Les Voix Baroques Opens Boston Early Music Festival


Les Voix Baroques, Stephen Stubbs, director, officially opened the 2011 Boston Early Musical Festival at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall on Monday, June 13. The program was devoted to settings of texts from the biblical Canticum canticorum, or “Song of Songs,” in a wide-ranging selection of settings covering a period of over a hundred years from the mid-sixteenth to the late seventeenth century. The performances by vocalists, Yulia Van Doren, soprano; Matthew White, countertenor; Colin Balzer tenor; Sumner Thompson, baritone; Douglas Williams, bass-baritone and the instrumentalists were stellar.      [Click title for full review]    [continued]

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Orpheus in England: Dowland and Purcell Shine in Boston Early Music Festival Concert


Soprano Emma Kirkby and lutenist Jakob Lindberg presented a duo recital of music by John Dowland and Henry Purcell on October 23 at the First Church  (Congregational in Cambridge.) Dowland was England’s greatest exponent of the “ayre” for solo voice with lute accompaniment, which became popular around the turn of the 16th century. Set to mostly anonymous “verses for song” with simple rhyme schemes, Dowland’s songs are more complex than most and encompass an astonishing range of emotions. This was brilliantly exploited by Kirkby, who knows how to shape a tone for expressive effect (sometimes even approaching it from the flat side), how to vary dynamics in a straight-toned delivery that never seems forced, and just where to insert a graceful ornament or variation. Playing on a beautiful 10-course Renaissance lute, ca. 1590, the “oldest lute in playable condition with its original sound board,” lutenist Jakob Lindberg supplied elegant ornamentation for the repeated strains of the famous, melancholy “Lachrimae” (Seven Teares) Pavans. The second set for lute paired an improvisatory prelude with a Fantasia in which fugal passages alternated echo effects and fast, triple-time sections. Here Lindberg’s ability to play contrapuntally with absolute clarity, no mean feat on the lute, as well as in freer styles, came brilliantly to the fore. Purcell, born 100 years after Dowland, composed innumerable songs for plays and masques, several of which we heard at Friday’s concert. Kirkby’s light and flexible voice and sure musicianship easily mastered the rapid passage work and demonstrated grotesque contrasts of affect with consummate skill. The final song, “Music for a while,” was simply beautiful, its sinuous melodic line stretched out over a long and harmonically ambiguous ground bass pattern. We are grateful to Emma Kirkby and Jakob Lindberg for their artistry and to the Boston Early Music Festival for the chance to hear this too-seldom performed repertory. The choice of performance venue, however, was unfortunate. This is true chamber music, and the vast neo-Romanesque space of the First Church did not do it justice. Lindberg’s lute often sounded muted, and much of  Kirkby’s beautifully nuanced diction was lost. That said, who would want to turn away any of the enthusiastic listeners who filled the church to capacity? [Click title for full review.]    [continued]

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Boston Early Music Festival: All-day Inaugural Keyboard Mini-Festival


The interplay of composition, keyboard and performance was the focus of the six-hour mini-marathon directed by Boston’s Peter Sykes at First Lutheran Church on June 11.  Six of  “today’s most active and respected early keyboard artists”  played on four different keyboards, all replicas of instruments originally built in the 18th century. Kristian Bezuidenhout played Haydn on a remake of a 1795 Anton Walter fortepiano, enabling him to find life in  Haydn’s compositions through the instrument that later had enlightened the composer.  Andrew Willis tested three J. S. Bach solo keyboard concertos circa 1738-1739 on a Florentine fortepiano by David Sutherland. The four “orchestral” strings were too lusciously meaty for the Florentine. Part II shifted to the harpsichord. Luca Guglielmi and William Porter played a double-manual harpsichord by Allan Winkler. Guglielmi displayed technical mastery, with fingers flying through high-speed passages into stunning silvery liquid.  The passacaglia from Musicalisher Parnassus: Uranie by JCF Fischer, played by William Porter, was down-to-earth storytelling; the 10 dances curtsied and bowed. With Guglielmi and Porter alternately at the keyboard, Alan Winkler’s ever so entrancing harpsichord appeared to be two different instruments. For Part III, out came the clavichord, described as an “intimate instrument” associated with “private experiences.” At times, intrusions from Boston’s noisy afternoon traffic made it impossible to hear this incredibly soft-spoken early keyboard instrument. Obviously a suitable venue for future endeavors is a must for  this tiny apparatus that makes the “sweetest of sweet sounds.” David Breitman’s playing revealed many of the instrument’s capabilities, among them, the performer’s extraordinary control over the keys. Sykes asked, “Performers are supposed to care about composers, but what happens if you don’t and you just want to try something out?” His testing Beethoven on the clavichord, raised the big question of the day. He asked, “What do think about hearing Beethoven on this instrument? The Alan Winkler clavichord induced extraordinary tonal, spatial and temporal transformation. In his dual role of performer and director, Peter Sykes did convert-did change the music-and did win over listeners. [Click title for full review.]    [continued]

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Winds of the Serenissima: Ensemble Zefiro at Boston Early Music Festival


In their first appearance at the Boston Early Music Festival on Monday evening, June 8th at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, Ensemble Zefiro demonstrated just how captivating the sound of Baroque double-reed instruments can be. The program was designed to demonstrate the virtuosity and expressive skills of each of the players: oboist Alfredo Bernardini, the Grazzi brothers Paolo (oboe) and Alberto (bassoon), basso continuo player Lorenz Duftschmid, violone (baroque double bass) and Luca Guglielmi playing harpsichord and a small chamber organ. In the absence of Evangelina Mascardi, lutanist and BEMF Artistic Co-Director Paul O’Dette joined the continuo group on the theorbo, a large lute with additional bass strings. Virtuosic yet flexible and expressive, Ensemble Zefiro’s playing is just the opposite of the mechanical and repetitive delivery one still hears all too often in performances of Vivaldi and contemporaries. We owe a vote of thanks to the BEMF organizers for bringing us this brilliant ensemble and their well chosen program. [Click title for full review.]    [continued]

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Newport Music Festival To Resume In-Person Concerts


Seventeen moderate-length outdoor concerts, running from July 4-20 at historic mansions and venues in Newport, including the Breakers, Bellevue House, Castle Hill Inn, the Chanler at Cliff Walk, King Park, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, Norman Bird Sanctuary, and Rough Point, will constitute the 53rd season for the festival. The complete listing    [continued]

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Fusing Music and Poetry on YouTube


Emmanuel Music has reconfigured its three-part Britten Chamber Festival into a streaming format, with virtually all the pieces and personnel planned for the cancelled in-person concerts. Three concerts will stream as a festival over the weekend of December 18th -20th on Emmanuel Music’s YouTube channel. Says Artistic Director Ryan Turner, “Benjamin Britten’s chamber music deserves    [continued]

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African American Voices in Early Boston


Music and poetry can be means of resistance, and they also play a role in uniting diverse groups. Boston’s early heritage of African American scholars, writers, and musicians make the city an interesting subject for artistic and historical inquiry in these challenging times. THE LEGACY OF PHYLLIS WHEATLEY The first Africans arrived in Boston in    [continued]


Juneteenth Thoughts on Boston & Current African American Composers


Four years ago, Liane Curtis, President of Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy, wrote a review for BMInt entitled “Black Composers Matter,”  highlighting the work of Boston’s concert and educational series Castle of Our Skins, named for a line from celebrated poet Nikki Giovanni’s Poem (for Nina). You can hear the original, read by the author, HERE. After    [continued]


Locke’s List: Best Opera and Vocal Music of 2019


2019 has proved to be a splendid year for French works and some splendid stuff from elsewhere. The bumper crop of wonderful recordings includes unusual operas—and one unusual recording of a repertory staple: Gounod’s Faust,  some books I’d like to mention, and a performance that I was really glad I attended. (My two previous years’    [continued]

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Boston Ballet at the Pillow


The Boston Ballet closed the 2019 Summer Season at Jacob’s Pillow this weekend with riveting performances of works by Leonid Yakobson, four selections from William Forsythe and Jorma Elo’s dance  paired with live renditions of Bach’s first and second cello suites    [continued]

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“Music in the Time of Cholera: Fanny’s Cantatas”


Following the birth of her first child, Sebastien Felix, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel determined to revive her Sunday concert series. In his recent biography of Fanny, The Other Mendelssohn, R. Larry Todd describes how in 1831, brother Felix wrote enthusiastically to her: “Pray, give your traveling brother a commission to write something new for you.…” He’d    [continued]

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Beyond Guitar Music


The Great Necks Guitar Trio arranged works by Holst, Sibelius, Bach, Scriabin, and Márquez for their three-guitar format at First Lutheran Church on Friday.    [continued]

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Camerata Seasonal Renaissance Music: Legendary & Hot


Ever ready to assist in the marketing activities of our literate and resourceful presenters, we herewith take note of the potential Gloire, Sororité and Fraternité in Boston Camerata’s five forthcoming holiday concerts. Artistic Director Anne  announces that she is pleased this year, to be unveiling a brand-new production, full of color and sweep. “Gloria: An    [continued]

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Vivafying New Music for Half a Century


At 50, Boston Musica Viva shows great legs, in considerable measure owing to the fact that it is still under the leadership of its founder. As Richard Pittman said from the Kresge Auditorium stage Saturday night, “we’re not stopping.”    [continued]

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Recalling the Passing Musical Year


Among the BMInt staff, many writers have intact memories. Within that subset, several have submitted lists of their favorite CDs and concerts of the last season. We thank them for their reflections. Some have chosen to nominate concerts they have reviewed while others have chosen from concerts which they merely attended. Another wants to plump    [continued]

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Singing for Nearly a Millennium


Thomanerchor (St. Thomas Choir) Leipzig was established in 1212—over 800 years ago—and centuries after its founding was led by J.S. Bach, from 1723 until his death, in 1750. During those years they premiered numerous works by the master. A major institution in Germany, the choir operates its own school just a stone’s throw from the    [continued]


Korsantia’s Musical Masonry


Alexander Korsantia’s piano recital Tuesday evening at Walnut Hill School’s Kreiter Hall showed lapidary and stirring power.    [continued]

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Newport Festival Ends Era


One year shy of its 50th anniversary, the Newport Music Festival has disclosed that the family behind its operation since 1975 will cease to be involved following the conclusion of this season. Artistic Director Mark Malkovich IV, and his 85-year-old mother, Joan Malkovich, an invisible but potent force in the office, recently announced their retirements    [continued]


Island Musical Mentality


Following an opening night gala by Renaissance Men, Boston’s acclaimed male vocal chamber ensemble on June 2nd, at 7:30 in the Village Church, the Nahant Music Festival has inked three concerts and associated masterclasses during the subsequent 7 days and nights. The complete schedule is here. Artistic director/baritone Don Wilkinson, a Boston fixture for 30+ years,    [continued]


Rockport Festival in Fine Fettle


Violinist Joshua Bell opens the 36th Rockport Chamber Music Festival on a June 2nd benefit-tribute to one of the nation’s most successful and beloved presenters. Artistic Director David Deveau, who has led the organization for the last 22 years, presides this season in his signature avuncular style for the last time. On his watch, a regional    [continued]

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