…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. For a mostly New York-centric listing of streaming opportunities, the New Yorker’s Alex Ross has compiled a listing HERE,  and free streaming from normally paid sources will abound: The Met Opera will be offering FREE streaming at 7:30 every night, and the following also offer their wares free: Teatromassimo, Rossinioperafestival, Wienerstaatsoper, Bayerischestaatsoper, Digital Concert Hall of Berlin Phil. HERE is another great compendium of streaming possibilities. We will place news featured local livestreams below the break. The next will be Aaron Larget-Caplan for GroupMuse on Friday, with BSO’s Concert for our City beginning its stream on Sunday.    [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…]

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]

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.

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]

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…]

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]

Sir William Turner Walton

The stellar Yale Schola Cantorum (founded 2003 by Simon Carrington at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music) was to have visited Boston’s Symphony Hall today on a quick tour of New England, accompanied by the Yale Philharmonia, an orchestra made up of graduate students at the Yale School of Music. But that event is not to be.

The Yale Philharmonia is the largest performing ensemble at the YSM, founded in 1894 by composition professor Horatio Parker. During my and my husband’s time in New Haven, it was led by Otto Werner Mueller (1973-1987) and Eleazar di Carvahlo (1987-1994); since 2015, Peter Oundjian has directed it.

The New Haven groups of (mostly) graduate music students were to be joined by the world-renowned London Bach Choir in a program including William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, and the lavish motets Song to the Soul by Stanford and Mater ora filium by Bax. The soloist for the Walton was to be David Pershall (MM’10, AD’11), who made his Boston Lyric Opera debut as Count Almaviva in the recent 2018 Marriage of Figaro reviewed HERE.

But you can nevertheless hear them…

For those who have not had the chance to hear the Yale Schola Cantorum recently under their new director David Hill, the choir of two dozen voices has just released two choral CDs on Hyperion. “Schütz: The Christmas Story” recreates part of a 1660 Christmas day vespers in Dresden. It includes the fully orchestrated Historia der Geburt Christi, a Magnificat, and other motets. Soloists with local connections include ISM and YSM graduates Emilia Donato (MM’19, who studied for a year at NEC); mezzo-soprano Ashley Mulcahy (MM’19, who nows sings in Marsh Chapel and works at BU); and baritone Edward Vogel (MM’19, soloist at the Tanglewood Music Center during summer 2018). You can listen and read more HERE. [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]

In Boston Lyric Opera’s first production in nearly 40 years of Vincenzo Bellini’s 1831 masterwork, Norma, Elena Stikhina will attempt to summit this soprano Everest, playing a powerful Druid priestess whose affair with Pollione, the general of a warring Roman faction [spoiler alert] ends at the stake. The Russian-born soprano made her American debut in BLO’s 2017 production of Tosca. Her subsequent national and international acclaim includes a lauded 2018 Metropolitan Opera debut in Puccini’s Il Trittico. Best known for its star-making aria “Casta Diva,” BLO presents Bellini’s dramatic bel canto opera for five performances from March 13-22 at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theater.

Sandra Piques-Eddy (BLO’s Werther, 2016 and Katya Kabanova, 2015) plays Norma’s priestess/confidante Adalgisa. Jonathan Burton, who had taken the role of Cavaradossi opposite Stikhina’s in BLO’s Tosca, returns as Pollione. Alfred Walker (who recently performed to critical acclaim as Crown in the Metropolitan Opera’s acclaimed Porgy and Bess, and sang in BLO’s 2013 The Flying Dutchman) is Oroveso. 

Stephanie Havey makes her directorial debut at BLO, and David Angus conducts the BLO Orchestra. Shura Baryshnikov, recognized for her work on BLO’s The Handmaid’s Tale last season, serves as Movement Director. 

BMInt conversed at some length with Elena Stikhina and Jonathan Burton

FLE: I gather BLO immediately invited the two of you back after a successful Tosca pairing. [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]

John Ehrlich 40 years ago

The gala “Spectrum Singers at 40!” will comprise chorus and audience favorites, embodying the mission that has made the ensemble unique from the start: performing the spectrum of great choral music while often focusing on works worthy but rarely heard.

The repertoire on March 14th at 8pm in First Church Congregational in Harvard Square ranges from the Renaissance through the 21st century, including both sacred and secular works in various languages and musical styles. Guest artists include Mark Andrew Cleveland, baritone; Heinrich Christensen, organ; and Richard Kelley, trumpet. James Barkovic, piano, will accompany several works, including some with piano duet featuring guest pianist Terry Halco. In addition, former members have been invited to sing a couple of selections with the chorus; the audience will also be invited to join in.

How could we distill 40 years of repertoire into one program without its being just a parade of greatest hits? The first order of business was to review all that we have performed over the decades. (That list will be viewable during the reception.) I then picked a large group of pieces most emblematic of our mission, in a variety of languages and musical styles. The choices had as well to be those we’d performed to acclaim from our audience; after all, this is your celebration too! The chorus then voted on those works they most wanted to sing. The final and most challenging stage has been organizing the results into a compelling program that creates a dramatic and musical arc both within the halves of the concert and throughout the evening. It’s always been my belief that a program’s pieces must resonate with one another, forming connections in musical style and structure, language and/or textual themes. [continued…]

Here’s a secret of great artistry: no one does it alone. This season, First Monday at NEC has been exploring connections and friendships among composers and musicians who inspired each other. Sage impresario and performer Laurence Lesser welcomes all to the latest in the 35-year run of First Mondays in a few days. His assortments of well-loved classics and new compositions, performed by some of the finest chamber musicians in the world, are, as ever, free to all. Lesser goes on to say:

Last December marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leon Kirchner.  I couldn’t figure out how to get his Piano Trio No. 1 onstage in time, so next Monday we’re presenting it. Masuko Ushioda (my late wife) and I played it with Leon in First Monday’s inaugural season.  He was a great composer and a vital part of Boston musical life.  That led me to create an  “American” program that I call “Sonorities,” which will include music by Varèse (French but a longtime resident of NYC), a new piece by Ken Ueno commissioned by Marlboro for Kim Kashkashian, a group of Leonard Bernstein songs and a sizzling work for 5 percussionists by Joan Tower.

FLE: So I get it that Leon Kirchner is on the program because of his friendship with you and Masuko…how do bonds of friendship inform the rest of Monday’s show?

LL: He also was friendly with Lennie.  Ken Ueno (I know it’s a stretch) is Harvard doctorate, and Marlboro commissioned it for Kim K., where Leon hung out a lot.Not really much else on that moniker.  See my thought about “sonorities” below.  To be honest, friendship is how I worked to create the season and this is the only program that needed a reach on the theme.

Anything we can hear has “Sonorities.” Please strengthen this dab of thematic glue. [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]