Michael Gandolfi’s new semi-sacred duo-cantata Where can I go from your spirit? placed soprano Sophia Burgos and baritone John Brancy in front of a large Boston Symphony Chamber Players ensemble under conductor Anna Rakitina. Sunday afternoon’s Jordan Hall audience also heard Bartok’s Contrasts and Dvořák’s Quintet in G Major op 77.    [continued]

Conductor Elim Chan and pianist Igor Levit debuted in Symphony Hall Thursday night to great acclaim. The Brahms Second Piano Concerto,  Pulse by Brian Raphael, and Tchaikovsky’s Second Symphony constitute the fare for the weekend.    [continued]

Collage New Music opened its 49th season online with the expected Schoenbergian-serial tenets from Andrew Imbrie (1921-2007), Talia Amar (b. 1989), Marjorie Merryman (b. 1951), and newcomer Eric Nathan (b. 1983).    [continued]

A masterful, fresh, and original rendition of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony closed the Handel and Haydn Society’s enthusiastically received concert at Symphony Hall on Sunday afternoon after some obscure but pleasing fare from the Chevalier de Saint-Georges Joseph Bologne and Jan Václav Voříšek.    [continued]

Andris Nelsons and the kitchen crew were serving up a full-fat helping of new, old, and protein-rich goods; in between, the redoubtable Hilary Hahn dispensed leaner Mozart. The evening did not disappoint, at least not much.    [continued]

In GBH Calderwood Studio, Boston Baroque observed this New Year’s Eve with a dark symphony, a bright concerto, and a spoof on the operatic intermezzo, featuring contemporaries Mozart (1756-1791), Joseph Boulogne Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1746-1759), and Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801), respectively.    [continued]

For the first time in many months, the Tufts Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Page, took to the field.  A crowded Distler Performance Hall witnessed Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet: Overture-Fantasy, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.    [continued]

“Activism through music has been a vital force throughout history as a display of resistance to oppression and injustice,” according to A Far Cry’s preface to its Saturday afternoon livestreamed “Flames to Ashes;” the show also ran live at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain.    [continued]

Juventas New Music Ensemble’s “Source Code” connected five composers to their heritages, spanning back multiple generations, with roots going leading to Italy, Ireland, Iran, Mexico, and America through Negro Spirituals on Saturday at the Cambridge Multicultural Center.    [continued]

Boston Baroque under founding director Martin Pearlman delivered a “fine Entertainment” over the etherwaves to my monitor (and to a GBH Calderwood Studio audience). This Messiah drew us into the proclamatory and revelatory aspects of the work, making it a “more than” music experience.    [continued]

Yesterday’s all-Stravinsky First Monday concert in Jordan Hall brought together Conservatory faculty, students, alumni, and friends for a genuine picnic of both familiar and seldom-heard examples.    [continued]

The New England Philharmonic began its search for a successor to Richard Pittman with Adam Kerry Boyles on the podium on Sunday for a nicely varied program in the Tsai Performance Center. Boyles directed Gandolfi, Rands, Beach, Saint-Saëns, and Ravel with friendly authority and a clear understanding.    [continued]

Conrad Tao returned to the Celebrity Series last night for a recital at Pickman Hall. Tao’s captivating program, even if at times remarkably similar to his April Celebrity Series concert (reviewed HERE), gave us a tour-de-force through a long history of virtuosic piano music.    [continued]

Thirteen years into his tenure, Harry Christophers prestidigitated his last Messiah as the 13th Artistic Director of the Handel and Haydn Society. Sunday’s Symphony Hall traversal gave us more cause for thanks just a few days after the official holiday.    [continued]

Andris Nelsons led the BSO in Brahms’s Serenade No. 2 in A Major and the mighty Symphony No. 1 in C Minor last night. At the Symphony’s inexorable march to its final blazing cadences, Nelsons led with assurance and a dramatic forward thrust. Reprises Friday afternoon and Saturday night.    [continued]

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The conductor

Boston Modern Orchestra Project will resume concertizing soon in a highly appealing gala. In addition to initiating the organization’s celebrations of its first quarter-century, “Pulling Out All the Stops” celebrates the life and contributions of Larry Phillips, prizewinning organist and harpsichordist, co-founder of BMOP, and an author of 50 reviews for this journal. The gala also showcases the power and glory of the Symphony Hall organ “as a vital element of contemporary expression,” according to conductor Gil Rose.

Grammy Award-winning organ soloist Paul Jacobs renowned for such feats as performing the complete works of Bach from memory in an 18-hour marathon, has also played the complete Messiaen, Brahms, and Franck organ works by heart, is also in demand for appearances as soloist with major orchestras. Currently head of the Juilliard organ department, he first came to the attention of this writer after winning the Arthur Foote Award of the Harvard Musical Association in 2004. He will join BMOP at Symphony Hall on for an evening of 20th-century organ masterpieces and iconic organ solos reimagined for orchestra.

The program at Symphony Hall on Friday, February 18th at 8:00pm comprises Bach-Elgar: Fantasia and Fugue in C Minor, Stephen Paulus Grand Concerto for Organ and Orchestra, Olivier Messiaen’s L’ascension, and  Joseph Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante for Organ and Orchestra. Thanks to a lead gift from the Ellis Phillips Foundation, free general admission to this concert can be reserved HERE. Reserved seating with attendant pre- and post-concert receptions can be ordered HERE.

My very pleasant conversations with Gil Rose and Paul Jacobs follow.

We haven’t talked in a while, but the way things are, you have more time to think about what you’re going to perform than actual performing.

Actually performing these days? It’s crazy. It’s just been the absolutely strangest experience… [continued…]

It’s extremely good news that Tanglewood plans to return to form for a very full ten-weeks this summer, mixing the predictable, the popular, and the surprising from June 17th to September 3rd. Look no further than HERE for the complete calendar if you want to skip my value judgements. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, chamber music galore, five intense days of contemporary compositions, Keith Lockhart’s Boston Pops, the Tanglewood Learning Institute, and highly digestible popular fare will glitter across a broad spectrum.

Ray and Maria Stata BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, who will be leading 10 concerts, tells readers: “Each year I look forward to the orchestra’s return to Tanglewood with ever greater anticipation, as we join our devoted music community for wonderful concerts in the beautiful setting of the Berkshire hills. The 2022 Tanglewood season is filled with so many wonderful styles of composition, performed by the most extraordinary musicians working today, among them our very own Boston Symphony Orchestra. We hope today’s announcement will excite music fans everywhere as we look forward to warmer days and a full summer season of inspiring performances at Tanglewood.”

The predictable good works include Beethoven (the 9th, and all five piano concertos with Paul Lewis), Schubert (Unfinished), Brahms (Symphony no. 1, Piano Concerto no. 2, German Requiem), two Mozart (Sinfonia Concertante K. 364, and Don Giovanni complete), two by Mendelssohn (Violin Concerto, Symphony no. 3), one Mahler (Fifth), a lot of Rachmaninoff (Vocalise, Concerto no. 3, Symphonies 2 and 3, Symphonic Dances), Richard Strauss (Tod und Verklärung, “Dance of the Seven Veils” from Salome), Debussy (Faune, La mer, and a worthwhile rarity, Printemps, which nevertheless can definitely be a summer crowd-pleaser), Ravel (Tombeau, La valse, and Mother Goose complete ballet) and some big noisy items like Holst’s Planets and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, which by now is so familiar that we can claim it almost as a warhorse (it sounds very well in the Shed, especially if they remember to bring the tamtam out front). One early program (July 9) includes a new piece by Carlos Simon, Ellington’s New World A-Coming, and two old favorites, American in Paris and Barber’s Knoxville. There will even be a John Williams 90th-birthday celebration (August 20), as well as a live-accompanied The Empire Strikes Back (July 15). [continued…]

Aliana de la Guardia (by Timothy Gurzak)

The Guerilla Underground, “a virtual speakeasy experience and performance series” explores the “operatic” in the form of monthly live streams and video on demand options that can include encore broadcasts from live performances, new works interpreted through the mediums of film and animation, invigorating musical concerts, and previews of works in development for both stage and screen. Each live stream event is directly followed by an After Party with artist Q&A, games and giveaways!

In addition to the best of Guerilla Opera’s most recent productions, the company will present “Official Selections” from an inaugural Call-for-Videos. Guerilla Opera asked for cutting-edge work that investigates and explores themes that are “operatic” and that features musical compositions from 1975 or later and artists and/or creators that identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, women, disabled, or other underrepresented groups.

Artists from all over the world submitted video performances to be featured in The Guerilla Underground 2022 Season. These were adjudicated Emily Koh (composer), Lilit Harunian (violinist and ensemble member, Guerilla Opera), Geovonday Jones (director), Daniel Reza Sabzghabaei (دانیال رضا سبزقبایی) (composer), Mike Williams (percussionist, co-founder and ensemble member, Guerilla Opera), and Kristen Hoskins (producer), and with Aliana de la Guardia (Artistic Director, Guerilla Opera) making the final selections. Rumpelstiltskin is streaming now, and The Cellos’ Dialogue begins on February 11th. Click HERE for a summary, and HERE for tickets.

We had and interesting conversation with Aliana de la Guardia, Artistic Director II Ensemble II Guerilla Opera. [continued…]

Charles Gounod’s La reine de Saba, libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, performed at Jordan Hall in 2018 with Kara Shay Thomson (Queen Balkis), Michelle Trainor (Bénoni), Dominick Chenes (Adoniram), Kevin Thompson (King Solomon), conductor Gil Rose. BMOP/sound OO1004 [3 CDs] 165 minutes. Click HERE to purchase or audition any track.

Boston’s Odyssey Opera’s Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Gunther Schuller’s The Fisherman and His Wife (first performed at the New England Conservatory), and Norman Dello Joio’s The Trial at Rouen have been previously welcomed on these pages. And last October, the related and equally adventurous Boston Modern Orchestra Project, on the cusp of releasing its 100th recording, earned Gramophone Classical ‘s Special Achievement Awarda for reviving and commissioning a spectrum of significant new and neglected American works over the last 25 years.

Odysssey Opera’s latest rediscoveries include the first complete recording of Charles Gounod’s La Reine de Saba (The Queen of Sheba), a work that received its first performance at the Paris Opéra in 1862. Large chunks of music apparently emerge here for the first time. And the sequence of events is sometimes surprising to anyone who might know the (few and not readily available) previous recordings of the work. For example, Adoniram’s big aria, well-known from some tenor-recital discs, now opens the opera instead of being placed in the second act. [continued…]

Václav Luks to conduct

The Handel and Haydn Society’s planned performances of Jan Václav (Hugo) Voříšek (1791-1825) Symphony in D Major (1823) come to Symphony Hall on Friday and Sunday in a pair of concerts which also feature the 19th-century Black composer Joseph Bologne’s Overture to L’amant Anonyme, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. Czech harpsichordist, horn player, musicologist, pedagogue, and conductor Václav Luks presides at the podium.

Voříšek (probably best pronounced Vort-chi-shek; the German spelling is usually given Worzischek), a Czech native, was a slightly older contemporary of Schubert, born the year of Mozart’s death and active most of his life in Vienna; like Schumann and Stravinsky, he studied for a career in law, and like Chopin and Keats, he died prematurely of tuberculosis. Few have heard of Voříšek today, but the new New Grove gives him a three-page article with a short bibliography. In his time, he was known as an expert performer, a court organist, and a composer of considerable piano music, including short non-sonata pieces given the title of “Impromptus” by their publisher (the same thing happened to Schubert a few years later, for which Voříšek and not Schubert got the credit for inventing the form). His last major work is a compact but impressive Mass in B-flat major, of which a modern edition is now being prepared. H & H might look forward to that. [continued…]

Other people may love the suspense of murder mysteries, I, though, often begin with the last chapter or two so as not to get too freaked out. Thus, doing a review of Gerald Elias’s “Cloudy with a Chance of Murder” (Level Best Books) challenged me. It was tough, but I resisted peeking at the ending, and I’m glad I didn’t.

If the aging, blind, curmudgeonly, crime-solving violinist and teacher Daniel Jacobus, “Jake,” existed, I’d like to have the privilege of knowing him, despite his quirks. In fact, after reading this seventh of Gerald Elias’s musical mystery series—Jacobus debuted in 2009—this one leads me to dream up other mysteries for him to solve. And Cloudy is likely to make you do that, too.

Cloudy starts almost too slowly for my taste, though it provides more-than-adequate foreshadowing. However, the presence of Jacobus’s former student, the intriguing Yumi Shinagawa (an Americanized Japanese violinist, who first appeared in Elias’s inaugural (2009) book, and is now immersed in an ascending career that may be upended here, adds tension. Fortunately, much to the relief of this reviewer, Elias ultimately delivers an abundance of clever, entertaining twists of characters, plot and fate, at the stormy fictional Antelope Island Musical Festival, located at the actual State Park of that name, a nearly magical place in the middle of Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Antelope features bison and other wildlife, trails, a mountain, a ranch and more.

If you do not already “know” him, Jake embodies qualities of Beethoven, bluffer and blowhard; his blindness allows his other senses to divine all manner of surprises, yet his life challenges, starting as a child of the Holocaust, his accomplishments and tragedies make him both Polonius-like and prescient. He is a steadfast friend, a caring, avuncular soul rife with ribaldry and poignancy. [continued…]

The Sacred Muses lament the passing of the Grande Dame of the Viol.

The Early Music Movement recently suffered the loss of a major pioneer: Judith Davidoff passed on peacefully at home in New York City, at the age of 94, one month after her teacher and New York Pro Musica colleague, Martha Blackman. Considered to be the “Grande Dame of the viol,” Judith began her musical journey as a cellist in Boston, where she was born, raised, and educated. Also in Boston she became familiar with the Camerata of the Museum of Fine Arts, later known as The Boston Camerata, an ensemble that specialized in performing music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque periods on the instruments for which the music was intended. The American early music movement began to gather momentum in the mid 1950s, enthusiastically embracing newcomers like Judith. As a cellist, she accepted encouragement to take up historical bowed-string instruments, and the viola da gamba became the instrument with which she would become identified. Judith’s journey included residencies in both Turkey and Taiwan, studying the kemençe (a Turkish Black Sea fiddle) and the erhu (a Chinese fiddle), and she performed and taught at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts before settling in New York. The Boston Museum also allowed her access to instruments such as the vielle, nun’s fiddle, and the baryton, expanding her knowledge as an early bowed-string specialist. [continued…]

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