The Bacchus Consort is streaming “Musica Hungarica: Baroque Treasures of the Carpathian Basin,” from the De La Motte-Beer Palace, a sumptuous baroque edifice in Budapest. The consort’s members distinguish themselves without exception in this well-made video offering, and the 25-year-old artistic director Schallinger-Foidl Artúr shows imagination well beyond his years. [continued]
The pianist’s concert for the Chinese Foundation for Performing Arts at the Gardner Museum’s Calderwood Hall was seriously serious, solemn even, and super sensitive, with power, richness, and a deliberateness that brought Emil Gilels to mind. [continued]
Live streaming French Baroque gems from Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester yesterday, the Musicians of the Old Post Road ensemble continued its impassioned advocacy of works often overlooked by other ensembles. [continued]
In Jamaica Plain Saxophone Quartet’s virtually tendered “Digital Environments,” oil spills, sun flares, geometric configurations, data, and climate models admixed with real-time graphical programming. [continued]
Performances by the 26-year-old American pianist, composer, and improviser feature unusually thoughtful range, and in this Celebrity Series event an astounding, must-see 25-year-old modernist throwback. [continued]
Sixty socially distanced people witnessed cellist Brannon Cho and pianist Eric Lu duo debut on Saturday night at the Gardner Museum for the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts. A concert stream will follow in a week or two. [continued]
Andris Nelsons and our favorite orchestra wrapped up its exploration of music of the period between the two World Wars. Running through April, this stream features Russian or Russian-born composers Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Eda Rapoport [continued]
Ten lucky listeners had heard Tchaikovsky Competition silver medalist George Li honor his teacher Russell Sherman with Beethoven and Liszt. I watched later via YouTube. [continued]
From Thursday, March 18th through Saturday, April 17th, David Robertson leads the BSO online in an all-French theme. “A Fragile Peace: Between the Wars, Episode 2” linked Milhaud, Ravel and Honegger with a soupçon of Boulanger. [continued]
The BSO ’s amalgam of Weill, Hindemith and Florence Price would never have seen the stage of Symphony Hall in a business-as-usual season. [continued]
The Boston Classical Trio’s very enjoyable video of various 17th-century works from Italy, Austria and Germany in the beautiful Salem Athenæum is running through Sunday. [continued]
On our screens came Celebrity Series At Home. A Neighborhood Arts outing by the much-touted Hub New Music, a mixed quartet self-described as “a little unique,” brought four premieres of youthful-leaning communiqués. [continued]
A remarkable seriousness rang out in Shalin Liu Hall, as lens of Director of Photography Jason La Chapelle caught Yevgeny Kutik’s continuing series, “Finding Home: Music from a Suitcase.” This time, we heard more tributes to his teachers as well as pointed Prokofiev and dancy Milhaud. [continued]
Ballets Russes Arts Initiative placed cellist Mickey Katz and pianist Hua Ye in the 19th-century confines of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts at Faneuil Hall for an attractive stream running through March 7th. [continued]
In an ongoing stream of contrasts, Andris Nelsons leads the BSO in superb renderings of the master’s fifth and seventh symphonies to conclude the online Beethoven series Music in Changing Times. With nimbleness and clarity, the players also delivered Carlos Simon’s Fate Now Conquers and Schoenberg’s Phantasy, Op. 47. [continued]
WGBH’s Brian McCreath hosted a warm and personal milieu for composer-pianist Yehudi Wyner’s musical and conversational interactions with Concord Chamber Music Society’s founder and director Wendy Putnam. [continued]
Violinist Yevgeny Kutik’s Music from the Suitcase, mostly recorded at Shalin Liu, preserves the nature of a live concert while adding elements of a documentary—with astonishing forthrightness and inspiring musical engagement. [continued]
While Andris Nelsons’s conducting streamed, video acted as guide to Beethoven’s Eroica plus works by Hannah Kendall, and the Pulitzer Prize winner Carol Shaw. John Ferrillo’s eyebrows spoke as eloquently as his instrument. [continued]
Enigma Chamber Opera “ZOOMed and teleported” a hysterically au courant update of Mozart’s one-act Singspiel. The online run continues runs through February 22nd; providing a certain something of a pandemic purging. [continued]
Anna Rakitina led Prokofiev, Pärt, Stravinsky, and Missy Mazzoli in her video debut at Symphony Hall. Only the second woman assistant conductor in BSO history, she presided over a concert I will not soon forget. [continued]
A cat and a five-month-old baby shared the latest BSO stream with me. The thematic thread of “home” perhaps helps us reexamine our own situations, but as a jocular aside, how much do we really want to hear about “Home” after 2020? [continued]
We identify with readers for whom Handel’s (then Händel’s) La Resurrezione evokes no associations. According to the Emmanuel Music publicist, the brilliant oratorio, or semi-opera, which traces the mystical events that occurred between Good Friday and Easter, premiered during the Easter season of 1708 in Rome in an elaborate staging: “The young Saxon Georg Friederich Händel dazzled with his colorful orchestration and vivid storytelling.”
On May 15th, YouTube will begin transmitting stage director Nathan Troup’s theatrical resurrection from the dark recesses and commanding architecture of Boston’s Emmanuel Church. Read Ellen Harris’s informative essay “An Easter Extravaganza” about the work and the composer in the era before he lost his umlaut. Emmanuel Music’s YouTube link is HERE.
BMInt posed some questions for Emmanuel Music’s artistic director and conductor Ryan Turner and the staging and video director Nathan Troup.
FLE: Why did you choose this particular piece, and how did you work with Nathan Troup in coming up with a dramatic visual concept.
RT: Ten years ago Michael Beattie introduced me to this early Handel oratorio. I’ve always been enamored with Handel’s works from his time in Italy when he was in his 20s — such imagination exploration, testing the limits of his performers and creating orchestral colors unheard of. Oddly enough, with no chorus, it always seemed too modest for our audiences. In the pandemic, it feels extravagant!
Today brought news of the death at age 94 of Martin Bookspan. Fresh out of Harvard and after three years announcing on the University’s WHRB, he became a founding announcer for a newly established classical radio station in Boston. I first heard him there in my seventh or eighth year.
For the price of a return stamp, the burgeoning WBMS would mail a tiny program listing, printed one or two weeks ahead; that’s how I learned of the broadcast of Firebird that frightened me [see my posting HERE]; I was also intrigued by a mysterious listing, something by Ravel I didn’t even know about: “Concerto for the Left Hand.” I won’t forget a piano melody that introduced Martin Bookspan’s hours on WBMS; he didn’t identify it, and it wasn’t until years later that I finally learned it was: Beethoven’s Bagatelle in E-flat Major, op. 33, no. 1. But that gentle, authoritative announcer’s voice remained in my memory for more than 70 years as a firm anchor to classical listening. Station WBMS didn’t last very long in the competitive AM market, maybe up to about 1949 when LP records started appearing; Bookspan himself eventually went to New York, WQXR, and “Live From Lincoln Center.” In the 1990s I met him in person, at the New York Philharmonic, or at a meeting of the American Musicological Society. He smiled warmly when I recalled WBMS. Then I reminded him that my father-in-law, Wilfred Mirsky, had been his Hebrew-school teacher; he hadn’t forgotten that, either. “Brought classical music to many,” the Globe’s obit headline read, and for some, that meant the beginning of a career as well.
Seventeen moderate-length outdoor concerts, running from July 4-20 at historic mansions and venues in Newport, including the Breakers, Bellevue House, Castle Hill Inn, the Chanler at Cliff Walk, King Park, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, Norman Bird Sanctuary, and Rough Point, will constitute the 53rd season for the festival. The complete listing follows BMInt’s interview with the new executive and artistic director Gillian Friedman Fox.
FLE: Many of our readers go way back with the Newport Music Festival Concerts, for so many years dominated by the Malkovich family; it’s interesting that only now, some four years after Mark IV retired, do I see their imprint fading. Every concert used to have a cutesy title like Bach to Bach or Gesualdo Saves. I find it refreshing that you don’t seem to be going for that marketing device.
GFF: We’re looking to define the Newport Music Festival with, for want of a better word, an added level of sophistication while still being approachable. But in terms of marketing, for a really long time we were a festival for those in the know. Now we’re looking to be a lot more equitable in the way that we market and reach out. We plan to make sure that folks from all over the greater Boston area, and indeed, all over the country are aware what we’re doing and find it interesting enough to travel for it.
There was a time, maybe 20 or 30 years ago, when the New York Times was covering Newport, in part because a lot of the concerts introduced famous Eastern European artists. There was a buzz about these discoveries. Mark Malkovich III had his coterie of fans and his cohort of artists, and he also cared a lot about unearthing unusual and forgotten repertoire. But there were multiple audiences at Newport concerts: there were the tourists who just came to see the houses and lined up to buy tickets on the actual concert days, there were elders bused in from assisted living facilities, and there were the cognoscenti. So you had three or four completely different audiences with different expectations and different levels of sophistication. Does that still obtain? Apparently, you are less interested in putting forward unusual repertoire and having quite so much control over programming.
Notwithstanding that Beethoven had mounted a successful and indeed monumental challenge to the fugal legacy of J. S. Bach, the fugue as a musical genre — we can even call it a form — was already rapidly dying off as a subject of interest for composers by 1800, except perhaps in sacred choral music, where the form remained viable (the final “Amen” in the Gloria of the Mass Ordinary, for example). Beethoven’s fugues in op. 106 (“Hammerklavier”), 110, 120 (Ninth Symphony), and 131 are all triumphal, decisively enlarging the scope of what Bach left, but they are also culminant. Nobody else dared to try very much for a while, at least, in the 19th century. Schubert occasionally indulged — in the Mass in A-flat Major, D 678 (two versions), in the finale of the F Minor Fantasy for piano four hands, D 940, and a few isolated examples which are all rather dry and “old style,” notably in the clumsy fugato finale of the otherwise magnificent “Wanderer” Fantasy, op. 15, D 760 — an example of “a composer who has lost his way,” as Robert Bailey put it.
Melodic variation happens all the time; it’s one of the basic necessities in music. But variation in the sense of “theme and variations” is more particular. “Variations,” plural, began with the diferencias of the 16th-century Spanish lutenists, and grew from there to be a mainstay form of Baroque and Classical composers, fading out (with many wonderful exceptions) after Beethoven. When we hear the term “theme and variations” today we mostly are aware of variations in discrete sections, individual short pieces that have distinct starts and stops, beginnings and endings, but that come in groups. There are also so-called “continuous variations” — passacaglias and chaconnes, that imply a “ground bass” (Monteverdi: Zefiro torna) even if the repeated theme isn’t always in the bass (Bach: Passacaglia for organ in C minor). And then there are “symphonic variations” — Franck and Dvořák gave us examples with that title — in which the variation structure isn’t periodic, and the theme or themes may appear and disappear; in such cases the normal ideas of variation forms are blended with principles of thematic development. (Compare also the unique example of variation form in the first movement of Goldmark’s “Rustic Wedding” Symphony — may it become as well known again as it was a century ago — and the theme appears cyclically transformed in later movements.)
Schubert composed his Gesänge zur Feier des heiligen Opfers der Messe, D 872, better known in English as his “German Mass,” in late summer or fall 1827, at the behest of the poet, Johann Philipp Neumann, who paid him 100 florins to create a work for congregational singing as an adjunct to the spoken Latin Mass in Catholic liturgy. Schubert wrote it for SATB chorus with accompaniment of a wind orchestra. The fourth movement, an Offertory just one page long, offers a neat microcosm of elementary tonality very like the “familiar style” of Protestant hymns later in the century. The text of the first stanza translates thus:
BMInt alerted readers HERE a couple of weeks ago to the salutary fact that Tanglewood is planning to operate this summer, albeit for half its usual run. Now we’re pleased to go straight to the lede: Click HERE for the just-released calendar in easy-to-read form.
Once again BMInt’s resident curmudgeon rants on rep. But first comes Andris Nelsons’s edited welcome.