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Rationalizing Loeffler’s Rat’s Nest

It all began innocently enough, but detoured into a rabbit hole. When COVID started pinching off live performances, clarinetist, writer, composer, and occasional TED Talker Graeme Steele Johnson sought to pick up work writing program notes for some of the few ensembles who had not lowered their shutters. One such assignment was for a group performing, among other things, the Deux Rapsodies for oboe, viola and piano, probably the most-performed piece by the elusive, enigmatic Boston composer and violinist Charles Martin Loeffler (1861-1935). In doing his homework, Johnson, a Texas-born member of the touring wind quintet WindSync who studied under David Shifrin at Yale and Charles Neidich at CUNY, came across a reference to an octet (no, make that Octette) by Loeffler for two clarinets, harp, string quartet and contrabass that had been premiered in 1897 but has lain dormant ever since. Fascinated, (“it was curiosity and serendipity”) Johnson went hunting it down, found Loeffler’s manuscript score and a set of parts at the Library of Congress, but with and on them a rat’s nest of corrections, additions, deletions, and fugitive thoughts that made creating a performing edition anything but straightforward. Create it he did, however, and he and his “dream team” ensemble have freshly embarked on a tour to present the results, partly by way of also promoting the premiere recording of the piece to be released by Delos in June. We caught up with him via Zoom for more enlightenment. [continued]

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BPO: Transcendent Mozart, Searing Bruckner

The Boston Philharmonic paired Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 with Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony  at Symphony Hall last night. [continued]
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BSO = Brass

The penultimate week of the BSO season started on April 25th with unequivocal dominance of brass. [continued]
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Boston Baroque Punishes the Rake

Boston Baroque’s modern-dress production of Don Giovanni  featured some great singing. The show runs through Sunday at the Huntington. [continued]
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Bamberg Symphony Rewards Celebrity Series Crowd

The Bamberg Symphony under Jakub Hrůša with pianist Lukás Vondráčék brought rewarding playing to familiar favorites for the Celebrity Series on Tuesday. [continued]
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Remembering Brian Jones

On Saturday Trinity Church will host a memorial service for its illustrious former music director at 10:00 AM (preludes at 9:30); this promises to be a beautiful and deeply moving celebration of the life of Brian Jones, featuring choral music pre-selected by him, sung by the present Trinity Choir, The Copley Singers, and other Trinity Choir “alumni” from his years as music director, and conducted by the current music director, Colin Lynch. A reception follows in the church’s undercroft. Livestream it HERE.

Last November the world of music lost an artist of extraordinary gifts in Brian Ernest Jones, and the larger world also lost a great humanitarian, bon vivant, raconteur, and all-around mensch. A man who cherished the English language, he was also one of the earliest writers to contribute concert reviews to the new Boston Musical Intelligencer blog started in 2008, and he recruited others (including myself) to follow his lead. The arc of his multi-faceted musical career spanned half a century, and his influence extended internationally. Having investigated colleges while studying at Phillips Exeter Academy, I was already very interested in his alma mater, Oberlin College, despite Exeter’s college placement director who could respect schools outside the Ivy League but actively discouraged students from making them their top preferences. Before meeting Brian, I had gotten to know and respect three accomplished musicians and teachers who were Oberlin alumni (one, in fact, chaired the music department at Exeter), but as the first “Obie organist” I met, Brian may well have provided the crucial reinforcement I needed in my senior year to stand my ground with that college placement director. Oberlin was then unique in the country as a college paired with a conservatory of music where one might pursue a double degree on one campus and receive twin bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts and music in five years. This cross-fertilization of world-class conservatory and college, coupled with the institution’s distinction as the country’s first coeducational and racially integrated college (well before the Civil War) seemed ideal to me.
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BCMS Hyper-Expresses

Brilliant accounts of Debussy’s En blanc et noir, Paul Schoenfield’s Café Music, and Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire rewarded the exuberant, self-selected BCMS audience at Jordan Hall on Sunday afternoon. [continued]
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A Final Flourish with Cappella Clausura

by Cappella Clausura Board members Lawson Daves and Martha Hatch Bancroft

As Amelia LeClair’s tenure with Capella Clausura draws to a poignant close, the ensemble prepares for a grand finale this weekend: an ethereal rendition of Vespers by Chiara Margarita Cozzolani Accompanied by the celestial harmonies of the H+H Youth Choruses’ Chorus of Sopranos + Altos, this magnum opus promises to enrapture audiences with its resplendent melodies and transcendent beauty. With an ensemble comprised of an organ, gambas, theorbos, and choruses of men and women, the concert is poised to be an unforgettable performance—a fitting crescendo to LeClair’s illustrious legacy. Tickets HERE.

Beyond the music, this concert serves as a heartfelt farewell to a trailblazer whose passion and perseverance have reshaped the contours of classical music. It is a tribute to a luminary who dared to defy convention, carving a path for future generations of female musicians to follow. As attendees gather to witness the culmination of LeClair’s tenure, they are not merely spectators but participants in a historic moment. This concert is an ode to the enduring power of artistry and the boundless possibilities of the human spirit.

Cappella Clausura is the creation of Amelia LeClair. She was inspired by the disturbing lack of attention given to the music of women composers and formed an ensemble and an organization to fill this need. I have been a part of it since 2006. [continued]

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Behold Brahms

Brahms hardly springs to mind when one thinks of the Handel and Haydn Society, but this distinguished Boston institution first presented Brahms’s Requiem in 1945 in a concert dedicated to the memory Franklin Delano Roosevelt, … [continued] [continued]
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Institutionalizing La Clemenza di Tito

Boston University’s Opera Institute production of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito attracted a strong turnout of students and community members to the Saturday matinée at the Tsai Center. [continued]
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Apollonian Nationalism

The Apollo Ensemble’s Saturday concert at First Church in Cambridge featured Keila Wakao in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto along with Finlandia and Enigma Variations. [continued]
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Premieres, Reappearances with Collage

David Hoose, a name synonymous with Collage, lifted baton-free hands for remarkable renderings by some of Boston’s finest musicians in a farewell after 33 years as Music Director. [continued]
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Stunning Intelligence at Symphony Hall

Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s evocative and riveting ARCHORA opened Thursday night’s BSO concert. After that, Mozart’s 33rd Symphony sounded, well, staidly dated. Hilary Hahn’s intelligent warmth pervaded Symphony Hall with a sagaciously bravura Brahms Violin Concerto. [continued]
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A Great Augury for Rockport Summer

The Ying Quartet’s return to Shalin Liu, in company with the lively double bassist-composer Xavier Foley, welcomed a full house with an inviting radiance and upbeat good humor. [continued]
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Okeghem Weekend

Blue Heron has finished its subscription season with an ambitious Okeghem Weekend which included several concerts and talks across many venues. [continued]
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Surprising Chamber Music Venue

The little town of Olive in upstate New York, a 20-minute drive from my home in Woodstock, barely exists, but one car hear some great pianists there. [continued]
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Schumann’s Many Loves

Kuok-Wai Lio performed an all-Schumann concert comprising works represting composers, literature, children, and a woman in the latest Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts event on Saturday. [continued]
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BSO To Drop Archora on Expectant Listeners

Hrafn Asgeirsson photo

Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s latest major orchestral work, ARCHORA, will receive its Boston premiere performances in BSO subscription concerts (April 18th , 19th, 20th ) in which Andris Nelsons also will lead violinist Mozart’s Symphony No. 33 and, with Hilary Hahn,  Brahms’s Violin Concerto. The composer is one of ten recent winners of the generous Chanel Next Prize, which every other year recognizes ten international contemporary artists who advance the new and the next.

According to the NY Times, Thorvaldsdottir possesses “seemingly boundless textural imagination…Thorvaldsdottir is incapable of writing music that doesn’t immediately transfix an open-eared listener.” Our conversation with the composer follows.

FLE: You’ve provided very interesting notes which don’t really interfere with listening. Some composers tell us more than we need to know about the music and I think in general you like to let them use speak for itself.

AT: From my perspective, the music completely stands on its own when it is ready; it’s my job to communicate the music clearly via the score so that others can carry the music onwards. I really enjoy being at rehearsals and performances when it is possible, but there are so many performances all over the world that it is not possible to be at all of them, and people play the music wonderfully. My notation is very detailed and there are also recordings of my pieces that performers can listen to beforehand if they wish to.

Is there any freedom built into the Archora score? [continued]

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A Turangalîla-symphonie to Cherish

Pianist Yuja Wang and ondist Cécile Lartigau inspired a fine performance of the Turangalîla-symphonie from Andris Nelsons and the BSO. [continued]
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Massaging Brains While Evoking Paintings and Nature

Part Two of the BSO’s “Music For the Senses” brought conversation about a 40 Hz drone and some mostly quiet impressionistic chamber music to an attentive audience last night. [continued]
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Further Down the Long Road

This account supplements an earlier review of the US premiere of Ralf Yusuf Gawlick’s 2022 oratorio, “O Lungo Drom (The Long Road)” at Boston College’s Gasson Hall on Saturday. [continued]
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A Duo Says Hello

Christian Tetzlaff and Kirill Gerstein debuted their  duo for Bostonians at a Jordan Hall Celebrity Series Concert on Sunday. They held this listener enthralled. [continued]
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A Mother and an Artist 

On Sunday afternoon at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum the trio touring project, “Diametrically Composed,” displayed a collection of newly commissioned works  rendering depictions of today’s women. [continued]
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A Less-Traveled Long Road: O Lungo Drom

Thanks to a commission from the Alban Berg Ensemble Wien, a 70-minute oratorio for chamber ensemble and two singers received its US debut at BC’s Gasson Hall on Saturday night. [continued]
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 Okeghem Takes Flight

Blue Heron is at present very likely the only ensemble in the world to have sung every piece written by the great Johannes Okeghem. Building on this unique expertise, the ensemble will offer a selection of the master’s very best in the context of music by his contemporaries & colleagues at First Church in Cambridge, Congregational, 11 Garden Street, Cambridge on April 13th at 3:00. Tickets HERE. Music Director Scott Metcalfe self-interviews.

How did you first dive into the music of Okeghem and why did you want to perform all of his vocal music? What criteria did you employ to determine the authenticity and completeness?

Okeghem has been an important part of Blue Heron’s repertoire since our very first season in 1999-2000, when we sang a program featuring two of his four motets and a selection of his Mass settings. I always found his music wonderful (not to mention extraordinarily difficult), but it took a while for me to fall completely in love with it. [continued]

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De-mythologized Carmen

Boston Opera Collaborative staged a concise, bold, and refreshing production of Peter Brook’s La tragédie de Carmen at the newly renovated Arrow Street Arts. [continued]
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BSO Engages Two Senses

Wagner’s Liebestod, two takes on Prometheus, and Anna Clyne’s new Color Vision infused Symphony Hall with sound and light on Saturday afternoon. [continued]
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A Monumental Quandary

Handel and Haydn Society’s April 5th performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass at Symphony Hall united a chorus of professional singers, mostly-excellent soloists, and a period orchestra including some distinguished virtuosi, with a well-regarded Bach specialist at the helm. [continued]
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The [Murky] Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe

The Opera Odyssey and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project committed production this weekend at the Huntington Theater of Dominick Argento’s The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe left me saddened to hear so few of the poet’s words. [continued]
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BSO Announces Subscription Season

Today’s announcement of the BSO’s 144th season raises expectations for many scores of both new and reawakened interests, as well as accommodating desires for a goodly provisioning of comfortable warhorses. The complete calendar is HERE. Though I would always regard any of Beethoven’s symphonies as welcome at any time, it’s somewhat surprising to see that the 2025 season includes all nine. That’s happened here only four of five times before, and only once consecutively—by Serge Koussevitzky in March 1927. 

We had no Mahler this season, but the coming one promises his enormous and inscrutable Eighth Symphony; this year’s Stravinsky lacuna will be remedied with the Violin Concerto, Symphony of Psalms, and Symphony in Three Movements, as well as the familiarly thrilling Firebird Suite. HIs first opera. Die tote Stadt (1920), instantly established the 23-year-old prodigy Wolfgang Korngold. Its many fine moments, such as the immortal “Marietta’s Lied,” convey the emotional wallop of his later Hollywood scores. 

A Grieg-Sibelius event, all warhorses except the Sib Seventh, comes in November. Executive director Chad Smith’s first complete season schedules embraces: plentiful Ravel and Tchaikovsky, including the latter’s less-often-heard Francesca da Rimini; copious Shostakovich, to help Andris Nelsons fill out his namesake cycle; some fine Haydn and Mozart to match Beethoven, one Schubert, the charming Rossinian Sixth Symphony; one Berlioz (Waverley); one Schumann (Piano Concerto with Jonathan Biss, welcome back!); and some lesser-known Russian works, including Rachmaninoff’s striking Symphony No. 3 (his best); and a lovely ancestor, The Enchanted Lake by Anatol Liadov. [continued]