Schubert composed his Gesänge zur Feier des heiligen Opfers der Messe, D 872, better known in English as his “German Mass,” in late summer or fall 1827, at the behest of the poet, Johann Philipp Neumann, who paid him 100 florins to create a work for congregational singing as an adjunct to the spoken Latin Mass in Catholic liturgy. Schubert wrote it for SATB chorus with accompaniment of a wind orchestra. The fourth movement, an Offertory just one page long, offers a neat microcosm of elementary tonality very like the “familiar style” of Protestant hymns later in the century. The text of the first stanza translates thus: [continued…]

BMInt alerted readers HERE a couple of weeks ago to the salutary fact that Tanglewood is planning to operate this summer, albeit for half its usual run. Now we’re pleased to go straight to the lede: Click HERE for the just-released calendar in easy-to-read form.

Once again BMInt’s resident curmudgeon rants on rep. But first comes Andris Nelsons’s edited welcome. [continued…]

The Brandeis Music Department has sent a statement which BMInt reprints here.

Martin Boykan, a world-renowned composer, inspirational teacher, published author and prodigious performer, died peacefully at his home on March 6th at the age of 89, leaving his wife, Susan Schwalb, and his niece Ina Pour El and her family. His funeral took place in New York City on March 8, 2021.

Born in 1931, Boykan studied composition with Walter Piston, Aaron Copland and Paul Hindemith, and piano with Eduard Steuermann. He received a BA from Harvard University, 1951, and an MM from Yale University, 1953. In 1953–55 he was in Vienna on a Fulbright Fellowship, and upon his return founded the Brandeis Chamber Ensemble whose other members included Robert Koff (Juilliard Quartet), Nancy Cirillo (Wellesley), Eugene Lehner (Kolisch Quartet) and Madeline Foley (Marlborough Festival). This ensemble performed widely with a repertory divided equally between contemporary music and the tradition. At the same time Boykan appeared regularly as a pianist with soloists such as Joseph Silverstein and Jan de Gaetani. In 1964–65, he was the pianist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. [continued…]

BMInt: We gather that you have been depositing rediscoveries from your moldy archives onto YouTube to share of some interesting material that might not otherwise emerge from obscurity…undeserved, from what we have heard in the case of your mastertape of a cassette-only release from 1978.

FLE: The foundational story to my production of “Harmonium and Company” goes back several decades to my moderate case of arrested-development-organ-nut syndrome. After a very brief stint with organ builder Charles Fisk, I began to accumulate organ parts, including at least one, complete 35-rank instrument; and I almost took a misguided first step to lease a very large disused power plant as my private concert hall.

What stopped you?

Somehow, I came to my senses before dipping into principal. That meant selling and/or abandoning tons of useless accumulated paraphernalia…save for a four-stop partially self-built baroque positive set up in my livingroom.

I bet that sounded pretty bad. [continued…]

Andris Nelsons and our favorite orchestra wrapped up its exploration of music of the period between the two World Wars. Running through April, this stream features Russian or Russian-born composers Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Eda Rapoport    [continued]

We won’t have to make do with a virtual shed and lawn this summer! After enduring a 16-month interregnum of hermetic distancing while making do with the virtuous virtual along with their subscribers, the BSO Trustees voted unanimously yesterday to reopen Americas’ preeminent summer music festival to living, breathing, if distanced outdoor or semi-outdoor crowds. Though we will have to wait until April 8th for program details, we take pleasure in management’s revelation that the six weeks between July 9th and August 16th will include a Saturday-evening and Sunday-afternoon Boston Symphony Orchestra series; a Friday-evening series featuring recitals, special guest artists and ensembles, and the Boston Pops; and a Monday-evening Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra series. The Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center, the BSO’s acclaimed summer music academy, will be featured in chamber music performances on Sunday mornings and Monday afternoons. The Tanglewood Learning Institute—launched in summer 2019—will also offer a variety of programs in summer 2021. In addition, Tanglewood will present family, community, and education programs, as well as maintain many of its free and reduced-price ticket programs for the upcoming season. Live video performance streams will be available throughout the summer on BSO NOW. And touchless ticketing starts on May 17th. [continued…]

From Thursday, March 18th through Saturday, April 17th, David Robertson leads the BSO online in an all-French theme. “A Fragile Peace: Between the Wars, Episode 2” linked Milhaud, Ravel and Honegger with a soupçon of Boulanger.    [continued]

When two objects collide, the strength of one impacts the trajectory of the other, sending it flying with uncertain purpose and lifetime. That is how I would describe the effect Jim Levine had on my musical destiny when I first met him in the summer of 1967 at the Meadowbrook Orchestral Institute. [continued…]

We expect many encomia and thoughtful first-person accounts to follow this official BSO statement.

“The Boston Symphony Orchestra extends its sincere condolences to the family of James Levine at the news of his passing. One of the most profoundly gifted musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries, James Levine led many extraordinary performances during his tenure as BSO music director (2004-11), including most memorable interpretations of the works of Beethoven, Schoenberg, Mahler, Ravel, and Brahms, among others, as well as composers he championed, including Elliott Carter, Charles Wuorinen, and John Harbison; he also led the BSO in an acclaimed tour of European summer festivals in 2007. The last period of his tenure as BSO music director was plagued by ill health, which resulted in his resignation in 2011. Subsequently, there emerged allegations of sexual improprieties which virtually ended his career as many musical institutions severed ties with him, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra.” [continued…]

On our screens came Celebrity Series At Home. A Neighborhood Arts outing by the much-touted Hub New Music, a mixed quartet self-described as “a little unique,” brought four premieres of youthful-leaning communiqués.    [continued]

First Lutheran Church of Boston will hold its annual celebration of Bach and his music on Saturday, March 20th to honor the 336th anniversary of Sebastian’s hatching. In-person attendance will be limited, but all five- and one-half hours of music will be transmitted through Facebook. FLC encourages virtual attendees to enjoy the customary sausage, Kraut und Rüben at home. Prosit neue Bach Jahr!

Current conditions impel the BBB to return to its roots with an all-day series of recitals featuring local talent. Performances from a lonely organ loft distance the recitalist from the audience, as will an outing from a solo pianist; the only ensemble occupying space together comprises a family unit. Livestreaming, and we mean “live,” will come as a first a first for the BBB.

At 9am FLC Kantor Jonathan Wessler will play the “Great Eighteen” organ chorales of Bach; Louise Mundinger follows at 10:45am with a fascinating program on the four seasons centered on Bach’s Four Duetti, S.802–805. At 1pm Erica Johnson will play works of Bach and his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, followed by more organ works of JS at 3pm (Jeremy Bruns) and 4:10pm (Wesley Hall).

In addition to the organ-related festivities, the Timko Family, members of First Lutheran, will play music of Bach and Petzold on the violin. Also, Noam Elkies will play Yuri Tulin’s piano transcription of Bach’s first Brandenburg concerto in honor of the 300th anniversary of those concertos), as well as his own “Two-Bit Invention”, composed in honor of his first haircut since March 2020 (!).

Absent a proper Vesper service with festival choral music, Wessler will close this year’s festival at 5:30pm with music heard at a mid-17th-century north German Orgelvesper (Organ Vespers); tenor William Farrell will supply the requisite chants. Those desiring to attend should sign up promptly HERE for the limited seating. To watch the recitals live from home, please visit HERE. [continued…]

A remarkable seriousness rang out in Shalin Liu Hall, as lens of Director of Photography Jason La Chapelle caught Yevgeny Kutik’s continuing series, “Finding Home: Music from a Suitcase.” This time, we heard more tributes to his teachers as well as pointed Prokofiev and dancy Milhaud.    [continued]

Ballets Russes Arts Initiative placed cellist Mickey Katz and pianist Hua Ye in the 19th-century confines of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts at Faneuil Hall for an attractive stream running through March 7th.    [continued]

In an ongoing stream of contrasts, Andris Nelsons leads the BSO in superb renderings of the master’s fifth and seventh symphonies to conclude the online Beethoven series Music in Changing Times. With nimbleness and clarity, the players also delivered Carlos Simon’s Fate Now Conquers and Schoenberg’s Phantasy, Op. 47.    [continued]

Emmy Award-winning, stage, screen and TV director Habib Azar talks about his approach to BSO streams and to telling stories visually.

FLE: What’s your method of preparing for shooting — do you basically consult the score and chase the instruments across the pages? 

HA: Every project is completely different — it may sound obvious, but of course a director is first and foremost a storyteller. So step one is deciding what story one wants to tell. Is the space a character? Is the story about the conductor? About an event? About the musical interpretation? About a group of artists gathering during covid against all odds?

Once I decide on what the story is, I see what technical capacities are available (camera types and positions, lighting, etc.) and then decide how best to deploy everything to make it work. At that point, I’ll start diving into the score and try to come up with a detailed plan for how to shoot it. On top of that I try to stay nimble so I can adjust organically to what is actually happening in the performance. [continued…]

Big BSO news this week comes in the announcement of Gail Samuel as the orchestra’s next President and Chief Executive Officer. HERE is the BSO press release. Last week, as a welcome extra, BSO Spirit of Beethoven offered a nostalgic and moving remembrance of BSO past .

It was 1975. WGBH, then a major content producer for PBS, was doing expensive and seriously produced live TV from Symphony Hall once a month. The nearly 50-year-old relic on offer, Channel 2’s take on Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony under Seiji Ozawa with soprano Susan Davenny Wyner and contralto Maureen Forrester and the NEC Chorus, replete with love beads, fros, and the ponderously pontificating, lockjawed, but much-loved announcer William Pierce, totally nailed the Zeitgeist.

In that nascent era of transmitting images over a distance, a major crew with a through-composed shooting script would turn a live concert into an art form we could savor on our 27-inch Living Color TVs. The relaxed and artful television began with the departure of an elegant model couple from their Beacon Hill townhouse and ended 92 minutes later with Ozawa’s clenched fist at the climax. Have a look HERE.

Something beyond nostalgia impelled me to dig deeper into those old shows and ask a retired producer thereof to contrast the BSO onscreen then with now. Among his many accomplishments, freelance director and producer William Cosel worked for WGBH and the BSO for 42 years, from 1963 to 2005. [Next week BMInt expects to publish an interview with current director of BSO Now shows Habib Azar]

FLE: Am I a fuddy-duddy when I observe that there are too many two-second and shorter shots, too much quick cutting, in today’s BSO online? [continued…]

My oldest personal copy of the Rite of Spring full score is a crumbling Kalmus pirated edition of the revised 1921 score published by Edition Russe I bought in 1959;  it is now peppered with annotations in pencil and three different colors of ballpoint [click HERE to see a page]. The cover fell off years ago. I hope to find time to copy all these notes and corrections into a virgin copy, but it will take hours, if not days. My other references here are two color facsimile volumes: The Rite of Spring / Sketches 1911-1913, published in 1969 by Boosey & Hawkes, with a preface by François Lesure and a separate folder of detailed notes, letters, and commentary by Robert Craft; and Le Sacre du Printemps: Facsimile of the Autograph Full Score, edited by Ulrich Mosch, published by the Paul Sacher Foundation and Boosey & Hawkes, 2013. Added to this is an original edition of the piano-duet score, Le Sacre du Printemps: Tableaux de la Russie païenne en deux parties d’Igor Strawinsky et Nicolas Roerich, with title page in Russian and French, published in 1913 by Édition Russe de Musique. I remember buying this hardbound score for $8.50 some decades ago at Patelson’s, where it was on the shelf next to a new Boosey & Hawkes paperbound revised reprint of the same score for $35. [continued…]

Violinist Yevgeny Kutik’s Music from the Suitcase, mostly recorded at Shalin Liu, preserves the nature of a live concert while adding elements of a documentary—with astonishing forthrightness and inspiring musical engagement.    [continued]

While Andris Nelsons’s conducting streamed, video acted as guide to Beethoven’s Eroica plus works by Hannah Kendall, and the Pulitzer Prize winner Carol Shaw. John Ferrillo’s eyebrows spoke as eloquently as his instrument.    [continued]

When you have observed [slavery’s] horrors as I have, when you have seen thousands of victims die through unimaginable tortures, then you would condemn without forgiveness the greatest of the inequities which the ages of barbarity bequeathed to us.    LMG

It was probably not only the upcoming Black History Month which caused known NOLA native and BMInt publisher Lee Eiseman to advocate for someone, or two, or more, to serve up a gumbo bowl of Louis Moreau Gottschalk three weeks ago in the superb Harvard Musical Association YouTube live series. It might also have been the sore need, right after the Inauguration of this new political era and year, for some musical freshness of openhearted sincerity.

The pianist and composer Gottschalk, with one parent French Creole and and the other German Jewish by way of London, was this young country’s first international musical sensation and celebrity: a son of its most cultured city, a youth prodigy in Europe publicly singled out for praise by Chopin no less and presently taught by a teacher of Saint-Saëns, raved over by famous critics like Berlioz (“Mr. Gottschalk is one of the very small number of those who possess all the different elements of the sovereign power of the pianist, all the attributes which environ him with an irresistible prestige … his playing strikes from the first, dazzles, astonishes …”), and himself a writer of articles in the American and French press — but today overlooked in the recital world. [continued…]

Russian-American violinist Yevgeny Kutik has announced “Finding Home: Music from the Suitcase in Concert,” a five-installment “docu-recital” series based on his 2014 CD of mostly the same name. Each half-hour episode interweaves works from the album with Kutik’s personal narrative. Episodes will premiere weekly on his Facebook and YouTube channels every Thursday at 7pm beginning February 11th. “Finding home” explores antisemitism in the Soviet Union, the Kutik family’s months as “stateless” refugees, the challenges of starting a new home in the United States, and Kutik’s teachers and mentors. It also posits lessons for the future.

Kutik has produced the series and offers it free to viewers. Click HERE to register.

In 1989, when Kutik was five years old, his family emigrated from the deteriorating Soviet Union to the United States, leaving most of their possessions behind and fitting what they could into just two suitcases. Kutik’s mother, a violin teacher, filled one with sheet music from the family’s collection, believing that their music was a significant part of their family’s musical history. Years later Kutik began to explore the music from the suitcase, became enthralled with his discoveries, and recorded a selection for the critically acclaimed album, “Music from the Suitcase: A Collection of Russian Miniatures” (Marquis Classics), which debuted at no. 5 on the Billboard Classical chart and was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and in the New York Times

Kutik recently talked to BMInt about his undertakings. [continued…]

My immediate inspiration for an addendum to “The Rite of Spring: Confronting the Score” [BMInt 2008 HERE] comes from a Sony’s “Le Sacre du Printemps: 10 Reference Recordings” (87254 61742), from its 100th-Anniversary Collection (2013). Ranging over nearly 70 years, the collection begins with dubbed 78s from the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski in 1929 and Stravinsky’s own platters with the New York Philharmonic in 1940. The composer’s last preserved version of The Rite came in 1960 at the beginning of the stereophonic era. The collection reaches forward to 1996.

One might well imagine that in the decades after 1913, The Rite of Spring would be considered a conductor’s challenge, especially because the orchestra is so large and the textures so variable and colorful. But only the Danse sacrale, the Sacrificial Dance, presents any real challenge to time-beating. As to indicating the measure, all of the rest of The Rite seems quite straightforward. When the curtain rises in Part I on motionless dancers (Les augures printaniers [Spring Fortunetelling], No. 13, mm. 76-247), the conductor beats in an uninterrupted 2/4 pace for 171 bars, accentuating either with sharp downbeats or with offbeat bounces, as needed. In the “Dance of the Abduction” that follows, where the basic compound-meter pulse is in dotted quarters with cross-accents abounding, the conductor’s time-beating task, and the orchestra’s task in following the beat, encounter relatively few difficulties. Back in the Diaghilev days it may not have been always so, but today’s orchestra players tend to worry more about getting the notes out when the patterns are fast, high, or strained than about counting the beats, as long as they can feel the measures with an occasional nod from the conductor. [continued…]

A cat and a five-month-old baby shared the latest BSO stream with me. The thematic thread of “home” perhaps helps us reexamine our own situations, but as a jocular aside, how much do we really want to hear about “Home” after 2020?    [continued]