuel Church in Boston and Sunday, March 3rd at 4:00 PM at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley; harpsichordist and conductor Dylan Sauerwald will direct an ensemble of five soloists, nine choristers, and 14 instrumentalists, while soprano Alicia DePaolo, director and co-founder of MIRYAM, will sing the role of Esther. Visit miryamensemble.org to reserve tickets or call 781-832-0968; further details are below and at article end. [continued…]

February 10, 2019

in: News & Features

On the Diseased State of Opera and Suggested Cure

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Veteran opera critic Conrad L. Osborne delivers a lifetime’s worth of keen perceptions, stern judgements, and personal angles in a quirky yet compulsively readable 837-page compilation on the state of opera today; his Opera as Opera: The State of the Art should be required reading for all operamanes.

Over the course of the past four centuries, opera—grand or intimate, tragic or satirical, moralizing or wacky, colorful and often rather “extreme” form of art (and/or entertainment)—has spawned legions of devoted fans and merciless critics.

Among the many intensely readable book-length essays on this complex, sometimes problematic genre, Joseph Kerman’s Opera as Drama [HERE] stands as perhaps the single most famous example (at least in English). Operagoers can also consult wonderful, thought-provoking histories full of insight and imagination: for example, Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker’s A History of Opera [HERE] or James Parakilas’s The Story of Opera [HERE]. Numerous richly informative books treat a narrower swath of repertory: e.g., Tim Carter’s Understanding Italian Opera [HERE] and Stephen Meyer’s Carl Maria von Weber and the Search for German Opera [HERE]. And there are authoritative books on individual opera composers, such as Hugh Macdonald’s recent, subtly witty Bizet [HERE]. [continued…]

February 6, 2019

in: News & Features

New Institute Broadens and Brightens Summer Spectrum

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The Boston Symphony Orchestra herein announces the opening this summer of its Tanglewood Learning Institute (TLI), an in-depth initiative of cross-cultural activities, at the orchestra’s summer campus in Lenox. This center will be housed at a multipurpose complex of four buildings called the Linde Center for Music and Learning, designed by architect William Rawn (who also designed Ozawa Hall), which will be the first all-season facility at Tanglewood. In coordination with the BSO’s regular Tanglewood season, TLI will present programs that connect the music being performed to broader social and artistic contexts. Centering on four TLI Weekends, the offerings include (in a program called “The Big Idea”) talks by the likes of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on nation-building (keyed to the BSO’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem), historian Doris Kearns Goodwin on leadership (anent Wagner’s Die Walküre), and Harvard psychology professor and conflict-resolution expert Daniel L. Shapiro on issues of freedom and peace (suggested by Schoenberg’s Friede auf Erden and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony).

The programming has traditional musical components as well, such as master classes, experimental offerings, composer and performer talks, a program on the music-cinema interface, an intensive eight-day session with the Juilliard String Quartet and members of the Tanglewood Music Center faculty and students, and other extended-learning programs. Details on all of these are available starting February 6th at TLI’s new web site, www.tli.org. You can also get a glimpse of the Linde Center, as conceptual drawings and as live work-in-progress, at the fundraising site for the project, [HERE]. The opening weekend for TLI and the Linde Center (with ribbon-cutting!) will be June 28th to July 1st. The BSO envisages that TLI programming will continue, at Tanglewood, in Boston, and online, during the non-summer seasons, though details of these programs were not yet provided. Tickets for all TLI summer programs will go on sale beginning February 10th through the regular Tanglewood channels. Excerpts from the complete BSO press release larded with some images run below the interview after the break.

BMInt has some questions for the Judith and Stewart Colton Tanglewood Learning Institute Director Sue Elliott. [continued…]

February 6, 2019

in: News & Features

No Goldbricking for these Forces

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Bach is the greatest,even in China

The self-led orchestra A Far Cry, normally artistically home at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Jordan Hall, and St. John’s Church JP, does a runout to Ithaca this week to kickstart a 3-day, 3-performance tour with the celebrated pianist Simone Dinnerstein built on an arrangement for piano and chamber orchestra of J. S. Bach’s keyboard classic Goldberg Variations by Sarah Darling, Alex Fortes, and Dinnerstein. The show comes to Jordan Hall on Feb. 8th, and to Mechanics Hall in Worcester on Feb. 9th.

Longtime collaborators A Far Cry and Simone Dinnerstein both came to prominence in 2007, as part of a burst of musical energy that erupted in the Northeast Corridor as the Great Recession started to upend traditional arts structures. The 17-member A Far Cry formed with a countervailing idea: that the ensemble should have no fixed conductor, working as a self-conducted chamber orchestra whose players shared leadership. Dinnerstein took a then-novel approach with self-funding her own professional recording debut recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which propelled her to national acclaim as critics praised as “an utterly distinctive voice” (New York Times) and “a timeless, meditative, utterly audacious solo debut” (O, The Oprah Magazine). Although Dinnerstein now plays concerts and concertos across the world, the Goldberg Variations remains central for the pianist, with much-praised collaborations adding choreography (with Pam Tanowitz) and the re-imagined arrangement that Cornell and Boston will hear.

Basil Considine of the Twin Cities Arts Reader spoke with Alex Fortes and Sarah Darling of A Far Cry on the Goldberg arrangement, the dynamics of playing in A Far Cry, and the joys of collaborating with Simone Dinnerstein.

Basil: Why the Goldbergs? [continued…]

January 31, 2019

in: News & Features

Favorite Memories of Sandy

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Wendy Maeda photo

Baritone Sanford Sylvan had so many great operatic roles, it’s hard and maybe even silly to single out any of them. The wise and sinister Chou En-lai opposite James Maddalena’s enthusiastic and oddly innocent Nixon in the original cast of John Adams’s Nixon in China. The exuberant Figaro jumping up and down on a bed with Jeanne Ommerle in the famous Peter Sellars/Craig Smith “Trump Tower” production of The Marriage of Figaro. Or as Orlando, in his mad scene, being wheeled across the stage on a gurney, in the Sellars/Smith production of Handel’s Orlando at the Loeb Drama Center in the days when the A.R.T. was run by Robert Brustein. Sylvan, with the music transposed for his mellow baritone, was singing the title role in the “second” cast, when there weren’t enough countertenors to alternate with Jeffrey Gall in the first cast.

Sylvan provided another extraordinary moment in another almost forgotten Sellars/Smith production, at Harvard’s Agassiz Theatre in 1983—a double bill of the Brecht-Weil Kleine Mahagonny followed by a staged version of excerpts from Bach cantatas under the title “Conversations with Fear and Hope after Death.” In the Weill, Sylvan was part of a male quartet singing “Oh moon of Alabama!” (that moon hanging overhead like a big Swiss cheese); in the Bach, crouching on all-fours, he sang a heart-rending aria, “How frightened, trembling are my footsteps,” to the obbligato accompaniment of Kenneth Radnofsky’s more-Weill-than-Bach saxophone (one of Smith’s most inspired decisions), as he crawled backwards under a kitchen table. He finally emerged with his arms stretched out against the table in the pose of a crucifixion—a visual and vocal image of total spiritual agony.  [continued…]

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