The Boston Ballet closed the 2019 Summer Season at Jacob’s Pillow this weekend with riveting performances of works by Leonid Yakobson, four selections from William Forsythe and Jorma Elo’s dance  paired with live renditions of Bach’s first and second cello suites    [continued]

Conductor Yu-An Chang made an auspicious BSO debut at the Shed Friday with works by two teenage composers, Mendelssohn and Schubert, framing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major with Conrad Tao.    [continued]

Now on a mission, the versatile and impressive Amernet String Quartet brought its second installment of Beethoven pianos sonata arrangements to the Maverick along with Shostakovich and Dvořák.    [continued]

Over five days, fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center performed selections spanning from last week to the second half of the 20th century with skill and heart―ask anyone.    [continued]

WithThe Housatonic at Stockbridge” set just five miles away, Charles Ives’s Three Places in New England fit the plein air bill with guest conductor Thomas Adès presiding. Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, with American/Israeli soloist Inon Barnatan, and the master’s Pastoral Symphony also both meditated on the concept of time.    [continued]

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Leo Abbot

Twenty-six years ago, Leo Abbott, the organist of Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, gave a benefit recital to raise money for badly needed repairs to the cathedral’s legendary 1875 Hook organ. The organ was big — some claim it to have been the largest American-made organ in the country when it was built — and the maintenance needs were big as well. With few other sources of funding in sight, Abbott made his benefit recital an annual tradition.

This fall, Abbott, now Organist Emeritus, will give the 26th annual benefit recital on Sunday, September 15, 2019 at 3 p.m.. This one, however, will be different in one important respect: not only is the organ in better shape, buts its acoustical environment has been restored to a state very near that for which the organ was voiced.

The pipe organ benefits enormously from the resonance of the room it occupies. Thus the recent restoration of the cathedral interior, which included removing carpeting in favor of a light-grey marble floor, is as meaningful to the sound of the organ as it is to the architecture.

Abbott’s unbroken string of 26 annual recitals is remarkable enough, but it’s not all he has done to overcome decades of deferred maintenance and bring back to instrument to good playing condition. He assembled a dedicated band of volunteers and carefully supervised them as they helped with various tasks. He sought and found other sources of funding. And he tirelessly drew attention to the organ’s unique character. [continued…]

Florence Beatrice Price

Postponed to Thursday

The Boston Landmarks Orchestra will take inspiration from Terpsichore during its annual Dance Night next Wednesday on the Esplanade.  Programs featuring dance groups provide an opportunity to showcase the depth of talent that runs through Boston’s diverse cultural communities. In recent seasons, dance collaborations have represented traditions from West Africa, Armenia, Colombia, Cuba, Ireland, Korea, Puerto Rico, Syria, and Venezuela.

Johannes Brahms was still a teenager in Hamburg when he met the exiled Hungarian violinist Ede Reményi. Reményi had been active in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, and came to Hamburg in 1851 to evade capture by the Habsburg military authorities. He soon fled to the United States, returning to Hamburg in 1853. There, he invited Brahms to serve as his piano accompanist on a European tour. It was Brahms’s first extended trip outside of his native city. While touring in Weimar, Brahms played for the most famous of all Hungarian musicians, Franz Liszt. Liszt then returned the favor, reading Brahms’ Scherzo Op. 4 at sight. In Hanover, Brahms met Joseph Joachim, who arranged for Brahms to pay a visit to Robert and Clara Schumann, a visit that changed the course of his career and his life.

Making music with Reményi provided Brahms with his first exposure to Hungarian folk music, including the well-known dance style known as the csárdás. He became adept at playing many popular Hungarian pieces at the piano, frequently entertaining friends with them “à la Hongroise.” In 1869, he made some of his Hungarian Dances available for amateurs to play at home, arranging them for piano four-hands (two pianists, one piano). Two players sitting side by side can make a grander sound than one pianist, to be sure. But there is also a built-in social element wholly appropriate to the spirit of this music. Brahms described his arrangements as “perhaps the most practical [pieces] so impractical a man as I can supply.” The Hungarian Dances were an instant hit, becoming the most lucrative publications of his career. Brahms orchestrated only three of the twenty-one dances—Nos. 1, 3, 10—but many other arrangers soon jumped in, creating versions for all sorts of combinations. [continued…]

Wednesday’s Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s Green Concert at the hatch Shell should really be called the Blue Concert, or more precisely, the Aquamarine Concert. Our partnership with the New England Aquarium, engaging Bostonians in dialogue about issues of vital importance to the community, is central to the missions of both organizations.

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the jester Trinculo hides from an approaching storm by crawling under a cloak next to Caliban, who gives off “a very ancient and fish-like smell.” To explain his choice, Trinculo proclaims, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” Last summer, we performed music of the twentieth century in order to address the plight of the North Atlantic right whale and the effects of ocean pollution. This year our “strange bedfellows” are Music of the Late Romantic Age and Climate Change.

The New England Aquarium is a global leader in studying the effects of climate change on our oceans—indeed on all of life—as well as in furthering public awareness and public action surrounding these issues: [continued…]

This week, Native American Flute concerts with Jonah Littlesunday are to be heard for the first time in New England. Nationally acclaimed Jonah Littlesunday, a full-blooded Navajo from Gray Mountain, Arizona, will be offering his spiritual and healing flute music, along with Navajo (Diné) history and folklore.

Littlesunday performed at fellow Arizonan John McCain’s funeral in Washington DC. Working with performance jitters, the young Navajo flutist wound up improvising for that event.

Upcoming concerts will be given in Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Peabody.

Give a listen to his Canyon Records album “Gratitude-Native American Flute Healing” HERE.

What may be surprising about “Gratitude” is its richness of content. Each of its eleven flutings possesses personalized poetry revealed in near-realistic musical depiction. For us “Bix to Buxtehude to Boulez” types, “Love’s Lullaby” might sound as if it were in a major key, even though it is in the world’s mode—pentatonic. Littlesunday’s full-throated flute delivers melodic friendliness and warmth accompanied by a steady drum beat that bonds Native American feet to the earth. Traditionally, boys would play the flute for mating purposes. [continued…]

Amy Marcy Cheney Beach

Concert to be held at Jordan Hall Wednesday at 7:00

 

Two decades ago, through this author’s efforts, Amy Beach’s name joined the Hatch Shell’s listing of 87 male composers. This Wednesday, August 7, at 7pm, the Mercury Orchestra will perform her monumental Gaelic Symphony, in E Minor, along with Charles Villiers Stanford’s Phaudrig Crohoore (An Irish Ballad), for a nominally Irish concert. (Canceled if rain.)

The Mercury performance shows that the grassroots momentum of re-recognizing Beach’s musical achievement continues. The Boston Globe’s fine recent preview details the BSO’s  surprising neglect of the composer since 1896, when they premiered the Gaelic; they last played a complete orchestral Beach work 102 years ago. The unveiling of her name in 2000 at the Hatch Shell preceded a Pops concert including Beach works under Keith Lockhart.

Because the Gaelic includes Irish tunes, it is sometimes assumed that Beach was Boston Irish, even though her New England family background was distinctly something other. (A local review from a couple years ago comically erred on this point.) Moreover, she married into Boston’s elite class, and for her to demonstrate musical sympathies with Irish immigrants could hardly have made sense within her circle; indeed, musicologist Sarah Gerk suggests that anti-Irish sentiment accounted for some of the (few) negative reviews that Beach’s Gaelic Symphony did receive. That the composer would step across class boundaries to express compassion for poor foreigners continues to resonate. [continued…]

Carl Orff

Founded in 1966, Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI) is one of the premiere training grounds for young musicians. Located just a mile from the Tanglewood campus, the students have access to the wealth of opportunities not only offered at BUTI but also as part of the relationship with the BSO. BUTI’s Young Artists Vocal Program (YAVP) exposes young singers to a varied six-week program. From private lessons to ensemble coaching to health and wellness, the vocalists thrive in conservatory-based intensive training.

On Saturday, August 3, 2019, BUTI will present the YAVP students in a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana at 1:30pm at Seiji Ozawa Hall. This free concert is open to the public, and features Orff’s arrangement of the work for vocalists, piano, and percussion. BUTI vocal faculty take on the solo parts, while the chorus comprise the students.

This masterwork allows multiple BUTI departments to collaborate and learn from each other as they prepare one of the most recognized classical music works. [continued…]

Paul Robeson in Showboat

Postponed until Thursday at 7:00

On Wednesday at 7:00 at the Hatch Shell Boston Landmarks Orchestra will offer a free concert of songs and spirituals by African American composers followed by a concert suite of excerpts and narration from Jerome Kern’s 1927 musical Show Boat. The musical introduced racial themes in forward-looking ways on the Broadway stage. Today it remains a beloved classic of American musical theater, while provoking both admiration and controversy.

“Deep River” is an essential American anthem. It is a sacred folk song born of slavery—as are all Negro spirituals—yet it speaks of hope, freedom, peace, and belonging. In the song’s lyric, the words “deep river” function as neither subject nor object, but as an all-pervading symbol of the transience of this world, and the promise of deliverance to the next.

We can’t identify individual authors of “Deep River,” but we do know it was created by and for African Americans. Many of the past century’s greatest African-American singers have featured it prominently on their programs, including Roland Hayes, Paul Robeson, and William Warfield. Marian Anderson sang it on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 at Eleanor Roosevelt’s invitation, after the Daughters of the American Revolution denied her permission to perform in Constitution Hall because of her race. [continued…]

How does one sum up the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra’s eight-city, nine-concert tour of Brazil last month? Calling it “wonderful” and “extraordinary” might seem hyperbolic, and yet, the trip — which stopped in the metropolises of Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, Campinas, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, and Curitiba — was both.

We drew the repertoire from the BPYO’s last season and anchored it with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 on all nine concerts (featuring the exceptional Anna Fedorova as soloist; more on her in a moment). Surrounding the Rachmaninoff (depending on the evening) came one of three curtain raisers — Wagner’s Act 1 Prelude to Die Meistersinger, Weber’s Euryanthe Overture, or Clarice Assad’s Bonecos de Olindo — and a symphony: either Shostakovich’s Tenth or Dvorak’s Ninth.

That’s meaty fare, to be sure. Any mix of those pieces demands deep reservoirs of concentration and stamina from an orchestra – not to mention a huge range of technical and expressive nuance.

But those are just the sorts of challenges on which the BPYO and I thrive. Our interpretations of these pieces developed from the first concert in Salvador to the last one in Curitiba. Certainly the orchestra started from a position of strength (which, if you caught any of their Boston performances last season, won’t come as a surprise). But to hear these readings deepen — in terms of flexibility, subtlety, and power — over the course of nine nights was, frankly, very gratifying to me, and I hope, the listeners. [continued…]

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