A Far Cry’s 13th season opener “…explored the conflict and connection between the virtuous and the virtuosic” at Jordan Hall on Friday. If slightly forced as an argument, in action, the concept proved worthy of reflection through a far-ranging group of works.    [continued]

Concluding its two-year cycle of the complete Mendelssohn String Quartets in Calderwood Hall, the foursome ebulliently displayed not only the virtuosity of its individual players but also ensemble playing of rare sensitivity. The concert will repeat on Sunday at 1:30 pm.    [continued]

The Semiosis Quartet took its “American Century” program of works by female composers to the Leslie Lindsey Chapel of Emmanuel Church on Friday evening after having offered it in Cambridge the night before.    [continued]

Bernard Haitink began the farewell tour of his 65-year career on Friday with the Wiener Philharmoniker, and pianist Emmanuel Ax at the closing concert of the 99th Salzburger Festspiele. Trachten- and Dirndl-clad music lovers filled the Großes Festspielhaus.    [continued]

I wouldn’t dare to evaluate the Pacifica Quartet’s performance of Elliot Carter’s String Quartet No. 2 at the Maverick on Sunday, but the foursome stimulated my cogitations on Mendelssohn and thrilled me in a Razumovsky.    [continued]

Mercury Orchestra’s Brahmsfest at Jordan Hall Saturday allowed Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts concerto competition winner Zhiye Lin to show off his chops in the first concerto. Channing Yu also led a fine traversal of the second symphony.    [continued]

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]

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Since 1984, when Seiji Ozawa invited Malcolm Lowe to become the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 10th concertmaster, his glorious, impeccable musicality has inspired audiences and fellow players. Today, the orchestra announced the end of Lowe’s 35-year tenure in one of the most important positions in the classical firmament.

The second-longest-serving concertmaster in the orchestra’s 138-year history (after Richard Burgin, whose 42-year tenure started in 1920), Lowe succeeded the esteemed Joseph Silverstein, who served from 1962 to 1984.

Click HERE for a list of concertos he played at Symphony Hall. And HERE to hear him speak with WGBH’s Brian Bell about his work with the orchestra. Lowe writes:

“From the bottom of my heart, I thank my orchestra colleagues and Andris Nelsons for their dedication and their ability to delve deeply into the music and ask the unanswerable questions—to find the voice that lifts music from the ordinary to an extraordinary living poetry. I will cherish forever the shared moments of everyday work, moments striving in our artistic search, practicing, trying to perfect, to contribute, to give meaning to our efforts, the music, our team, and our orchestra. I am also forever grateful to our generous audiences and donors for their incredible passion and support year after year, concert after concert—their enthusiasm never wanes.”

FLE: Do you have any recollection of your audition? Burton Fine, then senior principal in the BSO strings, recently told me about how he set up the audition in which you spectacularly triumphed. He recalled that there had been absolutely no doubt that you were the winner. You excelled beyond everyone else who auditioned, and you had shown leadership qualities as well as beauty of tone and refined musicality. He was so pleased to be involved. Were you as brilliant all that? [continued…]

A reliable denizen of the second tier of composers, Camille Saint-Saëns lacked, according to one wag, but one quality: inexperience. Musical facility and reliability aside, his wideranging intellect and long life elevated him to cult status in his day, though rarely without controversy. He sided with Dreyfus during that infamous affair and was driven from the Schola Cantorum by D’Indy for his (incorrectly) supposed Jewishness. The Nazis banned his music.

His Carnival of the Animals, Second Piano Concerto, Organ Symphony, Danse macabre, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Requiem, Christmas Oratorio, ballet Javotte, Piano Quartet, and Septet retain places in the standard repertoire, or ought to. This writer thinks highly of his chamber music for harmonium and piano. Among his 13 operas, can Samson et Dalila be the only hit?

Gil Rose, the resourceful leader of BMOP and Odyssey Opera, believes otherwise. Having discovered 51 minutes excised from the debut performance in Paris, on September 21st Rose will lead in concert form what he believes to be the US premiere of the uncut Henry VIII (1883) at Jordan Hall. Leon Botstein of Bard and the American Symphony Orchestra also set great store by this opera and revived it in concert form seven years ago, taking some judicious cuts.

The plot unfolds as Henry attempts to divorce Catherine of Aragon for the favors of Anne Boleyn. Eager for verisimilitude, Saint-Saëns researched manuscripts of Tudor music and incorporated English, Scottish, and Irish folk melodies as well as a William Byrd air collected in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (published only six years later) into Henry VIII. At the same time he embraced French grand opera expectations. [continued…]

Ji Young Yi, Gayageumi

A principal dancer in the Boston Ballet, an honored Candidate for Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 23, a boundary-crossing cellist, and a singer whose repertoire draws from ancient shaman ritual — all walk up to the barre….

No, this is not a spin-off of that classic joke, but an invitation to attend what will surely be one of the most enthralling, exuberant and flat-out gorgeous concert experiences of 2019, when the Korean Cultural Society of Boston presents “Festival of Dance and Gugak” at Jordan Hall on Sunday, September 29th at 3:00 PM. Details HERE.

Gugak, Korean traditional music is one of the great classical musics of the world (see Michael Church’s inspirational volume “The Other Classical Musics: Fifteen Great Traditions” for some other examples). If you listen far enough back to any classical music, you will find two purposes for the extraordinary sound worlds we humans create: a desire to connect with the divine, and a desire to connect with one another. This is true of ‘my’ classical music, and it is also certainly true of the great repertoire of gugak. [continued…]

Singer, voice teacher, and impresario Richard Conrad died peacefully at home in Eliot, Maine on August 26th after a long illness. His brother Howard, sister-in-law Susan, and longtime friend and colleague Ellen Chickering were at his side. The dynamic performer, insightful voice teacher, and brilliant operatic interpreter ranged from Monteverdi to Brel, touching countless lives with his singing gifts and distinctive ability to teach his craft to others.  

Eldest son of Lester and Mildred, Conrad grew up in Larchmont, NY. He graduated from New York State University and Boston University where he studied commercial and fine arts. Conrad began his vocal studies in Boston as a baritone under Harry Euler Treiber. Here he studied Lieder and German operatic repertoire with famed conductor and composer, Felix Wolfes, who is noted for his piano-vocal scores of operas by Strauss and Pfitzner, as well as his achievements at the Metropolitan Opera and teaching at New England Conservatory. Conrad pursued additional repertoire studies with art song champions, Aksel Schiøtz and Pierre Bernac.

During these early studies, Conrad developed exceptional skill in managing the “head” register, and was encouraged to emulate baritones of the 18th and the early 19th centuries, many of whom sang as tenors. As a result, in 1961 he debuted as a tenor in Boston in the American premiere of Mozart’s La finta semplice, following which came his recital debut in Washington, DC.

Conrad astonishingly caught the attention of the acclaimed Joan Sutherland and her husband conductor Richard Bonynge during their 1963 Boston tour. Persuasive fans of a local singer named Richard Conrad informed the superstar couple that they had heard a young tenor who could sing florid bel canto music “just like Miss Sutherland.” Almost overnight, a successful audition in New York led to his joining forces in London with Sutherland, Bonynge, and Marilyn Horne for a series of groundbreaking recordings of this repertoire, including Decca’s The Age of Bel Canto. [continued…]

Leo Abbott

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…]

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