The Boston Symphony Chamber Players’ assorted and delectable concert at Jordan Hall on Sunday afternoon began with Stravinsky’s Octet for winds (1922)—as lovable and glowing a piece as the chaotic 20th century has to offer. Works by Virgil Thomson, Carter, Gubaidulina, and de Falla followed.    [continued]

The  Boston Chamber Music Society delivered Brahms’s Piano Quartet in A major with such force Sunday at Sanders that it threatened to obliterate the memory of Harbison’s Viola Sonata and Clara Schumann’s Trio.    [continued]

The 48-year-old new music ensemble challenged everyone at the Pickman last night with an assortment including Elliott Carter’s much-loved song cycle A Mirror On Which to Dwell. For this writer the results ran from detestable to happy indeed.    [continued]

A powerful piano talent from Italy, Alessandro Deljavan, made his U.S. East Coast debut Saturday night with a magnificent reading of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 under conductor Benjamin Zander with the Boston Philharmonic at Jordan Hall.    [continued]

Lorelei’s nine extraordinary female singers, including the group’s gifted director Beth Willer, gave a superb and original concert to an enthusiastic crowd at First Church Cambridge last Saturday, featuring the world premiere Jessica Meyer’s commissioned settings of passages from Sappho.    [continued]

Sunday afternoon concert of Haydn, Billy Childs, Caroline Shaw, and Verdi quartets met the Gardner’s request for a “diverse and eclectic” program, which perhaps inadvertanly raised Verdi’s string quartet, the opera giant’s sole chamber work, to a rare importance.    [continued]

Consequence radiated from the Jordan Hall stage Friday during BMOP’s “The Roaring Twenties.” Along with a premiere and a centennial celebration for the Theremin, Artistic Director Gil Rose began, one hoped, the renaissance of John Alden Carpenter.    [continued]

Hong Xu, one of China’s most accomplished musicians, opened yet another of the notable Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts recitals at Jordan Hall. On Saturday night his mastery stretched this writer’s descriptive arsenal.    [continued]

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Eric Alatorre (Lisa Kohler)

Skylark Vocal Ensemble, founded in 2011 in Atlanta and Boston, and led by Artistic Director Matthew Guard, has produced programs that have been described as “engrossing” by WQXR FM in New York and “original, stimulating, and beautiful” by BBC Radio 3. However, the group’s upcoming 4 concerts portend to create not only “engrossing and stimulating” events but also a rather rare kind of musical experience.

With two Grammy® nominations under its belt, Skylark Vocal Ensemble is bringing performances of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil to the Simon Center for the Arts Thursday in Falmouth on October 24th, in Newburyport at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Friday, October 25th, in Chestnut Hill at Church of the Redeemer on Saturday, October 26th and in Harvard Square at St. Paul Parish on Sunday afternoon, October 27th. Details and tickets HERE. [The BSO will be programming the work in April to mark the 50th anniversary of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and BMInt has accounts of recent previous performances HERE, HERE and HERE]

Composed in 1915, Rachmaninoff’s 15-movement, 60-plus-minute “Vespers” consists numerous ancient Russian religious chants, some of which are over 1000 years old and when the piece was written, it was contingent on having the most powerful bass singers available. Their deep, deep tones alongside Rachmaninoff’s uniquely ethereal harmonies, can create a transcendental listening experience. [continued…]

To convey the mind of Lady Macbeth just in time for the sainted eve at the end of the month, the resourceful Merz [piano] Trio will lard excerpts and arrangements of Brahms, Charlotte Bray, Schumann, Johannes Maria Staud, and Verdi, along with dance and text from Macbeth, into an immersive cauldron. “Those Secret Eyes,” on October 26 at 8pm in New England Conservatory’s Plimpton Shattuck Black Box Theater, will boil over the confines of the chamber music recital.

Winners of the 2019 Concert Artists Guild Competition and gold medalists of the 2019 Fischoff and 2018 Chesapeake Chamber Music Competitions, the Merz is the current professional trio in residence at NEC, and their interdisciplinary approach involves readings, visual arts, and artisanal mélanges of music, wine, and food.

Taking its name from the early 20th-century “Merz pictures” of the German artist Kurt Schwitters, the Trio draws inspiration from his unique style of found-object collage. In keeping with Schwitters’s aesthetic of piecing together fragments, Merz projects link disparate musics, texts, artifacts, visual arts as well as dance, theater, and culinary arts to standard trio repertoire.

[continued…]

The retired president of Boston Conservatory at Berklee, former Administrator of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Music Center at Tanglewood, and mentor and advocate for exceptionally talented performing artists and faculty died Thursday, October 10th after having lived with cancer for a long time. Ortner shared his lifelong passion for music and advanced training in the performing arts with the most renowned senior professionals of his time, the best and brightest young artists and students, and the widest possible audiences.

Born in Great Neck, New York, on May 28, 1948, Ortner began piano studies at age five and were reinforced by an excellent public school music program. He accompanied choruses both in junior and senior high school, and became the choir director of the Long Island Federation of Temple Youth. Following high school, he attended The Cooper Union, where he studied architecture while continuing to pursue his interest in music with piano studies (with Richard Faber of the Juilliard faculty) and by producing and hosting two classical music programs for WNYU (New York University) radio. He returned to studying music full time when he transferred to NYU, earning a B.A. in music in 1971. Ortner then began what he refers to as his “real musical education,”  three years as an usher at Carnegie Hall. (This also marked the start of his activities as a concert producer: after persuading the management of Carnegie Hall to turn over the Recital Hall, free of charge, he organized the very first Carnegie Hall Ushers Recital, which the New York Times reviewed enthusiastically. Later, he organized the first concert of the Washington Square Chamber Music Society at NYU.) [continued…]

My tribute to the 200-year-old Clara Schumann comes to Jordan Hall next Sunday as the 29th Composer Celebration since I founded the series in 1990 with “A Salute to Prokofiev on his Centennial.” My collaborators and I then performed his music of all instrumentations with such success that my every subsequent year centered on the celebration of another composer.

Clara Schumann occupies a special part of my life. I am thrilled to present the music of this amazing woman who composed beautiful romantic music. A mother of eight with an incredibly successful career as a top pianist for 60 years, Clara had a tragic life, not only the decline and death of her beloved husband but also the deaths of four of her children.

Usually I go to the birth-countries of the composers in order to learn all about them and perhaps find new scores hidden in archives. I’ve been able to uncover music of Debussy, Massenet from the Paris Conservatory, Villa Lobos from his museum in Rio de Janeiro, some from Joaquín Rodrigo’s daughter in Madrid, (who later gave a lot of it to our NEC library), Puccini from Italy (his granddaughter Cimonetta even flew to our celebration at NEC), and Maxim Shostakovich came from St. Petersburg to celebrate his father’s 100 years, meeting with the NEC college orchestra and talking about Dmitri to the young musicians. [continued…]

Alessandro Deljavan plays Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Boston Philharmonic under Benjamin Zander in Sanders Theater on October 17th and 20th (matinee) and in Jordan Hall on October 19th. The program also includes the Overture to Mozart’s ‘Die Zauberflöte’ (The Magic Flute) and Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra.

A few years ago, after a piano competition jury failed to advance Alessandro Deljavan from the semifinals to the finals, a prominent teacher and musician approached the young Italian and attempted to buoy him up. “You should come back for the next competition,” she said. “If you play like a normal pianist, it is absolutely certain that you will win.”

Deljavan says he really didn’t know how to respond to such a remark beyond saying that the way he plays is normal to him. “To do anything else is just not possible.”

To today’s audiences Deljavan — who pronounces his name with the accent on the second syllable, del-JA-van — is certainly unusual, but what he does would have seemed perfectly normal to audiences of a century ago, when the public expected an instrumentalist to exhibit as much individual personality as a singer, to have an unmistakable voice, sound, and approach to music. He does boast a colossal and comprehensive technique, but he also has something to say with it. [continued…]

The 35th season of Laurence Lesser’s First Mondays at Jordan Hall takes as its thematic glue the connections of composers with each other and their friends and inspirers. Every concert includes voice; every concert includes NEC faculty and alums. Each program connects one “standard” piece with others to make some historical or musical point. The three fall concerts are all interrelated. Clara (b. 1819) and Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, Joseph Joachim and Johannes Brahms, hence “Friendship.”

Works of Robert and Clara Schumann open the series on October 7th. Bach and his crucial admirer Felix Mendelssohn supply the vital stuff of the November 4th show. For the December 2nd, Lesser will bring out examples of Brahms’s connections with Johann Strauss II, Schumann, Schoenberg and Joachim. Skipping January, and February, the series continues in March, April, and May with “American Sonorities” and more “Friendship.” The complete program is HERE. Lesser talks to BMInt below:

FLE: Do programmatic concerts really work or is it a marketing gimmick?

LL: After 34 years, I have developed a philosophy that says that there are a lot of very faithful listeners at First Monday concerts who trust me to stretch their listening ears. I imagine I have earned their loyalty by giving them something that they know already or that they feel comfortable with and then building into that things that they never have thought about or that would be interesting to them in terms of the background of what we’re presenting. I have the audience very much in mind, but I also have my vision in mind and to find the right balance between those two things has always been my motivation.

Does it make the compositions that appear on a particular program more satisfying to this audience after they’ve heard your talk about how the pieces are connected? [continued…]

The sometime-Bostonian piano great Alexander Borovsky appeals to me. As one of his “grand-pupils,” I have always taken note of any references to him. My piano teacher JoAnn La Torra had studied with Borovsky and frequently mentioned him and his approaches in our lessons. Borovsky was born in Latvia in 1889 and died in Waban MA in 1968. His generally successful career in the U.S., included the distinction of having made the most appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra of any pianist. One was of the Roussel Piano Concerto, which he had premiered in Paris in 1927. It can now be heard on a CD from Yves St.-Laurent HERE.

Borovsky made some 78s, and a number of LPs for Vox in the early 1950s, all Bach and Liszt. The Bach included the 2 and 3 Part Inventions and all the French and English Suites. His Liszt sets were all the Transcendental Etudes and all 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies (the present program notes get that wrong, stating he did only the first 13) coupled with the Rhapsodie Espagnole. None of these has been reissued on CD except for one Hungarian Rhapsody in a VAI Audio anthology, although some excerpts may be heard on YouTube. An obscure label called Melo Classics issued a CD of a 1953 Paris recital including Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and Liszt. Amazon says it’s out of print but it can be bought through the Melo Classics website. It’s in quite respectable sound and the playing is very attractive.

Now we can hear Borovsky playing the complete Bach Well-Tempered Clavier. He taped the recording in 1958, for some unknown purpose, and it has survived quite well, the mono sound being quite respectable for its vintage. I presume these were studio sessions with the tapes edited at least somewhat, since there are no detectable errors in the playing. [continued…]

In our diverse city, one local opera company is taking innovative steps to reflect on and consciously explore immigration and longing for cultural identity.

Cerise Lim Jacobs’s ambitious production company, White Snake Projects, is producing a brand new NEA-supported opera this weekend at Emerson Paramount Theater. (Tickets HERE).  Three selections from a 10-part song cycle created by ten composers through community engagement and a talkback with the creators will frame the show. As producer and librettist, Singapore-born Jacobs is taking on an unusually topical subject for opera: current immigration policies in America. For I Am a Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams, which premieres on September 20-22, Jacobs teams up with Mexican-born, New York-based composer Jorge Sosa to explore immigration, dislocation, and transformation in America.

Dreamer features a cast mirroring the ethnicities of the characters and bringing their own personal varieties of perspectives on the immigrant experience. The production team is “intentionally diverse” and mostly female, reflecting the ambition of Jacobs and White Snake Projects to integrate original opera with social activism. In the story, Rosa, an undocumented Mexican immigrant and a “dreamer” develops a  relationship with her court-appointed attorney Singa, an ethnically Chinese immigrant from Indonesia, while waiting in jail before being deported. [continued…]

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