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Music Society Returns to Namesake Town


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.

Similar to our pre-COVID practices, we have committed to eight programs with dates spaced monthly and time, plus two virtual-only streams. I say it that way because the commitment is of our time and talent for the pleasure of our audience. We certainly hoped to present those eight programs live, but given the unforeseen, we were leaving a fallback position to record or live stream on these dates if we couldn’t get into Sanders Theatre, where we had performed each season since 1983 until last year’s outbreak. By now we know for certain that Sanders is not approving reservations at least through November. Fortunately, as Jordan Hall is open, albeit with health and safety protocols, we are able, almost at the last minute, to move our first three events there: Sunday, 9/19 and Sunday, 10/17, both at 3; and Saturday, 11/13 at 7:30. So, even though we cannot return to our normal practices at Sanders, we still can share and celebrate musicmaking with our patrons in person again. From very early on, we also decided that all presentations this season will last about one hour with no intermission or reception, thus limiting time spent indoors. Two streams will run in December and mid-January between our in-person gatherings this fall and Winter/Spring 2022.

Illness and recovery are current mantras. I feel fine, and am tired about professions of the healing power of music. Can’t we just enjoy it?

Well, you have to admit we are there for healing in the best of times. And, you’re right, others have beat us to professing! I guess there are a number of messages in the programming and in the personnel. One theme I see is renewal. In the midst of all the doom and gloom we are celebrating the presence of two new member-musicians, clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois, and bassist Thomas Van Dyke. Both of these superb players have appeared with us for years and it occurred to us that since they have lifted us up with every collaboration, they deserve more of a commitment from us. This will be our 39th season, and we hoped to convey optimism, well-being, renewal in our personnel and repertoire ahead of our 40th season and beyond. In the first concert, on Sunday September 19th at 3, I will get to play a duo with Tom by Sandor Veress called Memento. That’s all he gives for the title, but I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase Memento mori, (Remember, we die). This will appear within one of my favorite pairings, Mozart and Mendelssohn, a piano trio and that marvelous early Sextet for piano and strings, including bass!

On October 17th at 3 we will introduce Romie as a new member who in turn will give us the world premiere of a BCMS co-commission, Lowell Liebermann’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, with Max Levinson. We open then with a short Haydn String Trio in G major and end with your beloved Saint-Saëns Piano Quartet, which you informed me about earlier this year. Of course, we have played it before at BCMS, but the occasion for doing it now is the 100th anniversary of his passing. And, speaking of renewal, there is a cottage industry re-appraising his value these days, and we are fans enough to bring out more of his works in our December virtual concert: the Sonata for oboe and piano, the Fantasie for violin and harp, and the Swan, too!

For the only Saturday concert, November 13th in the evening, just two works, the Oboe Quartet of Martinů and the beloved Brahms Piano Quintet will be heard! For our second virtual concert to be released on January 23rd, we celebrate Schubert’s 225th birthday with his Piano Trio in B-flat major and The Shepherd on the Rock with soprano Amanda Forsythe. We hope to play all these as planned, but we are prepared to pivot as needed.

I could say more about the rest of the season in more general terms, since for some of them we have not yet confirmed exactly where they will be played. We will feature two more commissions—in February the Joan Tower String Quintet which we had scheduled to premiere in Spring 2020, and a piano quintet by Michi Wiancko in April. British composers including Arthur Bliss’s Oboe Quintet, Britten’s second Sonata for Cello and Piano, and Vaughan-Williams‘s Quintet for the same forces as Schubert’s “Trout,” will appear in one our concerts. And, speaking of the Brits, the stunning quintet for clarinet and strings by that rare Black and British Edward Elgar contemporary Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, will close our calendar along with Dvořák’s lovely Quintet in G major for Two Violins, Viola, Cello, and Bass. So, regardless of the setting, we look forward to getting on with artistic business as we are allowed.

1 Comment »

1 Comment [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. Sounds like a wonderful roll out of concerts and like all musicians everywhere
    we are happy to be back in business…..
    would only share that just before the great Buddy Wright (BSO) prin clarinet) died, I organized
    a recording with the Hawthorne Quartet members (also BSO) and it is a stellar CD – on KOCH
    am so glad we captured Buddy’s incomparable sound, phrasing, and feeling.

    BTW a major film is being assembled on him – from Australia.

    Comment by virginia eskin — September 6, 2021 at 6:06 pm

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