…when live music returns to Boston and virus is no more. Though our stages remain dark, we are retaining listings of cancelled concerts as a memorial to Boston’s cultural life. The BSO today announced the cancellation of the spring Pops season and the shaky status of Tanglewood. We will place news and featured local livestreams below the break.    [continued]

Boston Lyric Opera’s recent Norma dress rehearsal recording, sent to us wirelessly by WCRB, came up to high sonic standards, though it lacked the excitement produced by the interaction of singers and players with a live audience. The stream will be available for a month on WCRB and on the BLO website.    [continued]

Turangalîla may not be the most important piece of music composed anywhere since Le sacre du printemps, as Koussevitzky supposedly said, but it remains breathtakingly pretentious in a way that is fully refreshing even though exhausting. And, we may note that it first took life with our own orchestra.    [continued]

With piccolo’s piercing trills, trumpet’s penetrating drills, timpani’s thundering fills, orchestra’s tutti tuning, and patrons’ neglect of the intimate and considerate whisper, concert halls reach a colossal crescendo even before the downbeat.    [continued]

To a largely empty Symphony Hall (family and friends of the orchestra were admitted) the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra under Benjamin Zander took on the ambitious program of Stravinsky’s Petrushka and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique for live-streaming apparatus; it worked some of the time.    [continued]

Larry Thomas Bell, a longtime presence in Boston now teaching at Berklee and, quite pertinently, one of this area’s most prominent neo-tonal composers, premiered his 24 Preludes and Fugues in all the key at Jordan Hall on Sunday. A tag team of four gifted pianists did the 12 numbers.    [continued]

Last night the BSO played some scintillating music from more arctic climes. With Hannu Lintu conducting and Seong-Jin Cho as solo pianist, Symphony Hall resounded to the music of Þorvaldsdóttir, Prokofiev, and Sibelius. The concert repeats today and tomorrow.    [continued]

Bobby McFerrin, the vocalist responsible for the 1988 hit tune Don’t Worry Be Happy, appeared Sunday at Symphony Hall alongside multi-instrumentalist Louise Cato, bass vocalist Joey Blake, human percussionist David Worm, The Singing Tribe, and special guest Meredith Monk.    [continued]

The distinguished, award-winning, many-ventured Pittsburgh-born pianist and professor is not old in years, but on Tuesday at Seully Hall he gave a lesson in keyboard performance of a sort seldom heard in concerts anymore.    [continued]

Dang Thai Son returned to Jordan Hall Saturday night for his 6th performance in Boston sponsored by the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts. His salon-style concert of Debussy, Chopin, and Schubert invited us to dance.    [continued]

Masterworks Chorale programmed works from composers who, to some extent, musically begat one another, concluding with Ernest Bloch’s remarkably moving Avodath Hakodesh, at Old South Church in Boston on Sunday. Organist Ross Wood and baritone Ian Pomerantz highlighted the proceedings    [continued]

Last week’s BU Opera Institute run of the ever-popular Stravinsky-Auden-Kallman The Rake’s Progress (1951) at the new Booth Theater provided an advanced workshop show satisfying to discerning patrons and giving performers’ parents the enjoyment of seeing their tuition dollars well spent.    [continued]

In a program of chestnuts, the Vienna Piano Trios showed that it is possible to defy expectations, with brilliance, originality, and nary a gimmick.    [continued]

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Mark Devoto ca. 1980

The composers of the earliest written music, like chant and medieval polyphony, identified their works by the incipit of a text. Thus Pérotin’s 20-minute-long Sederunt principes, even in a 12th-century manuscript, didn’t have a title page or a heading at the top of the first page of score: “Sederunt principes, organum in 4 parts,” but would be known by the text of its cantus firmus, even though the successive syllables of the tenor might be several pages apart.

Two centuries or so later, Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1383) left chansons to posterity—his music with his own verses. We know these songs by the first line of text. He also left a complete Ordinary of the Mass, with an actual title: Messe de Nostre Dame. Within another century, dozens of Mass compositions would become well known in church use, and these would be identified by title and usually by composer as well: Josquin des Prez left a Missa Pange lingua (based on a chant, a Good Friday hymn), a Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae (on a “hidden subject”), and of course a Missa l’Homme armé (on a popular song), as did a dozen or more other composers.

During the High Renaissance (16th century) titles begin to emerge that indicated specific formal types independent of texts; these tell the prospective listener at least something of what to expect. The title Diferencias sobre Guardame las vacas refers to the popular song that is the theme, but otherwise indicates diferencias as a formal type, one variation followed by another. The chaconne, and later the passacaglia, arose as a continuous-variation form. In this period, dance forms generate musical titles, and these multiply in the Baroque era: sarabande, passepied, galliard, allemande, gigue, bourrée, all imply stylized group dances, and these usually have identifiable musical properties, such as specific meters (sarabande in slow triple meter, gigue in fast 6/8, etc.). From the middle 16th century, some titles suggest more style than form: prelude (praeludium), fantasia, toccata, etc., imply non-sectional extended pieces with a mixture of styles, and this tendency continued through Bach and Mozart into the 19th century and even beyond; a fantasia might be paired with a contrasting fugue, identifiable as to form but more uniform in style. In opera, another product of the 16th century, a title could mean a principal character or characters, or a main subject, but essentially functioned just like the title of an Elizabethan play, a name on a rural mailbox, or a coat of arms over the door of a shop. That’s also true of big titles like The Well-tempered Clavier, like the gold lettering on the binding of a multi-volume set, even though by itself it tells you almost nothing of what’s inside. [continued…]

Machaut pens extended appeal.

Back in medieval France, the great poet-musician Guillaume de Machaut wrote his greatest novel (about his affair, with a young poetess) and composed some of his most hauntingly beautiful songs during the plague years. Inspired by his example, Anne Azéma, the Camerata staff, and its board, have decided to continue planning and creating music and musical projects, undaunted in will and energy by the current health crisis. The great Machaut exhibited similar fortitude during the Black Death. We want to be like him.

On the other hand, Guillaume de Machaut never had to deal with the American banking system.

Yesterday, Friday April 3, our Boston Camerata business manager, Peter Smith, filed the online application for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the newly authorized, emergency small business provider. That was, supposedly, the first day the funds were made available, and we wanted to be as rapid as possible in our request. The online form went to Bank of America, Camerata’s bank. This is the answer Peter, and we, received:

“Based on our records, your account doesn’t qualify to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan through Bank of America. To apply for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan through Bank of America, you must have an existing Small Business relationship with the following: Small business checking account open no later than 02/15/2020, Small business lending relationship, inclusive of credit card, open no later than 02/15/2020, Online banking username and password.”

Condition number two was the killer. We are required by this bank, in an unannounced twist, to have a “Small business lending relationship, inclusive of credit card.” Whoa, Nelly! There is no such requirement in the recent law passed by Congress. This tells us, very clearly, that BOA is in violation of the intent of the law, and perhaps of the letter of the law as well. (And, by the way, Camerata has no record of debt with our bank because we have a conservative and cautious board that runs an admirably tight ship. So we are being punished for our good management!) [continued…]

As location is to real estate, so provenance is to objects. Think Einstein’s violin, “no Stradivarius” according to Strings Magazine, which sold at auction in 2018 for $516,500. But what if you combine location and provenance, applied to, say, certain brick mansions lining Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay. Their appearance may be strangely unprepossessing, even reticent in an Old Boston kind of way, yet their value is incalculable.

On a recent unseasonably warm day I found myself going for a stroll scoping out a few specific residences, suggested by David Feltner, a resident of Comm Ave., who very much enhances the musical life of Boston, first as a violist performing with Boston’s elite groups, such as the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, Emmanuel Music, the Boston Lyric Opera and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and also as a composer and the conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of Boston, an organization he founded. I had told him about a virtually unheard of piano teacher, Madame Margaret Chaloff (more about her later) who had lived and taught for many years at 249 Comm Ave, and he mentioned to me homes marked by historic plaques that had been the residences of BSO founder Major Henry Lee Higginson and the composer/pianist Amy Beach. Quite a tone-y neighborhood, I thought.

A short while later and quite by chance, I located a remarkable website, BackBayHouses.org, established and carefully tended by Tom High and his wife. They describe all the layers of history for each address on each street: who built the home, who lived there over the course of years, what they did in their lives. According to High, the site “attempst to provide a genealogical history of the houses.” He quickly provided me with several other relevant names of those who had called Comm Ave home. As he did so, I began to glimpse the fundamental elements needed to sustain Boston’s musical life.

Early on in its history Boston seemed to have designated music as the bedrock of its claim to an educated and civilized society. Shortly after the Civil War, both the New England Conservatory and Boston Conservatory were founded in 1867, just as the country was trying to regain its bearings after the Civil War. New York City in contrast had to wait until the early years of the 20thcentury before it could turn to the resources of the Juilliard School of Music or the Mannes School of Music founded in 1905 and 1915 respectively. [continued…]

An impresario possessing equal measures of morbid sensitivity, unassailable taste, and gallows humor, I have over the last 30 years given myself three opportunities to witness my own funeral. At my advancing age in a plague year my, luck may abandon me. Then how could I invite my grieving survivors to the real thing? Recollections of these determinedly downer concerts, secretly reflecting fantasies of my own demise, now return as a distinct balm.

Permit me then, at this interval when time is passing more slowly than usual, to share my choices of the saddest musical stuff, noting that this New Orleans-born Huck Finn-manque ends the celebration of his life with a decidedly upbeat march.

Opening the order of service to page one, one sees that mourners process in as brass and drums intone the march from Purcell’s Funeral Music for Queen Mary. The funeral sentences follow with the Purcell’s pungent chromatic solemnity well writ in John Eliot Gardner’s emotionally and historically informed recording HERE.  

Then Jessye Norman laments for all time HERE.  

Nothing could transcend earthly realms more than Robert Honeysucker’s total embrace of folornity. His immortal spiritual set, from Palm Sunday 2016 in Charlestown pours out to us HERE.

Nevertheless,  Bryn Terfel’s Elijah moment HERE and John Tomilson’s desperate vagabond HERE can share the stage of suffering and redemption.

Bach gets the last word in the church, as Claudius Tanski plays the Busoni transcription of Ich ruf zu dirHERE. [continued…]

A BMInt reviewer on temporary hiatus, I got my start in music criticism in the classical music department at WHRB as an undergraduate, and loved my experience there enough to have returned occasionally to do broadcasts.

The upcoming 250th Beethoven birthday almost demands a WHRB Orgy© of the composer’s 32 published piano sonatas and his 33 Diabelli Variations featuring recordings by 33 different pianists―all masters at the top of their game. I’d also ideally like to have a range of performance eras, from the very first sonata recordings of the 1920’s to the most recent issues. It’s a daunting task to listen to the broad  available range, but crowdsourcing could simplify.

So, BMInt critics and readers, what are your desert island Beethoven piano sonata recording nominations? Please cite as many specifics as you can (Claudio Arrau, Alfred Brendel, Wilhelm Kempff, and Daniel Barenboim each did more than one complete cycle, for example). Bonus points will accrue if you can provide a link to audio available through YouTube, Spotify, or some other streaming service, and especially if you can provide some specific thoughts about what’s vital about that performance.
[continued…]

Dear Readers, I wish to share with much pride and pleasure links to the last concert I attended and recorded. The 15 violinists and their pianist-partners in Miriam Fried’s New England Conservatory Studio played at Harvard Musical Association on March 12th before an audience consisting of a single of a camera and a few mutual friends, At my suggestion, they gave “An Evening of Romances” transcendentally, knowing it would be the last live gig for a while… The first half is HERE and the second half HERE. Please darken your room, gather round a big screen and enjoy.

The names of the players appear as one attends this virtual concert, and the players also introduce themselves. Content creators and providers are doing our best to keep the sounds and words coming.

Your Publisher, Lee Eiseman [continued…]

“Become a musician only if you have to” was a half-serious quip from Doriot Anthony Dwyer, who died yesterday in Kansas age 98.

Born in Illinois in 1922 and a distant relative of suffragette Susan B. Anthony, Dwyer served as principal flute in the Boston Symphony Orchestra for almost 40 years. Having learned flute from her mother — “she used the instrument to sing, and had a huge, beautiful sound,” Dwyer attended Eastman, earning a bachelor’s degree and performer certificate. (Color details herein are drawn from online accounts by former Boston Globe critic Richard Dyer, local musician and music historian Susan Fleet, British music commentator and blogger Norman Lebrecht and his readers, scholar K.E Kean, and more.) Precocious at 12, Doriot began studying with Ernest Liegl, traveling five hours to Chicago twice each month for five years. At his recommendation Dwyer applied to Curtis, but she was rejected. At Interlochen that summer, Eastman head Howard Hanson offered her a scholarship. At Eastman she developed sufficient skills to win second flute with the National Symphony. After two years with the National Symphony, Doriot studied with William Kincaid, principal flute of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1945 she moved to New York to freelance, among other gigs playing in a jazz band behind Frank Sinatra. “Sinatra was really an artist,” she said. “Good jazz singers are true artists: they never do the same thing twice.” The next year she played in an orchestra for a ballet troupe, but the tour folded in Dallas. She took a train to Los Angeles. Six months later she was playing lucrative jobs in recording studios, being a fine sightreader. She auditioned for second flute in the LA Philharmonic and held the position from 1946 until 1952. Bruno Walter named her principal of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, a radio orchestra similar to the NBC Symphony, whose repertoire was difficult and schedule demanding.

In 1952 the BSO announced auditions to replace retiring principal flutist George Laurent. To avoid any confusion about her gender Doriot signed her application “Miss” Doriot Anthony. BSO conductor Charles Munch decided to hold a “ladies’ day” audition. Doriot described her invitation to audition for the BSO as “the greatest thrill of my life.” She went into heavy training. The audition lasted more than three hours. Arthur Fiedler asked for the flute solo from Grieg’s Piano Concerto. Doriot played it from memory. After a while, she played everything from memory. “What do you want to hear?” she asked, “I’ll just play it. …  They were knocked out by that,” she later said. [continued…]

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