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A Salubrious Immersion

Chameleon Arts Ensemble ravished with “water water everywhere… rippling, rumbling, streaming, showering….” at First Church Boston on Saturday. [continued]
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Chorus Pro Musica Runs Out to Distler

Chorus Pro Musica under Jamie Kirsch’s direction gave an hour-long concert in Distler Auditorium at Tufts University last night, enthusiastically received by an audience of about 200. [continued]
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Music and Morels

by Montie Meyer

The Mycelium Quartet rewarded a packed hall brimming with excitement and anticipation in the Music Monday series at the Scandinavian Center of Newton. [continued]
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Lexingtonian Anniversaries

The Lexington Symphony, Jonathan McPhee directing, honored its 29th season by combining with the Masterworks Chorale and Concord Chorus to fill the Carey Hall  stage and half the floor with gratifying closeness for a memorable Beethoven’s Ninth on Saturday and Sunday. [continued]
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Hamelin: Perfect Mechanics and Soul

Whenever Marc-Andre Hamelin—possessor of the universe’s most spectacular piano technique —plays, I do my best to show up…even in the wilds of Worcester. [continued]
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Halim: The Last Horowitz Pupil*

by Stephen Wigler

Eduardus Halim nailed the Hammerklavier and generally distinguished himself on April 23rd at Boston Conservatory’s Seully Hall. [continued]
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The BPYO Prepares for Europe

Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra paired Schumann’s Cello Concerto with Mahler’s Fifth at Symphony Hall on Friday. [continued]
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BSO Berlioz Catharsis

Friday’s Henry Lee Higginson Memorial Concert at Symphony Hall featured Andris Nelsons leading the BSO and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet. [continued]
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The One I Didn’t Hear

The right time for spouting about Schubert’s last piano music would have been last Sunday, when Jonathan Biss played the last in his series of three concerts at the Gardner Museum. [continued]
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BPO: Transcendent Mozart, Searing Bruckner

The Boston Philharmonic paired Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 with Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony  at Symphony Hall last night. [continued]
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BSO = Brass

The penultimate week of the BSO season started on April 25th with unequivocal dominance of brass. [continued]
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Boston Baroque Punishes the Rake

Boston Baroque’s modern-dress production of Don Giovanni  featured some great singing. The show runs through Sunday at the Huntington. [continued]
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Bamberg Symphony Rewards Celebrity Series Crowd

The Bamberg Symphony under Jakub Hrůša with pianist Lukás Vondráčék brought rewarding playing to familiar favorites for the Celebrity Series on Tuesday. [continued]
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BCMS Hyper-Expresses

Brilliant accounts of Debussy’s En blanc et noir, Paul Schoenfield’s Café Music, and Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire rewarded the exuberant, self-selected BCMS audience at Jordan Hall on Sunday afternoon. [continued]
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Behold Brahms

Brahms hardly springs to mind when one thinks of the Handel and Haydn Society, but this distinguished Boston institution first presented Brahms’s Requiem in 1945 in a concert dedicated to the memory Franklin Delano Roosevelt, … [continued] [continued]
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Institutionalizing La Clemenza di Tito

Boston University’s Opera Institute production of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito attracted a strong turnout of students and community members to the Saturday matinée at the Tsai Center. [continued]
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Apollonian Nationalism

The Apollo Ensemble’s Saturday concert at First Church in Cambridge featured Keila Wakao in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto along with Finlandia and Enigma Variations. [continued]
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Premieres, Reappearances with Collage

David Hoose, a name synonymous with Collage, lifted baton-free hands for remarkable renderings by some of Boston’s finest musicians in a farewell after 33 years as Music Director. [continued]
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Stunning Intelligence at Symphony Hall

Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s evocative and riveting ARCHORA opened Thursday night’s BSO concert. After that, Mozart’s 33rd Symphony sounded, well, staidly dated. Hilary Hahn’s intelligent warmth pervaded Symphony Hall with a sagaciously bravura Brahms Violin Concerto. [continued]
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A Great Augury for Rockport Summer

The Ying Quartet’s return to Shalin Liu, in company with the lively double bassist-composer Xavier Foley, welcomed a full house with an inviting radiance and upbeat good humor. [continued]
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Okeghem Weekend

Blue Heron has finished its subscription season with an ambitious Okeghem Weekend which included several concerts and talks across many venues. [continued]
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BSO Announces Next Concertmaster

Nathan Cole will take the Charles Munch chair at the start of the BSO’s 2024 Tanglewood season in July, becoming the orchestra’s 11th concertmaster since its founding in 1881. Cole succeeds Malcolm Lowe, who retired in 2019 after serving for 35 years (1984–2019) in the prestigious role. Cole will be only the fourth BSO concertmaster in the past 104 years. Andris Nelsons opines that “The BSO and I are very happy to warmly welcome Nathan Cole as the next concertmaster of our great orchestra. We had immense pleasure collaborating with Nathan last January on Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and we look forward to embracing his leadership within the orchestra, exploring our joint musical values, and partnering on our artistic journey together to serve the great music both within and beyond our Boston community.”

According to the BSO, Cole will play a central role in focusing the orchestral ensemble and achieving unity of artistic approach. He will sustain and help develop the unique qualities of the BSO’s string section—qualities which have been the orchestra’s hallmark for decades. In selecting Nathan Cole for one of the most coveted positions in the orchestral world following an exhaustive process of auditions, Andris Nelsons and the BSO believe they have found an outstanding leader who will carry the orchestra to even higher levels of achievement. [continued]

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Remembering the Schwann Catalog

There’s a lot of information online about the history of the monthly Schwann Catalog, which started out as a listing of classical  records. We now refer to “vinyl” when we’re talking about LPs, but shellac was the medium in 1949 at the catalog’s debut. “By April 1973, the catalog numbered a robust (one might even say obese) 256 pages, listing a staggering 45,000 currently available disks by 814 labels, plus 8‐track tape cartridges and cassettes made by nearly 300 companies.”

He had sold it but continued to edit it until 1985. It operated into the late 90’s when the internet and record companies’ own websites rendered it obsolete.

William Joseph Schwann owned The Record Shop in Cambridge MA 1939-53; but in the 1950s I bought records so often from the nearby Briggs & Briggs in Harvard Square that they sometimes would give me a free expired copy of the catalog. Schwann was the first American publication I ever saw that gave abbreviated key designations with single letters, upper case for major, lower for minor (Grieg, “Piano Concerto in a,” Beethoven, “Piano Concerto no. 4 in G”), a practice I like, but the BMInt house style insists on redundancy: “Piano Concerto in A Minor” and “G Major”). The catalog itself had a funky air. I can remember one issue, around 1972, I think, that had a pastel portrait of Milton Babbitt on the cover. It amused us was to read all the listings for Vivaldi concertos during the years of Vivaldi mania: “Concerto for violin and orchestra” (two pages), “Concerto for two violins and orchestra” (one page), “Concerto for three violins and orchestra,” “Concerto for four violins and orchestra,” “Concerto for two violins, cello and orchestra,” “Concerto for violin, two cellos and orchestra” (half a column each), and, climactically, “Concerto for violin and two orchestras.” [continued]

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YouTube Phenom Coming This Way

Paul Fey, the young German concert organist, composer, and YouTuber will play a concert at Saint John’s Seminary, 127 Lake St., in Brighton  on Wednesday at 7:00 PM.  The program will feature works by J.S. Bach, Joseph Rheinberger, and several of Fey’s pieces, including his recently composed Variations on “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Admission is free but due to the chapel’s limited seating capacity, tickets should be obtained in advance HERE.

Born in 1998 near Leipzig, at 15 Fey discovered the pipe organ at a local church. He went on to study organ performance and sacred music at the Evanglische Hochschule für Kirchenmusik in Halle (Saale). He has also served as an assistant organist at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, working with the choir and playing both the 2000 “Bach organ” and the 1889 Sauer organ in the church.
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Crossing Boundaries of Geography and Genre

The Orchestra Without Borders returns to the stage on May 18th at the First Unitarian Society in Newton for a concert aimed at building bridges across continents and musical styles. The performance features soprano Hannah Shanefield in Odaline de la Martinez’s rarely performed Four Afro-Cuban Songs, a tribute to the humor and heart of Afro-Cuban culture, alongside a set of music from the Middle East, including a suite of Afghan songs by Boston-based Afghan composer Arson Fahim. These works will be presented in dialogue with jazz compositions by the acclaimed saxophone and piano duo of Jonathan Fagan and Michael Rosen. Together, jazz and classical ensembles forge a path across musical boundaries and diverse folk traditions, culminating in a performance of American composer Adolphus Hailstork’s contemplative work for strings, the Sonata da Chiesa. The concert was inspired by ― and will be accompanied by ― an art show whose proceeds benefit Communities Without Borders, a group known for its humanitarian work in Zambia.

Conductor Luca Antonucci sat down with both Fagan and Shanefield to discuss the appeal and the challenges of the unusual program, which aims to create a concert experience that opens new avenues to facets of classical music rarely encountered in the concert hall. [continued]

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Emerson String Quartet Now an Institute

by George Tsontakis , composer

For the past eight seasons I have had the privilege of curating a local piano series in the town of Olive in New York’s Catskill Mountains, on a volunteer basis. It is a less-than-two-hour drive from Manhattan ― traffic permitting, of course ― which allows us to attract performers from New York and surrounding areas. They have been virtuoso level pianists who come to the Catskills to try out a program destined for a larger future venue. Decidedly, not for the modest honorarium which is largely based on ticket receipts.

Piano Plus! is the name I gave the series with the concept that each concert would be a solo piano recital, but that the featured soloist would bring along a “surprise” guest performer to collaborate for a short work. In effect a kind of cameo performer. In the past the Plus has been a singer, a violist, a vibe player, a flutist, etcetera. And in one fortunate instance, the Plus came in the form of another set of hands ― those of my wonderful Bard College colleague, the great Peter Serkin. Peter actually performed throughout the entire recital, offering a few of his four hands arrangements as well as a solo work. [continued]

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Rationalizing Loeffler’s Rat’s Nest

It all began innocently enough, but detoured into a rabbit hole. When COVID started pinching off live performances, clarinetist, writer, composer, and occasional TED Talker Graeme Steele Johnson sought to pick up work writing program notes for some of the few ensembles who had not lowered their shutters. One such assignment was for a group performing, among other things, the Deux Rapsodies for oboe, viola and piano, probably the most-performed piece by the elusive, enigmatic Boston composer and violinist Charles Martin Loeffler (1861-1935). In doing his homework, Johnson, a Texas-born member of the touring wind quintet WindSync who studied under David Shifrin at Yale and Charles Neidich at CUNY, came across a reference to an octet (no, make that Octette) by Loeffler for two clarinets, harp, string quartet and contrabass that had been premiered in 1897 but has lain dormant ever since. Fascinated, (“it was curiosity and serendipity”) Johnson went hunting it down, found Loeffler’s manuscript score and a set of parts at the Library of Congress, but with and on them a rat’s nest of corrections, additions, deletions, and fugitive thoughts that made creating a performing edition anything but straightforward. Create it he did, however, and he and his “dream team” ensemble have freshly embarked on a tour to present the results, partly by way of also promoting the premiere recording of the piece to be released by Delos in June. We caught up with him via Zoom for more enlightenment. [continued]

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Remembering Brian Jones

On Saturday Trinity Church will host a memorial service for its illustrious former music director at 10:00 AM (preludes at 9:30); this promises to be a beautiful and deeply moving celebration of the life of Brian Jones, featuring choral music pre-selected by him, sung by the present Trinity Choir, The Copley Singers, and other Trinity Choir “alumni” from his years as music director, and conducted by the current music director, Colin Lynch. A reception follows in the church’s undercroft. Livestream it HERE.

Last November the world of music lost an artist of extraordinary gifts in Brian Ernest Jones, and the larger world also lost a great humanitarian, bon vivant, raconteur, and all-around mensch. A man who cherished the English language, he was also one of the earliest writers to contribute concert reviews to the new Boston Musical Intelligencer blog started in 2008, and he recruited others (including myself) to follow his lead. The arc of his multi-faceted musical career spanned half a century, and his influence extended internationally. Having investigated colleges while studying at Phillips Exeter Academy, I was already very interested in his alma mater, Oberlin College, despite Exeter’s college placement director who could respect schools outside the Ivy League but actively discouraged students from making them their top preferences. Before meeting Brian, I had gotten to know and respect three accomplished musicians and teachers who were Oberlin alumni (one, in fact, chaired the music department at Exeter), but as the first “Obie organist” I met, Brian may well have provided the crucial reinforcement I needed in my senior year to stand my ground with that college placement director. Oberlin was then unique in the country as a college paired with a conservatory of music where one might pursue a double degree on one campus and receive twin bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts and music in five years. This cross-fertilization of world-class conservatory and college, coupled with the institution’s distinction as the country’s first coeducational and racially integrated college (well before the Civil War) seemed ideal to me.
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A Final Flourish with Cappella Clausura

by Cappella Clausura Board members Lawson Daves and Martha Hatch Bancroft

As Amelia LeClair’s tenure with Capella Clausura draws to a poignant close, the ensemble prepares for a grand finale this weekend: an ethereal rendition of Vespers by Chiara Margarita Cozzolani Accompanied by the celestial harmonies of the H+H Youth Choruses’ Chorus of Sopranos + Altos, this magnum opus promises to enrapture audiences with its resplendent melodies and transcendent beauty. With an ensemble comprised of an organ, gambas, theorbos, and choruses of men and women, the concert is poised to be an unforgettable performance—a fitting crescendo to LeClair’s illustrious legacy. Tickets HERE.

Beyond the music, this concert serves as a heartfelt farewell to a trailblazer whose passion and perseverance have reshaped the contours of classical music. It is a tribute to a luminary who dared to defy convention, carving a path for future generations of female musicians to follow. As attendees gather to witness the culmination of LeClair’s tenure, they are not merely spectators but participants in a historic moment. This concert is an ode to the enduring power of artistry and the boundless possibilities of the human spirit.

Cappella Clausura is the creation of Amelia LeClair. She was inspired by the disturbing lack of attention given to the music of women composers and formed an ensemble and an organization to fill this need. I have been a part of it since 2006. [continued]

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BSO To Drop Archora on Expectant Listeners

Hrafn Asgeirsson photo

Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s latest major orchestral work, ARCHORA, will receive its Boston premiere performances in BSO subscription concerts (April 18th , 19th, 20th ) in which Andris Nelsons also will lead violinist Mozart’s Symphony No. 33 and, with Hilary Hahn,  Brahms’s Violin Concerto. The composer is one of ten recent winners of the generous Chanel Next Prize, which every other year recognizes ten international contemporary artists who advance the new and the next.

According to the NY Times, Thorvaldsdottir possesses “seemingly boundless textural imagination…Thorvaldsdottir is incapable of writing music that doesn’t immediately transfix an open-eared listener.” Our conversation with the composer follows.

FLE: You’ve provided very interesting notes which don’t really interfere with listening. Some composers tell us more than we need to know about the music and I think in general you like to let them use speak for itself.

AT: From my perspective, the music completely stands on its own when it is ready; it’s my job to communicate the music clearly via the score so that others can carry the music onwards. I really enjoy being at rehearsals and performances when it is possible, but there are so many performances all over the world that it is not possible to be at all of them, and people play the music wonderfully. My notation is very detailed and there are also recordings of my pieces that performers can listen to beforehand if they wish to.

Is there any freedom built into the Archora score? [continued]

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 Okeghem Takes Flight

Blue Heron is at present very likely the only ensemble in the world to have sung every piece written by the great Johannes Okeghem. Building on this unique expertise, the ensemble will offer a selection of the master’s very best in the context of music by his contemporaries & colleagues at First Church in Cambridge, Congregational, 11 Garden Street, Cambridge on April 13th at 3:00. Tickets HERE. Music Director Scott Metcalfe self-interviews.

How did you first dive into the music of Okeghem and why did you want to perform all of his vocal music? What criteria did you employ to determine the authenticity and completeness?

Okeghem has been an important part of Blue Heron’s repertoire since our very first season in 1999-2000, when we sang a program featuring two of his four motets and a selection of his Mass settings. I always found his music wonderful (not to mention extraordinarily difficult), but it took a while for me to fall completely in love with it. [continued]