Formosan Ocean Drum

Chihchun Chi-sun Lee’s BSO-commissioned Formosan Triptych takes wing on Thursday as part of subscription concerts which will also feature pianist Till Fellner in Mozart’s second-to-last piano concerto (no. 25) and Tchaikovsky’s Third Symphony, “Polish.” BMInt talked with the Taiwanese composer and her husband, composer Michael Timpson.

FLE: The BSO apparently gave its new young assistant conductor Yu-An Chang quite an honor in encouraging him to make a commission in honor of his native Taiwan. What did he tell you that he heard in your music that made him want to commission you? Please give us some background on how it came about.

CCL: Conductor Chang and I did not know each other prior this encounter. He had opened a call on Facebook for people to submit orchestra pieces to him for consideration, especially looking for women-composers’ works. Chang had gone through hundreds of pieces, eventually choosing my Fan-Jen: The Poem of Formosa (1995) to propose to BSO for programming. He found my musical language intriguing. Later Tony Fogg and Chang decided to commission a new work instead. Working with a world-renowned orchestra gives me a great opportunity to share my native cultures of Taiwan which are not actually well-known, especially due to political suppression. [continued…]

Collage presented five composers at Longy Sunday whose strikingly different styles all showed real cohesion. David Hoose served as the ever-unperturbed master of the entire ensemble, as he has been doing for years now with first-class skill and taste.    [continued]

Friday night’s concert in Jordan Hall continued A Far Cry’s astonishing run, this time in partnership with the fabulous soprano Sonja Dutoit Tengblad and burnished bass-baritone Dashon Burton in Takemitsu’s Requiem along with Shostakovich’s 14th Symphony.    [continued]

During a hiatus between playing Beethoven’s Emperor for the Cliburn-sponsored celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday in Fort Worth, and his forthcoming BSO appearances with conductor Yu-An Chang on January 16th, 17th, 18th, and 21st, the celebrated Viennese pianist Till Fellner found some time to talk.

FLE: As in your previous appearance at Symphony Hall with Bernard Haitink in 2012 [our review HERE], you chose one of Mozart’s 12 great Viennese concertos. This time, it will be No. 25, K. 503, the last of the series, which he debuted in 1786.

TF: Yes, but as I have learned from William Kinderman’s book on Mozart’s piano music, he had started composing this concerto some time earlier.

Was Kinderman there?

[Laughter] We know more today because of the examination of the various staff-papers Mozart used. Around 1785, he sketched the opening tutti and wrote the first piano entrance; then he put the piece aside. This wasn’t unusual for Mozart—he kept a certain reservoir of fragments which he could take out and complete in a relatively short span of time.

It’s interesting, that when Mozart took up K. 503 again at the end of 1786, he reworked the first piano entrance (using ink in a different color). He made it much more convincing in itself, but also in the way it connects back to the reassertion of the main theme played by the orchestra. Even a genius like Mozart felt the need to correct and improve parts of his works.

What else can you say to sell K. 503 to readers?
[continued…]

Conductor Alain Altinoglu and organist Thierry Escaich showcased Symphony Hall’s Æolian-Skinner-Foley-Baker in works of Poulenc and Saint-Saëns, plus some Debussy from the regular forces in a seamless program Friday afternoon which found the BSO in full bloom.    [continued]

In a solemn Sanders Theater Sunday, the Boston Chamber Music Society never strayed too far from themes of mortality, though the vivacious and generous music making from the familiar players mitigated the somber context of the repertoire.    [continued]

Boston Artists Ensemble’s performances of the last two Mozart string quintets in Salem’s Hamilton Hall on Friday delivered the goods, while placing character and presence ahead of intonation and polish. The concert repeated Sunday on Brookline.    [continued]

Among the BMInt staff, many writers have intact memories. Within that subset, several have submitted lists of their favorite 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. This exercise reminds us of how much to be grateful for the musical life of Boston and its environs, which last season, once again,  witnessed more than 2,500 concerts. Is that too many? Certainly not every auditorium operated at capacity. Should players do the Trojan Women thing and limit intercourse with audience until halls fill? We’re not worried about shrinking audiences. The Boston Globe famously wondered about the future of classical music in Boston since the average age at BSO concerts hovered at something over 60…but that was in 1908!

We salute all of our players, writers and presenters. We thank our loyal and sizable audience, as many as 7,000 in a single day, for having read and commented upon upwards of 5,404 reviews since our founding in 2009. Once again, we find a musical community writing about itself with rapt interest. Many follow our decree: If you hear something, write something. And so we say Happy New Year to all.

 

David Moran

And 2 and ONE…

Not that most of us need to sit through another Beethoven 5, but if you did last February, Benjamin  Zander and the Boston Philharmonic celebrated their 40th with a properly propelled rendition which got the opening right rhythmically and proceeded powerfully from there: [continued…]

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’ opera round-ups for BMInt can be found by clicking [2017] and [2018].)

We finally got a recording—a splendid one—of Donizetti’s L’ange de Nisida (Opera Rara 58), a work that never got performed during the composer’s lifetime, and that he plundered for sections to use in his (now relatively familiar) La favorite. See a fascinating three-minute trailer about the recording, and the scholarly effort that was needed to reconstruct this startlingly bold work. The performance, under Mark Elder, is magnificent, not least the singing of Joyce El-Khoury and David Junghoon Kim as the two lovers. The entire recording can be heard for free on YouTube (broken down into 56 segments). I reviewed it for the Boston-based online magazine The ArtsFuse here.

Le tribut de Zamora, Gounod’s last opera (1881), likewise got its first recording, marvelously performed under Hervé Niquet (Bru Zane 1033). I reviewed it for The Arts Fuse. This is one of 22 rarely performed (and often previously unrecorded) French operas that, over the past ten years, have been released on CD by the Center for French Romantic Music, an organization whose offices are located in the Palazzetto Bru Zane (in Venice). Excerpts from Le tribut can be seen and heard in this video. [continued…]

Tom Cipullo’s operatic theater piece Glory Denied portrays the martyrdom of the longest-suffering American Vietnam PoW. Saturday night’s student production of this God and country and broken marriage saga found ardent supporters at BoCo Berklee’s East Coast orchestral premiere.    [continued]

Tallis Scholars returned to St. Paul Church in Cambridge Friday for the Boston Early Music Festival with devotional texts that have endured through centuries of Catholic worship.    [continued]

The oldest continuously performing arts organization in America scored another first on Thursday night by presenting the six Brandenburg  Concerti of Bach as the first concert at Klarman Hall at the Harvard Business School.    [continued]

Should music criticism only be written by people who observe the music scene impartially and with a certain “objective” distance? Or can a critic offer something special if he or she is quite the opposite: a deeply committed and even polemically inclined participant in the musical community? That question was raised frankly and confidently by Berlioz in a letter that has just been published for the first time, in the volume reviewed below.

The question will surely resonate with readers of BMInt. After all, one of this site’s great strengths has been its inclusion of the voices of people who are active in musical life and of others who have been involved with composition or performance at some earlier point in their development. Readers of BMInt thus may (we hope) have come to agree with Berlioz’s position that intimate knowledge can enable a critic to write with conviction and special insight.

Nouvelles lettres de Berlioz, de sa famille, de ses contemporains, edited by Peter Bloom, et. al., contains numerous revelations, large and small, about Berlioz and the musical life of his era. My review below (reprinted, with kind permission, from a recent issue of Music Library Association Notes, and lightly revised) explains the features of the book as a whole, but also draws attention to some lively and informative passages from the letters, including (toward the end) the declaration alluded to above, which comes from a letter that Berlioz wrote to his sister Nanci Pal early in 1845.

In 1860, Richard Wagner was in Paris, trying to arrange for the Opéra to give the world premiere of the revised version of Tannhäuser. In a letter probably written in May of that year, Hector Berlioz invited him to come over to dine. The various guests that evening, he promised, will share “a very lovely pineapple” direct from Brazil. And, after everyone else leaves, he and Wagner “will have the freedom to spend time together in my study.” Presumably he meant that the two would talk about topics of common interest, such as the Parisian musical world or the recent activities of their mutual friend Franz Liszt. Berlioz’s pineapple letter has now been published for the first time, in the book under review (pp. 548–49). It was apparently written later than any other that survives between Berlioz and Wagner. (They did meet again two months later at the home of Pauline Viardot—the renowned mezzo-soprano and composer—for an advance hearing of parts of Tristan und Isolde.) [continued…]

Conductor Masaaki Suzuki 鈴木 雅明, trained in improvisation and infused with a reported Calvinist bent, delivered a refreshing slant on H + H’s hallowed Messiah tradition. The early-instrument contingent, chorus, and remarkable soloists covered themselves in glory at Symphony Hall Sunday.    [continued]

Boston Early Music Festival’s virtuoso chamber ensemble treated us to a delectable evening of 17th-century-opera selections based on the Orfeo legend. The performance I heard Friday at Jordan Hall will repeat on Sunday at 3:00.    [continued]

In “The Voice of the Cello,” cellist Joseph Gotoff and pianist SangYoung Kim explored Romantic and late-Romantic tropes and impressions from vocal and vocalise transcriptions at St. John’s Episcopal Church for a moment of respite and warmth on Sunday.    [continued]