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Visiting Aucoin’s Underworld

Boston area favorite-son composer Matthew Aucoin reached a pinnacle of recognition in November of 2021 at the Metropolitan Opera, where his opera Eurydice (book and libretto by Sarah Ruhl) vividly and artfully retold the Orpheus-plus myth from the tragedienne’s perspective. The underworld has never since been the same.

“It’s not surprising that a tale about the greatest musician in history, a man who could make the very stones weep when he performed, keeps appealing to his descendants. The scenario offers composers a wedding party, a tragic death, an evocation of what lies beyond, an attempt at resurrection, a plangent lament — opportunities to shine, and to place themselves in a grand tradition.”  NYT 2021

For the Boston Lyric Opera’s production, Aucoin reduced the orchestration demands considerably, but according to our interview subject, award-winning bass-baritone Mark S. Doss*, who plays the newly added role of Eurydice’s father, “…the sound is quite incredible.”

The show runs March 1st through the 10th at the Huntington Theater. Tickets HERE.

FLE: Mark, I didn’t know there was a father in this legend. [continued]

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NEP Piques Our Interest

New England Philharmonic’s “New Music New England” [tickets HERE] celebrates our region and features Grammy-winning organ soloist Paul Jacobs Boston on Sunday March 3rd at 3:00 pm at the Boston University Tsai Performance Center. In a concert which also includes, Wang Lu’s Surge (2022), Ives’s Three Places in New England (1935), David Sanford’s Thy Book of Toil (2014), a pair of works by composers we know, Kati Agócs and John Harbison, particularly piqued our interest.

John Harbison’s What Do We Make of Bach? for orchestra with organ obligatto  premiered in October 2018 with the Minnesota Orchestra, conductor Osmo Vänskä, and organist Paul Jacobs, organist.  Agócs summarizes her Perpetual Summer (2010) for BMInt readers below, and our interviews with Perpetual Summer with Harbison and Jacobs follow. [continued]

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Will Symphonies Survive?

 Jared Hackworth

What barriers bar the uninitiated from classical concerts? Could the BSO maintain its Big Five prestige and remain accessible to new audiences? To investigate, I attended all three of the BSO’s January concerts: a sold-out presentation of León, Ravel, and Stravinsky; a concert production of Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of the Mitsensk District; and a “Casual Friday” concert of Stravinsky. I found dwindling audiences entirely enraptured by the music of one of the world’s best orchestras.

Covid had placed performing arts in freefall. Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, said this week that “For most people, the pandemic is over. For arts institutions, we’re still in it,” reporting the need to “withdraw $40 million in additional emergency funds” due to a capacity rate of around “73%.” The New York Philharmonic’s audience is 62% over 55. During the pandemic, these attendance rates plummeted—in 2019, the Pittsburgh Symphony sold around 70% of tickets; in 2022, that fell to 37%. The Cleveland Orchestra still hovered between 54% sales in the fall of 2022 and 67% in 2023. These data suggest that not only are classical music audiences often older, but they are also, in large numbers, not returning to the concert hall after Covid. [continued]

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Zander & BPO Realize Composers’ Visions

Saturday night’s Boston Philharmonic concert at Symphony Hall commenced with Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte. The resulting enchantment, reinforced by the BPO’s cool and self-assured execution, opened a gripping evening. [continued]
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For the Love of It

My first hearing of the 29-year-old New Philharmonia Orchestra left me wondering why I waited so long. The relaxed yet expectant, ambience furthered the feel of “a community,” as the Philharmonia envisions itself. [continued]
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H + H Keeps Tradition Alive with Harry

Over the weekend the Handel & Haydn Society welcomed back Conductor Laureate Harry Christophers to Symphony Hall for its yearly portion of Mozart and Haydn. Predictable selections of those two composers capped the ends of event, but the addition of music from Hildegard von Bingen and Raffaella Aleotti gave the audience a rewarding exploration of nearly 700 years of composition. [continued]
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Great Lizardry Rewards Us Again

Sebastian Currier’s Vocalissimus, a suite of 18 brief to even briefer, moody numbers for Pierrot ensemble plus percussion formed the core of Chameleon Arts Ensemble’s latest outing. [continued]
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Jonathan Biss Essays Last Three

Jonathan Biss began his survey of  Schubert’s last three piano sonatas at the ISGM’s Calderwood Hall on Sunday. The others will follow on March 24th and April 28th. [continued]
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When Israelis Were In Rockport’s Land

During a period of (truly) hard times for Israelis, the four musicians from Israeli Chamber Project who appeared at Shalin Liu Center for Rockport Music on Sunday have soldiered on … [continued] [continued]
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Consorting With Dandrieu

For the young musicians of this celebrated French ensemble, Dandrieu remains an emblem of their unique vision of the trio sonata genre. Their BEMF performance at the First Congregational Church in Cambridge suggested as much exuberance as intimacy. [continued]
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BLO Englishizes L’amant anonyme

The Boston Lyric Opera’s charming production of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges’s only surviving opera, The Anonymous Lover (1780), ran at the Huntington Theater last weekend. [continued]
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Lookouts Aloft! A Composer Puts Out to Sea

Smyth in 1901 by Sargent

Dame Ethel Smyth (1854-1944) said, “I want women to turn their minds to big and difficult jobs, not just to go on hugging the shore, afraid to put out to sea.”

This is the story of a woman — in the long history of women stifled by important or influential men in their lives or eras — who did the big and difficult job over and over. Ethel Smyth, a strong-minded musician, fought against her father’s pontifical noise and ‘put out to sea’ (or at least crossed the channel) in 1877 at age 19 to study at the Conservatorium in Leipzig. One of the top Smyth scholars, Amy Zigler, has a brief biography available HERE. BMInt is happy to publish this preview in the context of a Cappella Clausura’s performance of Smyth’s Mass in D at Emmanuel Church at 4pm on March 3rd. Tickets HERE.

Smyth characterized herself as making “on average 12 intimate friends per annum” (letter to Henry Brewster, 1892). Her first core in Leipzig was the Herzogenbergs, a musical family whose young matriarch, Lisl (only 11 years her senior), took a maternal interest in Ethel, and a deep, life-changing relationship began. Lisl’s brother-in-law was Henry Brewster, who was also to become a deep and romantic partner, although married. Brewster, a poet, was the librettist for many of her operas. On her many trips to Germany, her friends introduced her to more friends, many of them the glitterati of the late 1800s: Brahms (her musical hero, along with Beethoven), Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Clara Schumann, Dvorak, and more. [continued]

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Enigma Heats Up Its Britten

At the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston last weekend, The Burning Fiery Furnace concluded Enigma Opera’s project of staging Britten’s three parables for church performance. [continued]
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Boston Calls on Marlboro’s Musicians

Music for Food presented Musicians from Marlboro in vibrant takes on selections of Coleridge-Taylor, Dvořák, Webern, and Schoenberg at Williams Hall, NEC on Sunday. [continued]
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Harpsichordist Encapsulates Spirits

Duangkamon Wan Wattanasak’s Sunday recital at First Church in Cambridge delighted Boston’s early music fanatics. [continued]
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Collage New Music at MIT

Killian Hall responded Sunday with six varied, newish works in Artistic Director David Hoose’s penultimate concert with the group. Four of the composers were in the house. [continued]
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Did We Need the Science Lesson?

In Friday night’s well-aligned flow of creation in Jordan Hall, the Takács Quartet traced mighty orbits for the Celebrity Series. [continued]
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Chausson and Charles Munch: In Brief

On a Saturday evening some 70 years ago I heard the Boston Symphony Orchestra live for the first time. Melville Smith, then director of the Longy School, had given me two tickets he couldn’t use. Charles Munch conducted. Before the intermission came Honegger’s Symphony no. 1; the program notes mentioned harmony that “trends toward C major,” which amused me and my 9th-grade classmate George Nelson — it must have meant that the symphony was “modern.” After the intermission we heard Schubert’s “Great” Symphony in C Major, a work I had never heard before, but George knew it well. “This symphony begins with a solo horn,” he said. (Actually it turned out to be two in unison.) I was deeply impressed by the experience, and especially by the slow movement, but never imagined that I would write a book about this symphony a few years later (2011). [continued]

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Room at the Top 

Word is out! With pianist Yunchan Lim in Rach 3 and an exuberant account of Chausson’s only symphony,  conductor Tugan Sokhieve and the Boston Symphony Orchestra have a sellout. [continued]
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Lowell House Opera Premiers The Unknowable

Benjamin Rossen’s promising The Unknowable somewhat rang true to its name at Sanders last weekend. Lowell House Opera, with the support of many loyal audience members, is doing a great service to the community by continuing to expand our modern operatic repertoire. [continued]
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Takács Quartet To Debut Flow

The renowned Takács Quartet has a zest for new music and unconventional partnerships. They’ve collaborated with bandoneon standout Julien Labro, composer and The National vocalist Bryce Dessner, vocalist Clarice Assad, and actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep. For its February 16th Celebrity Series concert at Jordan Hall [tickets HERE], the foursome offers Nokuthula Ngwenyama’s Flow sandwiched between Haydn’s “Sunrise” quartet and the second of Beethoven’s Razumovskys.

In Flow, Harvard Divinity School graduate Ngwenyama embraces the cosmos…or lets it embrace her. BMInt spoke with her and and Takács violinist Harumi Rhodes.

FLE: We first met in 1999 when you gave a super viola recital at Harvard Musical Association. You probably don’t remember the event, but surely the baked beans, Welsh rabbit and ale must have traumatized you. [continued]

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Rivers Flow Within Club

Somerville’s inviting Center for Arts at the Armory on Highland Avenue hosted the Orchestra Book Club, a unique organization with tripartite intent. Sunday’s concert depicted rivers. [continued]
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Goldbergs Go Global

In pianist Víkingur Ólafsson’s 80-minute Jordan Hall journey, revelations followed discoveries; my love affair with the Goldbergs flared anew. [continued]
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Sunlit Haydn, Moonlit Bartók

This week’s BSO program offers Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C and Béla Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle; and if you’re thinking it must be the Haydn that first entered the repertoire, you’d be wrong. [continued]
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A Beloved Genius Departed This Sphere

Seiji Ozawa just died in Tokyo at the age of 88. His durable career with the Boston Symphony, where he spent a major portion of his years as music director, spanned 1973 to 2002, the longest such term in the orchestra’s history. The BSO’s press release is HERE. And we embed a video tribute within. [continued]

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Dance Music of the Germania Musical Society

A free concert resulting from the research of this writer along with the efforts of the Harvard Musical Association Library Committee takes place on March 3rd at 3:00, at St. John’s Church, 27 Devens Street, in Charlestown. Just show up (entry is free). Leave a comment below if you have questions.

Winsome duo-pianists Chi-Wei Lo and Xiaopei Xu, collectively known as Psychopomp Ensemble (guide of souls), who have been reinventing the recital, once brilliantly interpolated the Beatles’ “Imagine” into the Gottschalk’s “The Union” HERE at 52:40; they will preside in an acoustically warm sanctuary on a restored 1870 Chickering concert grand. A light reception will follow.

The Germania Musical Society deserves to emerge from the cocoon of writings by musicological specialists and reclaim the interest of a larger public. [continued]

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Ives Sonatas Knowingly Rendered

[nec]shivaree, under the guidance of artistic director Stephen Drury, celebrated Charles Ives (1874-1954) at Williams Hall on Monday. More Ives is coming at NEC: Piano music on Feb. 27th and March 27th at 7:30 p.m. in Jordan Hall. [continued]
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Larry Bell: New Piano Music

At Berk Hall last night, Larry Bell began a concert of his own new piano music with with his single-movement Sonata No. 7, “Southern Meditations.” The three works that followed all took notice of hymn tunes. [continued]
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Opera Prima’s Well-Curated Playlist

Soprano Amanda Forsythe joined Opera Prima for its much-anticipated American debut. The group delivered a banquet of songs from the Great Italian Songbook at First Church, Cambridge on Saturday night. [continued]
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Fleming and Barnatan in the Anthropocene

The equally billed peoples’ diva Renée Fleming and celebrated pianist Inon Barnatan warmly animated “Voice of Nature, the Anthropocene” for the Celebrity Series yesterday. This long-anticipated concert motivated a capacity Symphony Hall crowd to consider the beauty yet fragility of our world. [continued]
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