The several BMInt writers not immune to nostalgic rumination have each submitted lists of their favorite CDs and concerts of the last season. We thank them for their reflections. More are expected, so check back. Some have chosen to nominate concerts they have reviewed while others have chosen from concerts which they merely attended. During the past 12 months BMInt has published hundreds of reviews and articles (for the record, 3700 reviews in 5 years), so this epistle must needs place a severe test on the memories of the participants. But this exercise also gives us all yet another reminder of how much to be grateful for the musical life of Boston and its environs. I believe that BMInt’s 50+ active writers, including one who doffed her training wheels to serve as a correspondent to the Globe, salute all of our players and presenters. And I add my wishes for a Happy New Year to the readers of this site who on a good day number over 5000. The discourses on these pages and their re-postings on Facebook, Twitter, and presenters’ websites speak volumes to the relevance of the art we celebrate and our yearnings to discuss it.
Laura Stanfield Prichard
What sounds return vivid to my ear now that the dark is falling? The mellower Emerson String Quartet at Jordan Hall played a soberly fine work by Lowell Liebermann, Quartet No. 5, which broods, and sounds, like Shostakovich’s 16th. Their Beethoven Opus 132 Dankegesang created a gripping stasis; the movement combines (this is stolen from Kai Christiansen) a wisp of counterpoint, an austere hymn, and a lightning strike of virtuosity labeled “feeling of new strength,” along a timeline that eludes mortal reckoning, the music undergoing a slow transformation that feels to be the very embodiment of life infused with divinity, green shoots growing into a lyrical vine embracing the cold stone of hymnody. Yeah, what he said, and the Emerson sonically dramatized it all.
Likewise, at Kresge, the Jupiter Quartet’s highly expressive Opus 133 Grosse Fuge, more rounded than most.
BCMS literally set the stage at Sanders on fire with Brahms’s Piano Quintet Opus 34. Maybe I exaggerate.
At Rockport, Marc-André Hamelin’s Paganini Variations showed that piano prodigy’s mature compositional chops and mad wit.
Med student and top-tier pianist Natalie Erlich got the band back together, sort of, and with violinist Yeolim Nam and cellist Mikiko Fujiwara in Holden Chapel knocked the Archduke out of Harvard Yard, a performance one concertgoer in the audience felt was as good as he’d ever heard.
Speaking of superlatives, violinist Angelo Xiang Yu and pianist Jonie Qiuning Huang at Walnut Hill performed, at a level of brio and poise so flawless it had to be heard to be believed, Mozart, Beethoven, and Stravinsky, in a concert that for stimulation, easy confidence, and aplomb was like nothing else I heard the entire year.
Big, also great, bow-wow piano pieces were at once plumbed and colored by three pianists known more for profundity than for polish. Under Hung-Kuan Chen’s fingers at Walnut Hill, the Liszt Sonata was transformed into some other work by Liszt, late, mysterious, refractory, full of both falling snow crystals and lightsaber clashing. Victor Rosenbaum’s gentle, not facile traversal of the last three Beethoven sonatas, plus encore Bagatelle, was similarly multihued while both granular and granitic. And at Rockport, David Deveau’s Schumann Fantasy took us up and down the mountain, the music embodying most everything contained in Caspar Friedrich’s famous Wanderer Above the Fog Sea.
Finally, a HIP CD that will jump out of your speakers to instantly establish a thrilling period experience in your livingroom may be had from our own Ian Watson, piano, and Susanna Ogata, violin, playing volume 1 of Beethoven’s Sonatas for Fortepiano & Violin (nos. 4 and 9, the Kreutzer). You won’t regret acquiring this blazing version of works you already own.
Calder String Quartet
Radius New And Old
A Rake’s Progress BoCo
Boston Trio Adds Astrid Sheen
H + H: Haydn Creation
Dedham Choral Society: Mendelssohn Lobgesang
Quarteto LatinoAmerica in Rockport
Mahler 8 at Tanglewood
Portland Chamber Music Society
BoCo Winds With Panach
Aeolous Palmer Ashmont
Boston Arts Ensemble in Brookline
BSO Holiday Refreshment
The superb flutist Linda Bento-Rei’s newest CD, titled “Invocation”, brings together a wonderfully diverse set of 20th- and 21st-century chamber works. As central performer, Bento-Rei demonstrates a versatility that is nothing short of astounding, and her colleagues are of equal caliber. Lovers of classical, jazz, and Latin music–of many styles!–will find a great deal to enjoy in these virtually definitive performances. Here.
This summer I finally experienced a work I had long been curious about: the Messa di Requiem by 20th-century Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti. Likewise last summer I first encountered the storied Mass setting by Swiss composer Frank Martin, coincidentally composed the same year, 1922, as the Requiem. This highly honored recording unites these much-underrecognized a cappella masterpieces of the previous century. The performances by the Westminster Cathedral Choir under James O’Donnell are technically first-rate, emotionally generous, and captured in sound both deep and detailed–in short, the model of a choral recording. Here.
Renaissance Men imaginatively utilize Gordon Chapel in technically powerful and musically sumptuous program. They range impressively from quiet devotion to rowdy drunkenness and from the early Renaissance to mid-20th-century with special emphasis on the Romantic German tradition.
Nursery Rhymes and Songs