In a program of chestnuts, the Vienna Piano Trios showed that it is possible to defy expectations, with brilliance, originality, and nary a gimmick.    [continued]

The (glorious) duo of pianist Gloria Chen and violinist Arnaud Sussman made a memorable appearance at Newton’s Temple Emanuel’s on Sunday afternoon, where the large audience enjoyed two sonatas of 250th-birthday-boy Beethoven as well as sonatas by Ravel and Debussy, and three romances by Clara Schumann.    [continued]

Sonic Liberation Players appeared at the New School of Music in Cambridge Saturday evening in “Ecstasy/Enstasy.” On SLP’s minds were “climate emergency” and those experiences arising from the opposite of ecstasy. The coinage “enstacy” has us thinking about meditative states and that is where SLP remained for the hour.    [continued]

Mozart and Haydn well-suited the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s “Casual Friday” series, where audiences can read interactive program notes on their cell phones during the performance and gather for a bar reception following the short and intermission-less show.    [continued]

The well-known fortepianist led H + H from the keyboard in Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, Mozart’s A Major Rondo, K.385, and Symphony No. 36, K.425, along with the H + H premiere of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Symphony in C Major at Jordan Hall on Friday.    [continued]

Guest artists, pianist Benjamin Hochman and cellist Nicholas Canellakis, joined BCMS regulars Jennifer Frautschi and Marcus Thompson, seamlessly communicating and interacteing while conveying layers of unsuspected depth at Sanders yesterday.    [continued]

Matt Palmer’s guitar swept through  First Lutheran Church of Boston like a mighty rushing wind during his February 8th appearance for the Boston Classical Guitar Society. artist series. Aside from the Bach Chaconne, he focused primarily on offerings by living composers.    [continued]

Chameleon Up Close Concert at Mary Norton Hall at Old South Church) found Chameleon’s intrepid leader and flutist Deborah Boldin, the esteemed violist Scott Woolweaver, and the marvelous harpist Franziska Huhn in great form.    [continued]

Parisians Debussy, Poulenc, Berlioz and newer comer Jean-Pierre Armanet sounded by way of pianist Paulius Pancekauskas, clarinetist Milos Bjelica, and soprano Laura McHugh at Ballets Russe Arts Initiatives’ festive “Paris via Boston” at the French Cultural Center Friday.    [continued]

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Here’s a secret of great artistry: no one does it alone. This season, First Monday at NEC has been exploring connections and friendships among composers and musicians who inspired each other. Sage impresario and performer Laurence Lesser welcomes all to the latest in the 35-year run of First Mondays in a few days. His assortments of well-loved classics and new compositions, performed by some of the finest chamber musicians in the world, are, as ever, free to all. Lesser goes on to say:

Last December marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leon Kirchner.  I couldn’t figure out how to get his Piano Trio No. 1 onstage in time, so next Monday we’re presenting it. Masuko Ushioda (my late wife) and I played it with Leon in First Monday’s inaugural season.  He was a great composer and a vital part of Boston musical life.  That led me to create an  “American” program that I call “Sonorities,” which will include music by Varèse (French but a longtime resident of NYC), a new piece by Ken Ueno commissioned by Marlboro for Kim Kashkashian, a group of Leonard Bernstein songs and a sizzling work for 5 percussionists by Joan Tower.

FLE: So I get it that Leon Kirchner is on the program because of his friendship with you and Masuko…how do bonds of friendship inform the rest of Monday’s show?

LL: He also was friendly with Lennie.  Ken Ueno (I know it’s a stretch) is Harvard doctorate, and Marlboro commissioned it for Kim K., where Leon hung out a lot.Not really much else on that moniker.  See my thought about “sonorities” below.  To be honest, friendship is how I worked to create the season and this is the only program that needed a reach on the theme.

Anything we can hear has “Sonorities.” Please strengthen this dab of thematic glue. [continued…]

The 29-year-old French pianist Lucas Debargue plays Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra under Ben Zander Thursday and Saturday (Sanders Theater and Jordan Hall, 7pm and 8pm) and Sunday (Sanders at 3pm) in concerts that also include Kodály’s Dances of Galanta and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7. Following his fourth-place finish five years ago at the Tchaikovsky Competition, Debargue is establishing his reputation as a notably independent-minded musician who apparently appeals especially to the Russian market. He took part yesterday in an extended discussion with this USSR-born reporter.

VK: Moscow, Tchaikovsky 2015. You arrived at the competition with only  three to four years of piano lessons under your belt, stole the hearts of Moscow audiences, and received the prize of the audience and the music critics. The locals reported enthusiasm comparable to Van Cliburn’s triumph, of 1958. But before that came the underground period of your career. What was happening before you started your lessons with Rena Shereshevskaya?

LD: I started to get to know more about classical music when I was around 10, and I had my first shock: listening to a Mozart concerto. And then it never left me. I started with my first pedagogue when I was 11-12 and I stayed with her until age 15. She was very kind and very permissive; in Russia it would be considered too permissive. But I am very glad of what she offered me, because she let me explore the piano repertoire and make up my own ideas with my limited means of that moment. It made me conscious of many obstacles, but also it made me develop a global vision of wholeness, so it was not useless at all. [continued…]

Stephen Sondheim

A few music-lovers might still not appreciate how the history of opera is a long continuum that includes, some might say concludes with, musicals. Perhaps a visit to a demonic barber at Harvard from March 27 through April 4 would help set them straight, as Lowell House Opera is presenting a musical for the first time, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, with a 19-person cast comprising young local opera professionals alongside Harvard undergraduates and students from the classical and musical theater voice programs of BoCo-Berklee. Presented in the newly renovated Lowell House dining hall, the production will also feature a full 27-piece orchestra.

Most will know the Victorian suspense thriller yarn telling of the unjustly Australia-banished barber who eventually returns to take bloody revenge on customers whose corpses become destined for a meat-pie shop. Director Adrienne Boris notes that the company’s staging of this “musical about cannibalism in a space where hundreds of people dine every day is undoubtedly creepy, but a dining hall can also be a place of community gathering and positive change. Alongside all of the humor and heart embedded in the piece, our production has an important message to deliver to our community about the cyclical nature of violence and the danger inherent in a society that increasingly lacks compassion for its less privileged citizens.” [continued…]

The title of Seraphim Singers’ next outing can be taken on so many levels that a conventional lede and intro would serve woefully as a précis. Thus we go straight to an insightful conversation music aficionado and historian Anne Davenport had with Boston College philosopher Eileen Sweeney into the content and meaning of the chorus’s concerts in Cambridge and Newton at the end of this month.

Anne Davenport: With its persistent commissions, its commitment to programming rare gems and its emphasis on sacred transcendence, the Seraphim Singers exemplifies the magic combination of deep groundedness and fresh sound that makes Boston, at least music-wise, so Athenian. You boldly and unequivocally dedicate your concert to Feminism. It features a combative raised fist on the flyer! Is this a new departure? What does your director Jennifer Lester have in mind? 

Eileen Sweeney: Jennifer has been doing very creative ‘thematic’ programming since she founded the group 22 years ago. We don’t sing the big warhorses, but rather, a great deal of new music and lesser-known examples from all periods. Jennifer takes months working on and expanding her ideas for the season’s concerts. We have had concerts entitled “Visions of War, Peace, and Paradise,” “Oppression, Exile and Solidarity” and our fall concert this year was “Winter is Coming.” We have also done concerts around music of different periods and regions, and religious figures/symbols, like Mary, Jerusalem, and themes like creation and light. We did a concert called “Women’s Perspectives” last year which highlighted women composers but also settings of women’s poetry and stories. In this centenary year of women’s suffrage in the United States — and an election year in the era of #Me too — Jennifer wanted to showcase more women composers. Given her commitment to such a broad range of works, even two concerts is but a drop in the bucket for this repertoire. It’s true that recently Jennifer has engaged a bit more directly with issues of social justice. Our tag line, “A window on the divine” doesn’t mean a focus on the divine only as beyond, but also in the world. [continued…]

Sterling Elliott, cellist

Having canceled its East Asia tour due to the coronavirus epidemic, the BSO has substituted a series of free local musical offerings that will culminate in a Boston Symphony Orchestra community concert under the direction of Thomas Wilkins, BSO Youth and Family Conductor, on Sunday, February 16th, at 3 p.m., at Symphony Hall in Boston. Leading up to this concert will be a series of free pop-up concerts featuring members of the BSO that will take place throughout Greater Boston, February 9–14.

The Thomas Wilkins-led February 16th BSO performance, Concert for Our City, will feature a wide-ranging program including works by Tchaikovsky, Ginastera, and Brahms. The program will also include Chinese composer Huang Ruo’s Folksongs for Orchestra, George Walker’s Lyric for String Orchestra, and the finale of Dvorák’s Cello Concerto with cellist Sterling Elliott, the 2014 winner of the Sphinx Competition. Complimentary general admission tickets can be reserved HERE or by calling Symphony Charge at 617-266-1200.

Prior to the BSO event above, 28 members of the orchestra, along with Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, will participate in pop-up concerts as a way of thanking the orchestra’s neighbors. These are described below.  Bank of America, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Commonwealth Worldwide Executive Transportation, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, and Takeda Pharmaceutical International Co. have provided generous support. The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Chamber Music Neighborhood Tour is supported with a generous gift from the family of Eleanor L. Campbell in her memory. [continued…]

Apo Hsu, influential as a conductor and teacher of conductors, met this writer a couple of weeks ago during her visits to the BSO for the rehearsals and performances of Formosa Triptych, by her friend and colleague Chihchun Chi-sun Lee. Her former student and current mentee BSO Assistant Conductor Yu-An Chang presided at the podium. Our conversation after the first rehearsal intrigued me.

FLE: Let’s begin with a summary of your connections.

AH: I’ve known Chihchun Chi-sun Lee for many years, and her husband Michael Timpson composed a piece I have premiered in Taipei; we have been in touch and supporting each other. Yu-An Chang started his conducting studies during his junior year and continued over a few years to earn his master’s degree in conducting with me at the National Taiwan Normal University before he went on to Berlin for further studies.

How did you recognize his abilities, especially in someone who doesn’t play a Western instrument?

He plays a Chinese bamboo flute like a virtuoso. In undergrad that was his major instrument; his playing resonated in the NTNU music building, and it projected incredibly well. You can hear it from 100 feet away, and he was always practicing diligently. He was often the first one who entered and the last one to leave the music building.

So, what was the notation that was used for that instrument?

Way back it was with Arabic numerals, but gradually within the last 25 years or so it is often transferred to Western notation. When he started in his teens, much of the sheet music was with “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7”, as translated to do re mi fa so la si.

And were the numbers on lines with bars?

They would be written with numbers horizontally on a line, with vertical bar lines. If you write a 1 with a dot, that means a beat and a half. A whole note would be written in 1- – – . There is a system of dots and dashes in the notation that indicates rhythm and octaves.

So, a full score with all those numbers must look pretty messy. [continued…]

Increasing concerns over widely documented official news and government agency reports assessing the spread of the new coronavirus have led the Boston Symphony Orchestra to cancel its February 6th – 16th tour to East Asia with Andris Nelsons. “On behalf of Andris Nelsons and the musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, we are all deeply disappointed that we will not be able to perform for the wonderful audiences in Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Shanghai,” said BSO President and CEO Mark Volpe.    [continued]

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