In the slow and careful return to live music, some of the Boston area’s long-standing summer organ recital series are leading the way.

The Methuen Memorial Music Hall (www.mmmh.org) did an admirable job of pivoting last spring to live-streaming, as the trustees of the hall were able to install suitable equipment; they racked up thousands of views on their YouTube channel. You can still watch all of last season, as well as the current one HERE.

As of July 14th, the recitals reopened to the public. Every Wednesday at 7:30 pm, an excellent performer will preside. The details can be seen in BMInt’s “Upcoming Events.”
July 28 Stefan Donner, Vienna, Austria; August 4 Nicole Keller, Cleveland, Ohio; August 11 Caroline Robinson, Atlanta, Georgia; August 18 Rosalind Mohnsen, Malden, Massachusetts; August 25 Jennifer McPherson, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Even before you get to hear any music, just seeing the spectacular hall is well worth the journey to the old mill town near the New Hampshire border,. MMMH is celebrating the 75th-anniversary season [read recent BMInt feature HERE] of summer recitals this year, following the 1946 acquisition and incorporation of the organ and building. The Great Organ, originally built by the E.F. Walcker firm of Ludwigsburg, Germany, for the Boston Music Hall and dedicated in 1863, was removed to make room on the stage for the new Boston Symphony Orchestra, and was kept in storage until the Methuen hall was dedicated in 1909, thanks to local philanthropist and organ lover Edward Searles. Read more about the fascinating history of the Great Organ at mmmh.org. [continued…]

The main problem for everyone who confronts Charles Ives’s music is balancing the extraordinary quality of his art with how far it falls short of perfection. To the extent that we can appraise this aesthetic gulf, we can assess Ives as a tragic composer. But a great man he certainly was — the greatest American composer, the most essential of musical natives, and the most original in thought and studied imagination; much of his achievement will endure permanently. Arnold Schoenberg, his exact contemporary, left a much-quoted note about Ives in his files, including a pregnant sentence: “He has solved the problem of how to preserve one’s self-esteem and to learn.” Ives never stopped learning, despite his Yale education; whether he solved the problem of how to be himself is what needs to be debated. His training under Horatio Parker — who did stop learning — enabled him to write a radiant, drastic Second Symphony.

I was scolded in these pages for referring to Ives as a “Sunday composer,” but I’ll stick with that irreverent term nevertheless. (So was Mahler, as was correctly pointed out.) The implication is that he was an amateur, but without any recognition of how serious he was about his own music, and it goes without saying that he was a hard worker, even for many days each week. He didn’t regard his own music as beyond criticism, though perhaps beyond self-criticism. Ives constantly criticized his own music by writing parts of it over and over again in different ways and forms — think of the circus-band style that surges and resurges, often literally, in the “Concord” Sonata, in “Putnam’s Camp” in Three Places in New England, in the Fourth Symphony, and in some songs. [continued…]

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel’s Overture in C Major opened the Sunday afternoon Tanglewood concert that featured her brother Felix’s contemporaneous Reformation Symphony and Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 with Gil Shaham.    [continued]

The threatening Saturday night weather at Tanglewood anticipated not only the Brahms First Piano Concerto, but also Prokofiev’s brilliant, succinct meditation on modern life and its multi-colored umbrella rituals. Andris Nelsons presided and pianist Daniil Trifonov massively immersed himself into the concerto.    [continued]

Apollo’s Fire brought the divine fire of the Sun-god to Tanglewood last night, illuminating our emotional depths through a gemischter Geschmack of Bach and Vivaldi.    [continued]

Sunday afternoon at the Tanglewood Koussevitzky Shed the Boston Symphony and sparkling violin soloist Baiba Skride presented an appealing, if rather disjointed, mélange: one contemporary appetizer and two larger, somewhat infrequently heard musical entrées of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.    [continued]

From Nelsons’s downbeat for the Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus on Saturday night’s BSO opener, an edge-of-your seat anticipation practically pulsed from the shed, till we reached (somewhat tepid) higher ground with the Emperor Concerto and the Fifth Symphony.    [continued]

Shrouded in dense fog, Newport’s Breakers and lawn could well have been the setting of a gothic novel. Cue A Far Cry then to open Newport Music Festival’s entirely alfresco season on Thursday. The wonderful evening of music making pointed to a new direction for a festival.    [continued]

So as not to bury my lede, let me point you HERE for the announcement of the inaugural concert of a new Boston summer orchestra.

Summer classical music festivals bring heightened expectations for something different. Maybe it’s the pressing heat, or the later-setting sun, or that unrestrained summer feeling that makes you want to jump in the ocean and have a mimosa with your mid-morning omelet. Classical musicians everywhere rejoice at the prospect of kicking back, making music with friends, and bringing a community together through the performing arts.

Though densely populated with classical ensembles from September to May, Boston features surprisingly little summer music. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, for example, migrates to Tanglewood in the Berkshires for a few months, while those of us sticking around Boston proper continue to look for that memorable summer night entertainment. The same goes for Boston’s exceptional classical music professionals, who often find themselves in a summer slump when it comes to steady employment. [continued…]

Sunday from 12 noon-10 pm, WHRB will pay tribute to David Elliott, who gave 58 years to the station and who started the July 4th Program of American Music in 2000 and curated it for 19 years. Hearing David again, in a 25-minute excerpt from his July 4th, 2004 broadcast, will provide an additional treat.

In building the playlist for his broadcasts, David placed an emphasis on accessible music and introduced many of us to lesser-known but very worthwhile American tonal composers such as Ernst Bacon, Nevett Bartow, Richard Rendleman, Burnet Tuthill, David Baker, Leslie Adams, and Don Gillis. The show will begin with some of David’s favorites by these and others.

David also appreciated  quirky and amusing pieces (such as the Homage aux Frères Marx by Henry Brant), which will be played throughout.

In addition, the broadcast will place David in a pantheon of American broadcasters via interesting American-music related segments from Mike Wallace, Hugh Downs, Charles Osgood, Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and Martin Bookspan, all alongside David’s 1977 interview with Aaron Copland. [continued…]

Frederic Rzewski (pronounced Zhefsky), who died on June 26th at age 83, lived a long and active musical life: “politically committed composer and pianist,” read the headline in Monday’s Times. He was born in 1938 in Westfield, Massachusetts. His musical involvement in leftist causes was less well known in America than in Europe, where he made the greater part of his career — in Italy, where he lived, and Belgium, where he was a professor at the Brussels Conservatory. His avant-garde inclinations were evident even in his Harvard undergraduate years; he graduated in 1958, and his chamber music then sounded post-Schoenberg rather than post-Webern as was the fashion. After that he collected an MFA at Princeton and went to study with Dallapiccola in Europe, where he remained, occasionally returning to his native land to teach and perform. [continued…]

Three months later than usual, and after much apparent viral deliberation, the BSO sent out its prospectus for the next subscription season at Symphony Hall. BMInt’s feature [HERE] conveys the story mostly in BSO’s words. The complete calendar is HERE.  

For this writer, the most thrilling BSO 2021-2022 repertoire will be the concert performance of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, the first in Symphony Hall since Seiji Ozawa’s in spring of 1987. “Concert performance” may be only a bashful excuse, because this opera, of an almost unbearable dramatic intensity, can be performed with almost minimal staging — in 1987 they did it with a T-shaped stage erected directly above the orchestra. Berg’s Three Pieces, op. 6, which I have heard twice in Symphony Hall, most recently with an excellent performance directed by Levine (almost as excellent as the one I heard in during the Berg centenary in 1985, in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, directed by Abbado from memory) bring subscribers a second helping of the composer. I wrote the long program notes in the booklets for all of these performances, so I hope somebody reads them, especially the conductors. [continued…]

Juneteenth is our newest national holiday, signed into law yesterday by President Biden after passing the Senate. It commemorates a starting point, but nowhere near the finish line, for true equality of all Americans. Juneteenth is the first new U.S. federal holiday since the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III writes, “Juneteenth holds particular significance for our military. It marks the date in 1865 – 2+ years after the Emancipation Proclamation – when Union, led by U.S. Army Major General Granger, issued General Order No. 3, informing the people of Texas that “all slaves are free.” Massachusetts made it a state holiday last July, and the Commonwealth Museum in Dorchester has just opened an exhibit HERE displaying fourteen related documents from 164-1865. Among them are an order from the Massachusetts Adjutant General announcing the emancipation proclamation, the act by the Massachusetts Legislature ratifying the 13th Amendment that ended slavery in America, and a letter from Frederick Douglass.

[continued…]

This morning, Boston Symphony Orchestra announces its coming season, September 30th – April 30th, and the reopening of Symphony Hall to concertgoers, enthusiastically welcoming audiences back for the first time since March 2020. Click HERE for the calendar.

In the opener, Nelsons shares the podium with John Williams, and the spotlight with Anne-Sophie Mutter, the soloist in Williams’s Violin Concerto no. 2, Beethoven’s Consecration of the House overture, and the BSO signature work, Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra will fill out the concert.

Nelsons, the Ray And Maria Stata music director, had this to say: 

“The BSO’s 2021-’22 season at Symphony Hall will be a great celebration, marking the return to concert life and the reunion with our beloved music community. We have all been waiting for this moment for a very long time. [continued…]

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced last Friday, with many honors for Boston-based journalists and Tania León (b. in Cuba, 1943) winning the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her New York Philharmonic commission Stride.

The 15-minute orchestral showpiece premiered at David Geffen Hall on February 13, 2020; it is the second piece to be premiered from the New York Philharmonic’s Project 19, which commissions 19 women to compose works marking the centenary of the 19th Amendment (which gave American women the right to vote). HERE. For short interviews with the composer, to see the prize-winning work in rehearsal, click HERE.

Pianist Jihye Chang, a passionate champion of new music, played Léon’s Tumbao (2005) at BoCo’s Seully Hall last year. [BMInt review HERE]

The Boston Art Song Society presented her five Atwood Songs this March, HERE, and the socially distanced NEC Philharmonia, directed by Tristan Rais-Sherman just played her Indígena (1991) in Jordan Hall last month HERE. [continued…]

Claudio Monteverdi numbers among those rare composers who can be called “complete” because of an ability to create successfully in every style and genre of their times. On Friday night, BEMF streamed works largely from his books 7 and 8 sometimes called madrigals.    [continued]