Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini with pianist Inon Barnatan and Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition led by BSO Assistant Conductor Anna Rakitina naturally paired in Friday’s matinee. Both Moscow-born, contemporaries Rakitina and composer Elena Langer stepped out in the former’s Suite from Figaro Gets a Divorce. [continued]
Handel and Haydn Society’s Messiah under the spell of guest conductor, Václav Luks, an energetic musical polymath, with well-matched soloists—soprano Amanda Forsythe, contralto Avery Amereau, tenor Ben Bliss and bass-baritone Kevin Deas, proved riveting. Reprises Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. [continued]
The Lord of Cries received its East Coast premiere at Jordan Hall on Saturday night in Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s concert-version co-production with Odyssey Opera. The large orchestra under Gil Rose, gave a vigorous and often incandescent account which matched the work of the excellent vocalists, headlined by counter-tenor superstar Anthony Roth Costanzo. [continued]
Angela Hewitt led the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in a profoundly moving reading of a selection of Bach’s keyboard concertos on Saturday afternoon, in the beautiful, sold-out Shalin Liu Performance Center at Rockport. [continued]
The Handel & Haydn Society brought an exquisitely played and sung, and very well-blocked and costumed Marriage of Figaro to Symphony Hall on Friday. Conductor Raphaël Pichon, singers, and fortepianist melded as if long-time collaborators with the responsive and sonorous H+H orchestra and chorus. [continued]
Castle of Our Skins’ presentation at the Boston Athenæum last Thursday celebrated the library’s extensive renovations and the artistic contributions of American Black composers and poets. [continued]
The Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts’s “Desert River” mixed Yazhi Guo’s suona and guanzi with Chi Wei Lo’s classical-piano improvisation; and Leo Blanco’s jazz piano for an interested turnout Saturday evening at Jordan Hall on Saturday night. Held in esteem in his country, Guo should find such recognition and honor far beyond. [continued]
All eyes and ears turned to the audacious submitting of one man at the Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Calderwood Hall this past Sunday, as Christopher Taylor triumphed in this fourth and final installment (Beethoven’s comedic Eighth and gargantuan Ninth) of his self-proclaimed “crazed odyssey” through all nine of Beethoven’s Symphonies transcribed for solo piano by Liszt. [continued]
The Berlin Philharmonic’s rendition of the Korngold Symphony along with a Mozart violin concerto and an interesting new work conveyed energy and meaning every second. The Symphony Hall concert on behalf of the Celebrity Series of Boston led us to new horizons and deepening insights. [continued]
Coro Allegro, which has carved out its own special niche, collaborated with the Arneis Sring Quartet and pianist Yulia Yun in “Letters to Our Children: Voices across Generations for LGBTQ+ Youth” at Old South Church on November 6th. [continued]
“Love in the Time of…”, Boston Opera Collaborative’s interestingly staged mashup of Schumann’s Dichterliebe and 16 commissioned songs “about love” based on responses to Schumann’s music and Heine’s poetry debuted last night at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center. Continuing Friday and Saturday nights, [continued]
Chorus pro Musica and the Sonic Liberation Players gave of a transcendental rendition of Rothko Chapel under conductor Jamie Kirsch within Boston’s Church of the Covenant last Saturday night. The well-done pieces that preceded it did not quite fit the overall picture. [continued]
Lionel Meunier, Artistic Director of Vox Luminis, led a five instrumental- and nine vocal- contingent through Claudio Monteverdi’s valedictory compilation, “Selva morale e spirituale” (The Moral and Spiritual Forest) with… [continued]
Last weekend’s Chameleon Arts Ensemble concerts at First Church in Boston encompassed the fantastic, the morbid, the anti-social, even the horrific, skillfully mixing well-known repertoire with less familiar and new. [continued]
The BSO marked James Sommerville’s final performances at Symphony Hall as principal horn last night. The Strauss-BSO-Nelsons Alpine Symphony elicited euphoria Thursday night, while a cubistic BSO commission from Caroline Shaw and Mozart’s 40th left milder impressions. [continued]
Boston University’s 26th annual Fringe Festival under the auspices of the BU Opera Institute and the School of Theatre, opened its second week this past Friday with Ned Rorem’s idiosyncratic opera Our Town in a run at the CFA Concert Hall. [continued]
The Whitman sampler that Winsor Music proffered Friday at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center packaged new flavors with old favorites mostly from composers with solid connections to Boston. [continued]
Skylark’s confident, raucous, loud, and at times radiant traversal of Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles last night at Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, led this writer on a journey from a skeptical distancing through hypnotic confusion to free-will acceptance. [continued]
Maurice Clerc offered varied fare and skillfully employed the many resources of the beautiful 1875 E. & G. G. Hook organ at Holy Cross Cathedral last Sunday. [continued]
This week’s BSO concerts with conductor Andris Nelsons offer Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto, the Emperor, with the revered pianist Mitsuko Uchida and Shostakovich’s haunting and energetic 5th Symphony, known for its outward apologia, inner sarcasm, and unique references. [continued]
What blissful, Vienna-centered divertissements Boston Symphony Chamber Players dispensed at Jordan Hall yesterday afternoon, during which time we compared the 16-year-old Mahler with the 19-year-old Schubert, saluted a fleet-of-foot 94-year-old whose work sounded the youngest of all, and imagined a monkey and organ grinder. [continued]
The Handel and Haydn Society has invited acclaimed conductor, cellist, and keyboardist Jonathan Cohen to lead the nation’s oldest performing arts organization into its next chapter of musical excellence. At 44, he becomes the organization’s 15th Artistic Director, and one of its youngest.
Cohen made his debut with the Society in 2020 in a memorable performance of Haydn’s Symphony No. 6, Le Matin and Symphony No. 92, Oxford, along with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1. He returned in 2022 to tackle three jewels of the Baroque era, Vivaldi’s Gloria; CPE Bach’s Magnificat, and J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 1. Cohen kicked off the 2022-23 Season in October to rave reviews with H+H with Glories of Bach, He is set to return December 15th and 18th to conduct H+H’s “A Baroque Christmas” at Jordan Hall.
We had a very interesting talk with him and H+H executive director David Snead:
FLE: After three years of getting rejections from one conductor, after another [laughter], you finally chose Jonathan Cohen as the Music Director Designate.
DS: We had a very thorough and deliberate process. I always said the search will take as long as it needed to and no longer and that’s where we ended up.
The Handel and Haydn Society is set to take on one of anyone’s greatest works with its semi-staged interpretation of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Raphaël Pichon, founder and artistic director of Pygmalion Ensemble, will lead on November 17th and 18th at 7:00 PM at Symphony Hall. World-renowned soprano Ying Fang as Susanna, soprano Jacquelyn Stucker as Countess Almaviva, bass-baritone Cody Quattlebaum as Count Almaviva, and bass Krzysztof Baczyk as Figaro will be joining the H+H Orchestra and Chorus. James Darrah, Grammy nominated producer and Artistic Director of Long Beach Opera, will stage-direct and design the performance. We talked with H+H Executive Director David Snead and Darrah yesterday.
FLE: David, how did this week’s Marriage of Figaro come to be?
DS: Raphaël Pichon likes doing projects. His Pygmalion Ensemble from France doesn’t do seasons, they do events projects. He loves doing things at unusual venues. He did a Brahms Requiem in a submarine base, for instance. The idea of doing Figaro was his and it’s also a new experience for our musicians. Raphael had an incredible cast to recommend, so we just thought it would be a great thing to have to in our season.
He was a discovery for me. I had never heard of Pygmalion Ensemble before you sent the press release. I was very impressed with what I heard. He’s very engaged and emotional about his conducting.
It’s been a very big, exciting project to do in two weeks. It’s not just going to be stand and bark. There’ll be interactions and a lot of blocking. There’s going to be strong acting. The singers will be in costume and off book.
American-born violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley, the Berliner Philharmoniker’s principal concertmaster, will be featured soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto no. 1 when the orchestra appears at Symphony Hall on behalf of the Boston Celebrity Series Boston on November 13th at 8:00 [Tickets]. Joel Cohen, music director emeritus of the Boston Camerata and an occasional contributor to this publication, recently had an online, Boston-to Berlin chat with this gifted performer. A lightly edited transcript of their conversation follows.
J.C: Welcome to Boston, Noah Bendix-Balgley. Are you in fact the first American concert master of the Berliner Philharmoniker?
NBB: Yes, as far as I know. Of course, the orchestra is very international, and there are a number of Americans currently serving. [Note: The Berliner press office identifies five American-born musicians on the roster]
In any case you are a pioneer in that sense. My impression is that English is one of the working languages of the orchestra.
Today is the 100th birthday of a great musician who died in 2000. The renowned Luise Vosgerchian was adored for decades as one of the most dynamic and progressive pianists and teachers ever in the entire Boston area. [continued]
Rachmaninoff filled his three Symphonic Dances, op. 45, (1940) with modern-Romantic harmony, including echoes of Tchaikovsky’s Russia and a spicy original tinge not like anyone else’s, not like Rimsky-Korsakov or Scriabin (second prize in composition at the Moscow Conservatory when Rachmaninoff got the first), and very unlike the surging swells of the ever-popular Second Concerto, composed four decades earlier. The first dance demonstrates the bittersweet energy as well as any. It begins in C minor, first tentatively and then confidently as a march, builds to a climax, subsides to a calm and completely different section in C-sharp minor, and eventually returns to a varied da capo of the march, followed by a short Coda-apotheosis in bell-like C major. At this point a new theme appears, a broadly expressive melody that has always struck me with an ineffable sadness, because it is stated only once, never to be heard again, and dies away into gradual pianissimo silence. Years later I learned from several different sources that Rachmaninoff retrieved this lovely melody from the wreckage of his First Symphony, which had suffered a catastrophic premiere performance in 1897, and which the stunned composer then shelved after the critics savaged it. Rachmaninoff subsequently remembered his first symphony as a failed effort, “childish, strained, and bombastic.”
The entire planet bore horrified witness as Parisians knelt and wept silently, or sang hymns. In real time, we saw the cathedral spire crumble in flames, we all feared that the mighty building, with its two towers rising to heaven, a structure medieval but also romantic and somehow eternal, might be lost forever.
“The Miracles of Notre Dame” tells the story of the miraculous survival of the church by celebrating history vocal music sung within its walls as well as miracle tales, student songs, and minstrel turns performed in Notre Dame’s shadow, on either bank of the steadily flowing Seine. Boston Camerata collaborates with the Harvard Choral Fellows directed by Edward Elwyn Jones, and Longy School of Music of Bard College at Harvard’s Memorial Church on November 6th at 4:00. Thomas F. Kelly, and Caroline Bruzelius will lecture in the Pusey Room at Memorial Church at 2:30. Tickets HERE.But not eyes alone; if the architectural exploits of the cathedral were widely admired and emulated, the structures of musical sound as practiced withing the cathedral walls helped change forever the compositional and performance practices of Western Europe. They remain, as well, a source of inspiration today.
Arriving from the presses in August came just the second major publication on this eminent American composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher, in an account from his daughter Lisa. On first glance flipping through the 375 pages, readers will seize on how editor Lisa has carefully radiused the edges and corners of the professional life of her father in this handsome tribute.
No newcomer to what it takes to pull together such a volume, Lisa Kirchner begins her preface, “This anthology of writings by and about my father, Leon Kirchner, includes letters, analyses, interviews, and essays, interleaved with photographs, manuscripts, and art. While compiling the pre-existing materials, I wrote to many of my father’s colleagues expressing my hope that each might contribute an essay illuminating those elements of his aesthetic vision and credo that resonated in their encounters with him. My confidence was rewarded by their generosity and some 40 newly minted writings were rendered for inclusion in “Leon Kirchner and His Verdant World.”
The next installment in the Parker Quartet’s season includes the Blodgett Composition Prize performance of one of Harvard University’s graduate students Jonah Haven’s Laugh Radish at Paine Hall on November 6th at 3:00, along with Bartok’s Fifth Quartet and Korngold’s String Sextet (with cellist Raman Ramakrishnan and violist Marcus Thompson). The group’s violinist Daniel Chong has ‘… fallen absolutely in love with it. It’s just so expressive, charming, and vivid. It’s romanticism to a degree that only Korngold can really do.” The Parker Quartet, the first full-time Blodgett Quartet-in-Residence at Harvard University since the residency’s inception in 1985, recently added a distinction: status as the first to join the University’s senior faculty as Professors of the Practice. This means that in addition to presenting a four-concert series every season, teaching Chamber Music Performance, working with the composition faculty and students, and collaborating with other faculty throughout the university, the foursome will have the security to undertake longer-term projects that interest them.
This isn’t going to be tenure track, but there’s expectation that it’s for a goodly period. It’s the closest thing to tenure track that it can be seeing as though tenure track positions for string quartets do not exist. My understanding is that there’s no other quartet position in any university or conservatory quite like this.
But Harvard wants you to continue touring and wants you to continue to have a career and be in the spotlight. Performing is the equivalent of publishing for a more academic professor?
DC: Absolutely. What makes our position so unique is that there’s so much flexibility and the department is extremely supportive of our touring activities. The expectation is that we are out there continuing to be at the forefront of our field.
Jonathan Biss’s quiet, lovely encore at last Wednesday’s Boston Phil event, a true Moment musical, was no. 1 of Beethoven’s Six Bagatelles, op. 126. “Chips of marble from the workshop,” Hutcheson calls the three sets of bagatelles, and sometimes they are even substantial chunks. But many of these make ideal encore pieces. I even wondered, casually, if an encore could be fashioned out of no. 10 of Beethoven’s 11 New Bagatelles, op. 119? This must be one of the shortest actual compositions by anybody that actually ends in a double bar: eight bars repeated, with a four-bar coda. It’s marked Allegramente and lasts approximately 16 seconds — I timed it. Nothing even by Anton Webern is that succinct. I’m not saying that anyone should try to play this as an actual encore, but no doubt at some point someone will. (Perhaps adding Cage’s 4’33” in the process.) No. 11 of the Opus 119 set is a few bars longer, still less than a page, but it must be memorable; Max Reger made an enormous orchestral piece out of it, his Variations and Fugue, op. 86.
Yesterday’s Boston Globe took note of a heart-warming donation of $100 million to the Boston University Medical School, which will be renamed the Aram V. Chobanian and Edward Avedisian School of Medicine. A photograph identified the donor, Edward Avedisian, “a retired clarinetist and philanthropist,” and it impressed me that the paper mentioned “clarinetist” first. “All right, so I made a few dollars,” he said, and I am sure he made the money in other enterprises than music, but “clarinet” stuck with me because I remembered Ed Avedisian from when we were students at Tanglewood in summer 1959. I didn’t know him well; I was a 19-year-old sophomore, but he had already graduated from BU, was an official in the musicians’ union, and would play from time to time with the Boston Pops. Chobanian, his close friend ever since they were children growing up in Rhode Island, later became Dean at the med school.