In the spiffed up, though decidedly unmysterious and subway-plagued Cathedral Church of St. Paul on Tremont Street, the Henry Purcell Society of Boston produced a winning and lively sonic pastiche on The Tempest.    [continued]

The enterprising Neave Trio (Anna Wiliams, violin; Mikhail Veselov, cello; Eri Nakamura, piano) brought music by four female composers from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries to the Pickman Hall on March 15th.    [continued]

Befitting the Ides of March, Massachusetts Peace Action’s all-Bach offering at Harvard-Epworth Methodist Church in Cambridge featured harpsichordist Kay Ueyama along with baroque violinist Dana Maiben and soprano Junko Watanabe.    [continued]

Celebrity Series and the Boston Symphony Chamber Players jointly offered BSO regular Kirill Gerstein and BSO Artistic Partner Thomas Adès in a two-piano concert at Jordan Hall on Friday night, including some of the most familiar 20th-century repertory in unfamiliar guises.    [continued]

Renée Fleming has had a busy week here in Boston. Besides rehearsing and appearing with the Boston Symphony in an all-Strauss extravaganza, she gave a talk at MIT talk on music and neurobiology and a masterclass at Jordan Hall.    [continued]

Boston Lyric Opera production of the Britten/Duncan Rape of Lucretia. The tale is eviscerating, the art harrowing, Britten’s music fascinating and this production amazing. It is well worth braving the uncomfortable seats to see this production. Last performances Saturday and Sunday.    [continued]

Boston Lyric Opera’s new production of Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia premiered this past Monday at Artists for Humanity EpiCenter, an unusual space for a rarely seen 20th-century opera. The Tyrant is overthrown because of a sexual transgression. This rings true today as for the bards of ancient Rome.    [continued]

A nine-strong contingent from the Renaissance vocal ensemble drew a full crowd to First Church in Cambridge Saturday for the group’s ninth installment of its Ockeghem@600 concert series.    [continued]

At Longy last Tuesday, Sergio Pallottelli delivered compelling wood flute takes on Beethoven and Brahms violin and piano sonatas as well as a pleasing CPE Bach Sonata for Flute and Keyboard (repurposed for harp), and a charming morceaux by Gaubert.    [continued]

Handel’s Jephtha, in Boston Baroque’s show in Jordan Hall Friday, night left me craving catharsis. In the title role, tenor Nicholas Phan exhibited his customary careful musicianship, with the round refinement of a bowler hat, and plosive Ts crisp enough to hang it on.    [continued]

Thomas Adès took to the podium at Symphony Hall to conduct the world premiere of his own BSO-commissioned piano concerto, in which Kirill Gerstein’s partnership figured significantly in the development. Works of Liszt and Tchaikovsky filled out the evening.    [continued]

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Detail of Dido (Nathaniel Dace-Holland)

Handel and Haydn artistic director Harry Christophers will bring Henry Purcell’s deeply moving Dido and Aeneas to Jordan Hall on Friday March 29th at 7:30pm and Sunday March 31st at 3pm, and to the Metropolitan Museum of New York’s Temple of Dendur on Saturday March 30th.

Thanks a $45,000 NEA grant, H+H could expand this concert beyond its typical production values, allowing them to bring in Aidan Lang as director of the staging enhancements, to secure a cast of unsurpassed talent, and to bring the event to the Metropolitan Museum. “We are deeply appreciative of the turbocharge that the NEA grant gave to our production,” said H+H president and CEO David Snead.

Purcell’s only true opera and one of the earliest-known English ones, Dido and Aeneas recounts the love of the Queen of Carthage for the Trojan hero and her despair when he abandons her. Lang, who currently is general director of the Seattle Opera and future leader of the Welsh National Opera, will direct “concert staging.” Lang and Christophers have worked together over many years, with Christophers particularly recalling “an amazing Monteverdi Ulisse in the Teatro San Carlos in Lisbon, Handel’s Hercules in Buxton and numerous ‘enhanced concert experiences’ of Handel oratorio for the Covent Garden Festival in London.”

Award-winning mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley and acclaimed baritone David McFerrin will take the title roles. Gramophone Award-winning bass-baritone Matthew Brook will appear as the Sorceress/Sailor, countertenor Reginald Mobley as the Spirit, soprano Sarah Yanovitch as Belinda, soprano Sonja DuToit Tengblad as the Second Woman, soprano Margot Rood as the First Witch, and soprano Sarah Brailey as the Second Witch. [continued…]

In 1942, 18-year-old Bruno Gawlick of East Prussia marched off in the Wehrmacht’s attack on Stalingrad, the largest and bloodiest battle in history. He was never heard from again except in a pair of posthumous letters.

Now his nephew Ralf, a 49-year-old composer who teaches at Boston College and has his DMA from NEC, has written a 52-minute tribute to his “never known but never forgotten” young uncle. Conceived from the last two letters the young soldier wrote, the electroacoustic composition is titled Herzliche Grüße Bruno ~ Briefe aus Stalingrad (Best regards, Bruno ~ Letters from Stalingrad). Scored for baritone, two pianos, and archival sound montage, it will première March 30th in the First Baptist Church in Newton.

Listeners will move through time and space via a soundscape that integrates archival recordings with live spoken word, two piano parts, and the prophecy of sung voice. The work combines profound reflection with an unusual intimacy as a fiercely anti-war memorial. The composition and its première have been sponsored through an initiative between the US and Germany called Wunderbar Together.

We wanted to hear more. [continued…]

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel

Following the birth of her first child, Sebastien Felix, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel determined to revive her Sunday concert series. In his recent biography of Fanny, The Other Mendelssohn, R. Larry Todd describes how in 1831, brother Felix wrote enthusiastically to her: “Pray, give your traveling brother a commission to write something new for you.…” He’d just sent her his new setting of Psalm 115 and was keen to have her perform other of his works at her salons. Fanny herself had composed Lieder and piano pieces for the events, but after recovering from the difficult childbirth, she had an explosion of creativity that produced four large works for chorus, soloists, and orchestra including trombones.

Cappella Clausura will present “Fanny’s Cantatas” on March 30th at Emmanuel Church in Boston and March 31st at Eliot Church in Newton; ticket information here. [continued…]

Composer Nan Schwartz

Cambridge Symphony Orchestra’s concert Sunday, March 17th at Kresge at 4:00, steps away from the traditional to speak to challenges such as gender equality and an unnerving and sharp rise in hate crimes. In addition to Sibeliuss Symphony No. 5; and Joseph Schwantner’s New Morning for the World Daybreak of Freedom.” The event will also see the first live concert performance of Nan Schwartz’s trumpet tone poem Angels Among Us with noted jazz and classical trumpeter Joseph Foley as soloist.

Schwartz’s music has great line, beautiful colors, and a wonderfully elegant merging of styles. When I heard Angels Among Us I knew right away I had found a wonderful fit for the CSO and am very honored that she has entrusted us with the first public performance of it.

Narrating is a tricky thing; I knew that we needed someone who could live and feel the words of Dr. King, not just simply read them in New Morning for the World. Rev. Dr. Ray Hammond, like Dr. King, has a deep and ongoing commitment to serve, not just his church, but the broader community as well.

When one performs new works or works by living composers, it’s on your shoulders to capture its essence and communicate to listeners why this music has such great value. Without new music and innovation no art form can thrive and evolve. [continued…]

Anne Azéma

Boston-area musicians are coming together to support the plight of refugees in greater Boston and at the United States border with Mexico. “Help the Children” will use music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, choral song, as well as traditional music of South America and the Middle East, and American spirituals to make its multicultural case. Sponsors Camerata Mediterranea and the Memorial Church of Harvard University, and performers The Boston Camerata, Blue Heron, the Choral Fellows of Harvard University, Dünya, cast members of Black Nativity and others hope that their efforts will inspire donations to be administered by the Memorial Church and distributed among the Cambridge Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).

Joel Cohen, director of Camerata Mediterranea and director emeritus of the Boston Camerata will be hosting. Camila Parais, Anne Azéma, and Mehmet Sanlikol, and instrumentalists Fabian Gallon (tiple) and Eduardo Bettencourt (harp) will solo in a segment dedicated to Spanish, Latino and Hispanic music. A tremendous assortment of music will be forthcoming from the decidedly various performers, and the compositional times span stretches from the 12th century to last week.

According to Cohen, “We will be playing our hearts out for these kids and their parents, and we will also be requesting donations from members of the audience.”

Camerata Mediterranea and the Memorial Church of Harvard University present “Help the Children” at Memorial Church, Harvard University, 3pm on Saturday, March 9th. Click HERE or HERE for more information. [continued…]

Bach is the greatest, even in China

Every year since 2009, the First Lutheran Church of Boston has presented the Boston Bach Birthday, a day-long celebration of the Johann Sebastian Bach and his music. On Saturday March 23rd, beginning at 8am and continuing through the end of the 5pm Vespers, we recognize his 334th with solo and chamber performances by organists, instrumentalists, and one singer. Apart from the German lunch and balcony seating ($15 and $20 respectively at the door), admission is free (though donations are gratefully accepted). While some listeners stay for the whole day, and others attend one or two events, all invariably experience musical and spiritual satisfaction.

This year’s slate features First Lutheran’s world-class Baroque organ, built by Richards, Fowkes & Co. in 2000. The only organ in the Boston area built uncompromisingly in the North German Baroque style, it renders the music of Bach and Baroque composers with the sounds they themselves heard. Organists and organ aficionados come to Boston from all corners of the globe to experience what is known colloquially as “Boston’s Bach Organ,” and last year it was the centerpiece of the Boston Bach International Organ Competition (BBIOC). This year four programs will feature the organ: Lorraine Mihaliak (8am), Robert August (11am), Bálint Karosi (1:15pm, along with soprano Audrey Fernandez-Fraser) and Dutch organist Adriaan Hoek (3:15pm), who won the inaugural BBIOC this past year. [continued…]

Karl Dan Sorensen died a little over a year ago, and obviously it has taken a while to produce a proper obituary. Bostonians who go back decades as choral and voice aficionados will recall him as a shining gold standard for local tenors, particularly in Bach.

Dan, as he was called by old acquaintances, was born in northern Illinois into a community of Danish immigrants. After a short stint in the navy at 18, Dan pursued music as a possible vocation, studying at the Chicago Conservatory and in Copenhagen with Aksel Schiøtz and Alice von duLong. But the prospect of life as a fulltime performer seemed too self-centered to him. He was drawn more to helping others, and came to Boston University to study psychology, eventually earning a degree in clinical counseling. He had particular interest in the problems of children and teens, leading him to do some music-related work at the Hampshire Country School in Rindge NH in the mid-’50s.

Dan’s pre-Cantata Singers Boston musical life seems to have been centered at King’s Chapel, in composer and conductor Daniel Pinkham’s circle. He recalled a striking story from that time: The venerable Swiss tenor Hugues Cuénod had been engaged to sing a work, but as the scheduled performance date approached the tenor alerted Pinkham that he was ill and might be unable to sing. Pinkham recruited Dan to cover the piece. By the appointed date, Cuénod had recovered. Pinkham presumed Cuénod would do the performance, but Cuénod said of Dan, “He learned it. He should sing it.” [continued…]

W. E. B. DuBois

Through all the sorrow of the Sorrow Songs there breathes a hope—a faith in the ultimate justice of things. The minor cadences of despair change often to triumph and calm confidence. Sometimes it is faith in life, sometimes a faith in death, sometimes assurance of boundless justice in some fair world beyond. But whichever it is, the meaning is always clear: that sometime, somewhere, men will judge men by their souls and not by their skins. Is such a hope justified? Do the Sorrow Songs sing true?   — W.E.B. DuBois

The Harvard Glee Club will celebrate the legacy of  W.E.B. Du Bois in a free concert on Saturday March 2nd at Harvard Memorial Church at 8pm with organ improvisations, overtures, arias, recitatives and a culminating chorus with audience participation to “make the circle wider.”

In Harvard, but not of it

Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of the American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, author, writer, editor, and Harvard alumnus (AB 1890) W.E.B. Du Bois. After completing an undergraduate degree from Fisk College in 1888, DuBois matriculated at Harvard, where he would become the first black recipient of a PhD. Although Du Bois was extremely successful in the academic realm and enjoyed close relationships with several teachers, he felt alienated among his peers, saying that he was “in Harvard, but not of it.” Elaborating on this aspect of his experiences over 70 years later, DuBois wrote the following:

“I sought no friendships among my white fellow students, nor even acquaintanceships. Of course I wanted friends, but I could not seek them… Only one organization did I try to enter, and I ought to have known better than to make this attempt. But I did have a good singing voice and loved music, so I entered the competition for the Glee Club. I ought to have known that Harvard could not afford to have a Negro on its Glee Club traveling about the country. Quite naturally I was rejected.” [continued…]

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