Boston Landmarks Orchestra under conductor Christopher Wilkins celebrated the centennial of the 19th Amendment last night with music composed by women. The narration, soloists, and prerecorded clips made for a lively online outing.    [continued]

The violin and piano duo of Augustin Hadelich and Orion Weiss played Debussy, Brahms, and Adams for the Tanglewood cameras Saturday. With talent to spare, the artistic pair gave exciting, tight, enthralling, and even transcendent readings. Available online until August 1st.    [continued]

Tanglewood-in-quarantine continued, as violist and violinist  Pinchas Zuckerman, cellist Amanda Forsyth, and pianist Bryan Wagorn, took us on a trip which, from start to finish, provided a delightful way to spend an hour on a humid Saturday night. Nicole Cabell introduced music of Glière, Kodály, Paradis, Fauré and Beethoven.    [continued]

Friday night’s pre-recorded chamber concert featuring BSO players seemed even shorter than its 50-minute runtime.The works by Loeffler, Ravel and Gabriella Lena Frank will remain on bso.org until the 24th.    [continued]

Joy at performing together radiated from the brothers Jussens’ Concertgebouw recital, recorded before a socially distanced audience of 350 two weeks prior to this airing on the 16th at the Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival –A Summer Tradition Transformed. Available online for a week.    [continued]

The Tanglewood Music Center (TMC) and the new Tanglewood Learning Institute have come up with variegated strategies to provide online substitutes for their intended tangible offerings. Viewers and listeners, though, must navigate Odyssian shoals before coming ashore on the webstream.    [continued]

Juventas New Music Ensemble designed its season finale “Alone Together” with the current human assemblage restrictions in mind, attempting both to simulate the experience of live performance and to capitalize on the unique potentialities of a Futura Studios as a digital performance space.    [continued]

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Mike Roylance plays tuba

….and behold, the BSO Encore Series has arrived with additional opportunities to hear nine of the most popular performances (many of which BMInt reviewed enthusiastically) from Tanglewood’s Linde Center. Fifty BSO players will feature in the rebroadcasts of content including original compositions by BSO Associate Principal Horn Gus Sebring (written for alphorn and French horn) and folk arrangements by BSO violinist Bonnie Bewick; the world premiere 80 years after its composition of Sonatine for solo viola by acclaimed African-American composer Ulysses Kay; and newly commissioned works for brass ensemble by West Virginia-born composer and jazz pianist Kevin Day and trombonist and composer Chad “Sir Wick” Hughes. Other contemporary composers of color and women composers represented in the programming include Daniel Bernard Roumain, Gabriela Lena Frank, James Lee III, Valerie Coleman, Paquito D’Rivera, Marti Epstein, and Allison Loggins-Hull. Works of Bach, Beethoven, Berio, Brahms, Copland, Dvořák, Hindemith, Mozart, Poulenc, Ravel, Schubert, Schumann, and Stravinsky; traditional American, Scottish, and Irish reels, will also be offered.

Each Thursday at noon, and continuing for a month, the shows will begin with freshly recorded intros, and sometimes a Q & A session done live. [continued…]

BMInt has invited Daniel Orsen, violist and Artistic Director of Jamaica Plain Chamber Music to pen a brief promo for what seems like the first indoor, in-person chamber music concert in greater Boston for some time. Church of the Advent on Beacon Hill will present original and arranged music for string quartet on Friday at 7:30. See more and buy tickets HERE.

For the foreseeable future, in-person music making may be coming from small, local chamber music concerts in the players’ own communities. Jamaica Plain Chamber Music embraces this moment by bringing back live music as safely as possible. Though JPCM started last year with the mission of bringing together the wealth of musical talent in JP in chamber music concerts for our neighbors, the pandemic will bar us from our home at St. John’s Episcopal Church or any other venue in Jamaica Plain. Into the breach, Church of the Advent on Beacon Hill has graciously agreed to host our concerts this fall, so for the time being this will be “Jamaica Plain Chamber Music on Beacon Hill.”  Most of our performers are freelancers or grad-students who, without the institutional support of an orchestra or conservatory teaching position, have been particularly hard hit by the moratorium on concerts. And although readers might not recognize the names of the performers, the quality of the music making is phenomenal.

One often hears athletes talk about the importance of fans; it is the same for musicians. An audience energizes players, and the communication goes both ways. It’s hard to put into words, but we can hear the audience listening. I miss the communal nature and the ephemeral preciousness of a live concert even more. Those fill a spiritual need which recordings or livestreams cannot recreate. We mustn’t forget the ancient ritual: get dressed up, walk into a concert hall with hundreds of other people, dim the lights, and go on a journey together, like the crew of a boat. We are delighted to be playing music again with our friends and colleagues, but would be deeply moved and heartened by the greatest show of love and support for us and what we do, a live audience.           [continued…]

Henry’s band finds new ways to thrive

In ratifying a new contract guaranteeing their jobs through August of 2023, BSO players have agreed to pay cuts averaging 37% in a pain-sharing pact with management to mitigate a $50 million loss of ticket and rental revenue from the organization’s $100 million annual budget.

If and when monies re-materialize, the contract provides for tiered, and possibly retroactive restoration of the cuts.

Official accounts and personal reports of the negotiations portray a union generously offering givebacks for the benefit of the institution, knowing full well that most other working musicians are not so lucky to have employment guarantees.

Management has given back to players by lowering expectations from about 330 services in the outgoing contract to 167 in the first year of the new, concert-less one. (In generally understood parlance, musical services refer to performances, rehearsals, and various outreach; not practice at home, which players nevertheless need to keep up chops.) The memorandum of agreement (MoA) between the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Musicians Association local no. 9-535 of the American Federation of Musicians dated August 24th, leaves determination of workload in years two and three for future discussion. [continued…]

Politicians have forever used and abused composers, artists and performers. In our current dystopia, with the planet beset by climate change, a pandemic, economic instabilities, and facing the possible end of the American Democratic Experiment, life often seems fictional. Into this milieu, versatile musician and author Gerald Elias, creator of a previous mystery series, has cast a thriller, The Beethoven Sequence, released this week, published by Level Best Books [HERE],  explores possible outcomes in a both amusing and cautionary tale. His quick, gripping, and disruptive read stars an unlikely Layton Stolz, a socially awkward welder turned conductor, whose ascent to head a musical cult and, finally, the Presidency of the United States, seems uncannily plausible.

Stolz initially presents as an oafish naïf from rural Colorado, who dreams of a life in classical music, despite virtually no training, only to be rejected by Juilliard, when he finally applies in his early 30s. But Stolz is stolid, persistent. The first half, “Utopia Raised,” explains the motivation that charts the course of Stolz’s life, only lightly foreshadowing the latter, bizarre parts of the second half, “Utopia Razed.” The early chapters let the reader understand how Stolz’s plenteous challenges growing up with a brutal father and a fawning mother set the stage for his many disappointments, odd perceptions, dysphoria and flirtations with delusion and deception. In fact, the bland first chapters subtly hook the reader, so gently that subsequent deaths, justice diverted, blackmail and chases surprise, even stun.

Without revealing the plot, let me say that the story revels in Stolz’s almost happenstance creation of a system of orchestral pursuit that conjures some aspects of El Sistema, the rascally moments of the Music Man and reverential cult-like features of the Suzuki Method. The reader watches with amazement as Stolz rolls them from an initially bumbling effort based on homage to Beethoven’s concepts of liberty, heroism and humanism to, ultimately, a slick, smooth, and secretly sinister organization obliquely founded on some of Beethoven’s most dramatic and deeply felt ideals.  [continued…]

Seiji Ozawa (Shintaro Shiratori)

Seiji Ozawa frequently told students: “Listen! You MUST always listen! Only playing your own music is not enough, you must listen to others. To communicate with others who are playing with you is the core of music. Making harmony and ensemble, that is music!”

Even absent today’s proclamation from Mayor Walsh in celebration of Seiji Ozawa’s 85th birthday, we would have recognized him, to anyone who asked, as the most expressive and balletic conductor we have ever witnessed … especially in his favored repertoire.

I have known this since participating in a Dessoff Choirs Summer Sing of the Berlioz Requiem c. 1963. How could a musical high school student ever forget the two hours of preparation under a very young Ozawa before a very old Leopold Stokowski led us in a performance better-remembered for enthusiasm than for polish?

Flash-forward some decades to a post-performance tête-à-tête in the Symphony Hall green room. When I recalled the earlier inspiring moment, Ozawa, sitting on a sofa only inches away, looked into my eyes and claimed to remember. [continued…]

CEO Volpe has a lot on his mind.

A BSO insider muses on plagues, players, and pay in the context of management’s recent staff reductions and Tuesday’s upcoming vote on player salary givebacks.

Like every other American symphony orchestra, the Boston Symphony is challenged to find an artistic and financial path forward through the labyrinth of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An invisible quasi-living microorganism, relentlessly infectious, spreads fear and death among vast populations. Lockdowns, self-isolation, quarantines, contact tracing, and facemasks prove controversial and only partially effective. Social dislocation, anxiety, staggering loss of life, and massive economic downturn threaten to bring a major power to its knees as it struggles to retain its international preeminence. The US in 2020? How about Venice in the 17th century?        

The other day, I was practicing the dazzling finale of the Vivaldi Violin Sonata in F Minor, Op. 2, No. 10. Though in the score Vivaldi refers to the movement as a Giga, it has all the frenetic fever of a traditional Italian whirling tarantella. I like to think he opted to call it a Giga, a more acceptable designation than the pagan tarantella, in deference to the sensitivities of his Catholic employers at the Ospedale della Pietà, who nevertheless found reason to fire him on more than one occasion.   [continued…]

Wandering singers and dancers will re-emerge from the proscenium in a 2012 production that BMInt featured HERE.

Sixteen years after its première, at Le Havre, France, in 2004, and after more than 70 performances in Europe, North America, and Australasia, “Borrowed Light,” an ambitious music-and-dance extravaganza, based on original Shaker songs I gleaned mainly from years of original research at the Shaker Library in Sabbathday Lake Maine, and performed, each time, live by Boston Camerata soloists and dancers, has yet, despite all those  many international touring events (and a bulging pressbook with clippings from all over), to be heard and seen in Boston. And yet, we learned just the other day, in a zoom-y conversation with the production’s brilliant choreographer, Tero Saarinen, that his Helsinki-based company plans to revive it a couple of seasons forward from now. Will the show then manage, somehow, to cross the ocean and be presented, finally, in our own hometown?

Meanwhile, we revel in an upcoming streaming representation thereof. On August 20th, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival will be streaming (HERE) a “Borrowed Light” performance from its 2012 festival, in which Camerata and the Saarinen Company had been invited for the second time to sing and dance this work at the oldest American summer dance festival, in its historic performance hall. We hope our many Boston friends and supporters (as well as music and dance lovers from everywhere) will enjoy witnessing that extraordinary  interaction among singers and dancers mingling onstage.

I’d like, also, to express a large measure of personal satisfaction from this announced reprise by Jacob’s Pillow. The festival’s Becket, Massachusetts venue is situated only a few miles from the most important historic Shaker settlements. There is a rightness to performing their songs in their part of the world, just as there was a rightness to the many hours of archival library work Anne Azéma and I did at the Sabbathday Lake community in the 1990’s, bring forgotten songs written down in Shaker letteral notation back into today’s world.  In these current days of confusion and turmoil, we all want to choose “something like a star/To stay our minds on and be staid” (Robert Frost). [continued…]

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