In early 2008, a bon vivant classical impresario, a veteran journalist, and a renowned musicologist-pianist began to free-associate about the decline of classical music print journalism. A few months later, I hit the “publish” button for the Boston Musical Intelligencer.
An entirely volunteer undertaking, we’ve had no business plan or dedicated revenue stream beyond the generosity of one individual and one association. We have declined to accept advertisements from performers or presenters, and general fundraising has been nonexistent since this journal lacks formal nonprofit status. The publisher has so far seen fit to absorb the remaining costs.
That in a bit over seven years we have published 4,155 articles and reviews and attracted the eyes of as many as 2,000 people a day gives great satisfaction. We have found our niche. Nearly 10,000 comments and sometimes more than 1,000 Facebook likes indicate that readers care strongly about what our 75 writers have to say about local classical events. Those who write (whether as reviewers or commenters) really do take pleasure in seeing their thoughts materialize on these pages as part of a lively debate.
The strains of making this happen may not be apparent, but they are certainly real. Getting sufficient quality content onto the screen requires considerable effort, as well as vigilance, skill, and sometimes arm-twisting. The assistance of a professional editor has helped, and readers and fellow writers as well all conspire to catch typos and the like. When we see how presenters cite our reviewers and articles (previews, features, interviews, obituaries, memoirs, reminiscences, and more), and when we hear of the sophisticated appreciation from many respondents, we glow.
And another kind of glow persists in our remembrance of music past. Once again, I have called upon BMInt writers to recall favorite concerts and recordings from the parade gone by. The following list serves to remind us of 2016’s musical riches.
We salute all players, writers, readers and presenters. Happy New Year! And the year’s best nominations follow.
Brahms Choral Works, Nicol Matt conducting: Brilliant Classics
Stravinsky Oedipus Rex, Apollo, Symphonies of Wind Instruments, Stravinsky conducting: Acanta
Berwald Symphonies 3 and 4, Ivor Bolton conducting: Super Audio CD Hybrid
Jody Talbot: Path of Miracles, Craig Hella Johnson conductor, Conspirare
Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil, Charles Bruffy conductor
Render, Brad Wells & Roomful of Teeth
Monteverdi: Il Ritorno D’Ulisse in Patria, Martin Pearlman conductor, Boston Baroque
DVDs / Films
Janáček: Jenůfa, Donald Runnicles conductor, Orchestra and Chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall, directed by Spike Lee
Score: A Film Music Documentary, directed by Matt Schrader
James C. S. Liu
Mozart: Complete Piano Sonatas, Vol. II; Jeffrey Biegel, piano
I heard this, of all places, in the in-flight entertainment system on a trip to Paris, and I thought maybe the low cabin pressure or the sleep deprivation made me like this set more than I should have, but I foolishly went and bought it. It gives me more delight with each additional listening. I’ve never heard of Biegel before, but he plays with the perfect deft touch — not too portentous, not too insubstantial, always tasteful and musical in his shaping and phrasing. And he ornaments in a Mozartian style with each repeat, not exactly the same way that our beloved Bob Levin would, but in a way that somehow catches me off guard with a grin of delight every time I catch a new wrinkle on an old favorite. Volume 2 are the mature sonatas, and it’s two CD’s of pure pianistic delight.
Vivaldi: The complete viola d’amore concertos; Rachel Barton Pine, viola d’amore; Ars Antigua
I heard this record on the same flight. RBP was artist in residence at First Church in Boston for a year, so I already knew she was a formidable musician, but I wasn’t prepared for this, some of the most brilliant, spellbinding, rapid-fire, razzle-dazzle period instrument shredding I’ve ever heard. Makes it even worthwhile to sit through eight Vivaldi concertos to hear all the remarkable ways her imagination informs her playing, ornamenting, and styling.
Julius Katchen: Complete Decca Recordings
Hot off the presses in September, a comprehensive set of all Katchen’s studio work. Worth the price of admission for the Brahms solo piano works, the Brahms chamber music with Josef Suk and János Starker, and the concerto recordings, making a strong case for Katchen as the single greatest Brahms pianist to date. But there’s tons more, and between Presto Classical and Amazon, you can have 36 CD’s of jaw-dropping pianism for under $80.
Stage works (opera, musical theater)
Rumshinsky’s The Golden Bride
Boston Camerata’s Night Tale
Gluck’s Ezio (Odyssey Opera)
Donizetti’s Il Campanello, Mascagni’s L’Amico Fritz (Boston Midsummer Opera)
Seven operettas ranging from Offenbach and Kalman to Kern, Berlin, and Porter in Ohio
Dvorak’s all-but unknown grand opera Dimitrij
Missy Mazzoli’s Songs from the Uproar in a chamber version for its Boston premiere
Lowell Lieberman’s effective Picture of Dorian Gray
BMOP’s program of 6 new “Brandenburg” concertos, reconsidering Bach
Brooklyn’s refreshing orchestra The Knights at Tanglewood
Gustavo Gimeno’s premiere with the BSO at Tanglewood, with Yuja Wang as soloist
Two Tanglewood programs by the Emerson Quartet
The Neave Trio containing the same repertory that they played in Natick. Since none of the three works (by Arthur Foote, Leonard Bernstein, and Erich Korngold) is well known, or even available in other forms, this alone makes it a worthwhile project. But far more, the playing is vivid and beautifully shaped, and Chandos has captured the sound with stunning presence.