Redressing a 20-year absence, the Cavani String Quartet ended the Maverick Concerts season on Sunday with stimulating and idiomatic playing of Beethoven, Daron Hagen, and Dvořák.    [continued]

Pianist Stewart Goodyear, a rising composer and keyboard superman, shared Beethoven’s star designation Thursday with James Ehnes, a cognoscenti’s sovereign of the violin, in the Kreutzer and Spring sonatas at Shalin Liu.    [continued]

The Boston Landmarks Orchestra finished its 2021 summer series on the Esplanade Friday with an all-American program in which Music Director Christopher Wilkins mixed familiar and beloved pieces with nearly forgotten works by 19th- and 20th-century composers and one world premiere.    [continued]

The 22-year-old Van Cliburn Bronze Medalist Daniel Hsu revealed a poetic soul and great technical chops at the Gardner Sunday. His concert for the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts comprised Schumann’s Kinderszenen, Beethoven’s op. 110, and the Liszt Sonata.    [continued]

For its welcome return engagement to the Maverick on Sunday, the Catalyst Quartet contrasted a modern first half with a 19th-century second half in partnership with pianist Daniel Gortler— all with appropriate style.    [continued]

The Berkshire Opera Festival’s thoroughly enjoyable run of Verdi’s Falstaff continues Tuesday August 24th and Friday August 27th at 7:30pm in the Mahaiwe Theater in Great Barrington. I was in comic opera heaven—and the audience, judging from its chuckles and outright laughter, joined me there.    [continued]

Friday’s Pops Movie Night at Tanglewood under John Williams and Keith Lockhart mixed familiar music with imagery from much-loved films as well as bringing out some worthy discoveries. Romance, the dark side, and adventure were musiced with appropriate gusto as the images swept us away.    [continued]

After an improvisatory first half medley of connected short pieces, the dreadlocked pianist Awadagin Pratt delivered a most gratifying account of the Liszt Sonata to a grateful Maverick on Sunday.    [continued]

How does the oldest summer singer training program in the country respond to a pandemic? When you’re the Seagle Festival — a 106-year-old program in scenic Schoon Lake, New York — the answer is “very cautiously” in terms of safety, and “very audaciously” in terms of programming. And so it is that, last night, the Seagle Festival opened a sold-out world premiere — and live — performance of Harmony, an opera about the groundbreaking American composer Charles Ives. Read former BMInt writer Basil Considine’s Twin Cities Arts Reader account HERE.    [continued]

A Hawaiian’s ukulele rendering of the Japanese folk song Sakura stood out as the lone highlight of Silkroad’s Global Musician Workshop Online Performance Festival streaming Friday night and beyond from the New England Conservatory of Music.    [continued]

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New England Conservatory announced today that pianists Jonathan Biss and Marc-André Hamelin are joining the piano faculty for one-year appointments at the start of the 2021 academic year. Both are renowned for their world-class musicianship, and bring a deep knowledge of piano technique and repertoire to the students at NEC through masterclasses, lessons, and workshops. BMInt is very pleased to share the story about these significant hires. The NEC piano department and students will benefit greatly.

“Jonathan and Marc-André are two of the towering pianists of our time, each of whom exemplifies the cross-section of extraordinary technical skill and probing, insightful artistry,” says Benjamin Sosland, Provost and Dean of Faculty, New England Conservatory of Music. “It is an exceptional honor to welcome them to our community, where they will inspire our students and build on NEC’s legacy of pianistic excellence.”

Jonathan Biss, the Mildred Levinson Piano Artist-in-Residence, is a world-renowned pianist who channels his deep musical curiosity into performances and projects in the concert hall and beyond. In addition to performing with today’s leading orchestras, he continues to expand his reputation as a teacher, musical thinker, and one of the great Beethoven interpreters of our time. Mr. Biss was recently named Co-Artistic Director alongside Mitsuko Uchida at the Marlboro Music Festival, where he has spent thirteen summers. He also leads a massive open online course (MOOC) via Coursera, which has reached more than 150,000 people from nearly every country in the world. He has written extensively about the music he plays, and has authored three e-books, including Beethoven’s Shadow, the first Kindle Single written by a classical musician, published by Rosetta Books in 2011. [continued…]

Marcus Thompson (file photo)

After artfully telling its subscribers to hold certain dates, and that locations would be revealed later, Boston Chamber Music Society finally identified Jordan Hall as the location for the first three shows of its new season, in which they will be offering favorite works by Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mozart, as well as world premieres of BCMS commissions: Lowell Liebermann’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Michi Wiancko’s Piano Quintet, and Joan Tower’s Viola Quintet “Purple Rain.” BCMS will also celebrate British composers and observe the anniversaries of Schubert (225th birthday) and Saint-Saëns (100th year of his death). Learn more HERE.

FLE: While concertgoing seems to be reaching tentatively for normalcy, BCMS will still not be making music as usual.

Marcus Thompson: Well, first of all, it’s really good to see you across the table, especially after more than a year in lock down. You will recall that, like so many others, we invented an online format for engaging our patrons and artists even when some who had planned to be in Boston were prevented from traveling. We started last fall with videos recorded in Fraser Studios and elsewhere, supplemented with archival live recordings to fill the time of a normal, 1.5 hour+ span. That made for a lot of content and proved tricky to navigate for everyone, so earlier this year we went for the one hour, video-only format with performances and short introductions recorded in advance. [continued…]

Perhaps because I moved away from the Boston area some 50 years ago, I had never heard of Scott Wheeler, the much-performed composer of operas and instrumental works who has long taught music theater and song composition at Emerson College. I looked around, though, and found much praise for—among other recordings—a dramatic cantata The Construction of Boston, a collection of orchestral works (Heavy Weather), and William Sharp singing some of his songs.

The present release offers the first of three mythology-drenched operas from three different composers collectively known as The Ouroboros Trilogy. The ouroboros is a mythological symbol in many cultures: a snake biting its own tail, thus representing such things as the circularity of life and history. Singapore-born Cerise Lim Jacobs wrote all three librettos. The second and third operas in the trilogy are Gilgamesh, with music by Paula Prestini, and Madame White Snake, whose composer Zhou Long won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Music for it. [continued…]

Friedrich Schiller

Would we still read Schiller’s “An die Freude” if Beethoven had not set it in the finale of his ninth symphony?

Friedrich von Schiller (1759 – 1805) was a German intellectual, remembered as a playwright, a philosopher, and a poet. Interested in theology, he was ordered to study at a military academy; he studied law, then medicine; later he professed history. Throughout it all, he wrote. His writings were not without controversy; he crossed his pen against a duke’s sword and incurred his own father’s wrath. He wrote seemingly to exorcise personal demons. Linked to the German literary movement Sturm und Drang (literally, “storm and desire” although often rendered “storm and stress”), he valued nature, the individual, and strong emotion. This early Romantic trend in literature and thought stood in opposition to classicism and the Enlightenment. The movement is exemplified in Goethe’s epistolary novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers), first published in 1774. That novel is said to have sparked a rash of young men committing suicide across the European continent. Literature asked that you feel; society preferred one not feel quite so much. [continued…]

Marin Alsop to lead Beethoven’s Ninth

The Handel and Haydn Society will bring live performances back in its new season, which in part recognizes the conclusion of Artistic Director Harry Christophers’s 13-year run. The 207th season will feature eight signature programs at Symphony Hall and H+H’s first ever performance at Carnegie Hall.

But before all that begins, and in order to do something right away to meet the pent-up demand of people bound and determined to get out and experience live concerts while they can, the H + H will be offering a free Esplanade performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on August 27th under Marin Alsop. Interestingly, Schiller’s ode “To Joy” will get a break. “Oh friends, not these tones” will take on an added meaning in new texts from the past US Poet Laureate.

BMInt invited  H+H President and CEO David Snead to engage in a discussion.

FLE: Tell us about the “joy” that the concert as a whole, and the last movement in particular, celebrate.

DS: Absolutely. We’re celebrating the joy of getting back to live performance in Boston.

Tracy K. Smith’s new poetry for the last movement, which receives its U.S. premiere, will be replacing Schiller’s celebration of joy and brotherhood in his ode “An die Freude.” Smith interestingly gives sisters equal time; “Joy, bright God-spark born of Ever Daughter of fresh paradise.” Read the complete text HERE

Her poem meditates on the meaning of joy at this at this moment. She wrote it pre-pandemic, I believe, thus it was not specifically about that, but it’s about joy of life from many different dimensions. [continued…]

After watching Christopher Robinson signing during last Thursday’s Boston Landmarks Orchestra concert, we wanted to know more about his work. He was very nice about explaining to this no-nothing a little something about the importance of his role.

I saw you form a triangle with your hands. Are you narrating what instrument is getting the solo?

Whenever possible I physically make a reference to instruments or visual attempts of note equivalence with some other tangible instrument that I convey with my hands.  What I am able to do in American Sign Language that a spoken language does differently is conveying tonal inflection, perhaps vibrato and a sense of tactile texture and temperature of the composition of the piece that is being performed — it is subjective, yet heavily informed by dramaturgical materials provided to me by Landmarks staff, and of course essential conversations with Christopher Wilkins at rehearsals. Every Interpreter is well rehearsed, given all scores, and we are given access to all orchestral rehearsals whether in-person and through remote means. In this show I especially relied on Christopher’s expansion on how and why the evening’s selections were curated inform how and when I ‘amplify’ certain pieces. I asked Christopher Wilkins on the evening of the rehearsal, ‘how aware were the [Gershwin and James P Johnson] pieces of one another?’ The conversation that came from that question became a visual template for me to express in ASL the context and musical conversation that is happening within the music, and interaction that the pieces suggest as they have been curated together in the evening — as a full course meal as it were. [continued…]

Leon Botstein’s recording of Ernest Chausson’s only opera, Le Roi Arthus, (Telarc CD-80645), my first exposure to the work, introduced me to heavy echoes of Lohengrin and Tristan, but through a Gallic glass darkly, and with a prominent leitmotiv seemingly borrowed from Liszt’s Les préludes. It’s difficult to study this piece without seeing a score, or seeing it staged for that matter, but some characteristics of Chausson’s style become immediately apparent; an obvious Liszt-Wagner influence on the chromatic harmony; diatonic melody shaped by folksong and chant; sensitive orchestration often with organlike wind sonority. In all these Chausson appears as a true follower of César Franck, no mere epigone, but a genuine original, and one of the founders of the modern symphonic school in French music. (Vincent d’Indy, another passionate and prolific disciple of Franck, was another of the founders, but Chausson’s was the greater talent.) It was a substantial school whose offerings seldom made the grade in America, where Sibelius and Mahler eclipsed them. But the French symphonists were one of the springboards for the Impressionists that followed them; and Chausson was one of those who launched Debussy, the greatest non-symphonist of all. If you listen to the end of Act III of Debussy’s unfinished Rodrigue et Chimène (it’s recorded), you might think that Chausson could have composed it as an afterthought to Le Roi Arthus. [continued…]

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