Andrea Kalyn Installed as NEC’s 17th President

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The scene could have transpired predictably—an academic procession with the requisite stoles and speeches from worthies—but Friday’s ceremony, inaugurating the first female president of New England Conservatory, unfolded unconventionally. Wisdom, and optimism as well as self-deprecatory humor won the day for Music.

We heard no stodgy (if wonderful) Academic Festival Overture or Pomp and Circumstance. Instead the interleaved great performances of NEC faculty, students, and alumns gave evidence of the success of this most essential institution. Processional trombone fanfares (undergraduate quartet) from the balcony gave way after Board Chairman Kennett Burnes’s welcome, to three most excellent movements from Handel’s Water Music as interpreted by the subtle but brilliant NEC Faculty Brass Quintet, whose members all play in the BSO.

Then, Mark Volpe greeted us with a very funny and self-deprecatory account of how flunking Music History was a prerequisite for his office as BSO CEO. He told us about an exam in which he was asked to identify examples of 20 Phrygi’n modes. He got none.

NEC stepped up production values for this event, giving us theatrical lighting and even teleprompters. But Denyce Graves (NEC 1988) didn’t need an applied spotlight; she radiated her own. Her two songs with faculty pianist Cameron Stowe wowed us with jaw dropping and heart-rending theatricality and engagement. Her account of Michael Tilson Thomas’s Grace bestowed that quality on us like manna. [continued]

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Vivafying New Music for Half a Century

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At 50, Boston Musica Viva shows great legs, in considerable measure owing to the fact that it is still under the leadership of its founder. As Richard Pittman said from the Kresge Auditorium stage Saturday night, “we’re not stopping.” [continued]

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80 Years, and 45 at the Conservatory

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The genial interlocutor with the nimbus-bright silver fro who presides over First Mondays at Jordan Hall has a major birthday coming up. New England Conservatory celebrates Laurence Lesser, legendary cellist, passionate teacher, and President Emeritus, for his 80th Birthday in NEC’s season-opening orchestra concert on Wednesday, September 26th at 7:30 pm at Jordan Hall. Lesser will appear as a soloist with the NEC Philharmonia and conductor Hugh Wolff in Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo: Rhapsodie Hébraïque for Violoncello and Orchestra

NEC Interim President Thomas Novak says, “An integral part of NEC for more than four decades, Larry is one of the foremost cello pedagogues of our time, following in the footsteps of his teacher, Gregor Piatigorsky, in creating a lasting legacy of hundreds of students.

Admission is free, but subject to the Conservatory’s new policy requiring email reservations, motivated, reputable sources tell us, by the marketing department’s interest in doing targeted advertising. No immediate plan to begin charging for free concerts seems to lurk in the offing. Click for tix HERE.  

Lesser’s conversation with BMInt begins after the break. [continued]

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Festive and Contemporary Not Oxymoronic

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Tanglewood’s 2018 Festival of Contemporary Music an astonishing array of music from the past few decades, including works by such “elders” as Witold Lutosławski and György Kurtág, as well as brand new compositions by younger composers. [continued]

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“Essential Voices”

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The Boston-based Back Bay Chorale, an auditioned chorus of approximately 120 voices led by Music Director Scott Allen Jarrett, draws experienced singers from the metropolitan area. Founded in 1973 by Larry Hill, a famously charismatic figure even 29 years after his death, the Chorale created a musical ministry to bring artistic enrichment and education to both choral singers and their audiences. Since 1989, the group has maintained its niche while exploring additional ventures under Hill’s successors, music directors Beverly Taylor, Julian Wachner, James Olesen, and Scott Jarrett. It’s season finale, comprising favorite works of Vaughan Williams, takes place at Sanders on Mothers’ Day.

Even in a city with a large number and variety of singing ensembles, BBC has an enviable reputation among nonprofessional choruses for its high-quality performances, imaginative programming, regular commissioning of new works, and vision for the future. Its Artist in Residence program has helped a number of young solo singers launch their careers, and it currently employs its second Conducting Fellow, Jonathan Mott. For four years, the chorus has maintained an outreach program known as BRIDGES, dedicated to bringing its singing to those who are unable to attend live musical performances because of disability, income, institutional isolation, etc. This project has focused on two specific groups of people: those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and veterans—particularly those recovering from injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Smaller ensembles from the main chorus travel to long-term care facilities, such as Standish Village in Dorchester and the Chelsea Soldiers Home, with musical programs that prompt memory and participation for residents. Additionally, BRIDGES regularly sings patriotic pieces for naturalization ceremonies at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Faneuil Hall. BRIDGES has partnered as well with the Tremble Clefs, a chorus of the Jewish Family and Children’s Service for those suffering the effects of Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers. [continued]

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Power to the Cords

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Vocal muscles biblical and political flexed and ultimately prevailed through shouts, chants and psalmistry in Coro Allegro’s We Will Rise yesterday at Sanders. [continued]

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Radians Draw Us Into Their Circle

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With its trademark sunny explications and compositional diversity, Radius Ensemble  pretty much hewed to its traditions Saturday night at Longy, featuring a tasty serial premiere from a Nepalese flanked by shrunken Strauss and big Brahms done small. [continued]

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Celebrating 40 Years of Democratic Musicmaking

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The inmates of the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra have been running the institution since its emergence in 1978. On January 21st, “one of the only self-governing chamber orchestras in the nation” [not to neglect the conductorless string orchestra A Far Cry], celebrates its 40th season. Music Director Emerita Gisèle Ben-Dor​ (New York Philharmonic, London Symphony), dubbed a “ferocious talent” by The Los Angeles Times, returns to highlight the orchestra’s 40 years. Former Pro Arte cooperative musician Jeffrey Work (Principal trumpet, Oregon Symphony) reprises his performance of American composer Eric Ewazen’s expressive Concerto for Trumpet and Strings. Composed in 1998, a subsequent arrangement was written to feature Work for Orchestra, which was commissioned and premiered by Pro Arte in 2003 and conducted by Ben-Dor. Pro Arte will revisit this piece with the original performers alongside new cooperative members. Gounod’s 1885 Petite Symphonie pays charming homage to the Classical-era wind ensembles of the previous century. And Beethoven’s iconic Symphony No. 5. brings the program to a triumphant close at First Baptist Church of Newton 848 Beacon Street, Newton Centre next Sunday at 3:00. [continued]

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Yuko Hayashi Remembered

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Yuko Hayashi, international concert artist and professor of organ at New England Conservatory, Boston, died of natural causes on January 7, 2018 under hospice care at The Residence at Salem Woods, Salem NH.  She was 88.

Yuko Hayashi was born in Hiratsuka, Japan on November 2, 1929. For more than 40 years she was professor of organ at the New England Conservatory and department chair for 30 years. As a performer, she concertized extensively on three continents – Asia, North America, and Europe, giving recitals and masterclasses in Japan, South Korea, the United States of America, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. She was the recipient of the coveted Arion Award from the Cambridge Society for Early Music as an “outstanding performer and master teacher of the historical organ”. She was also awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from the New England Conservatory. [continued]

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NEC Honors Chadwick

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NEC Symphony under David Loebel gave George Whitefield Chadwick’s second symphony last night in the hall that the composer built after becoming NEC’s president in 1897. Brahms and Wagner shared the stage. [continued]

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Parker and Winds Play Paine

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A 90%-full Paine Hall last night witnessed the Parker Quartet’s takes on an ultra-contemporary landmark, and with winds, Schubert’s heavenly-length Octet.     [continued] [continued]

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Orchestras Without Borders

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The announcement in September 2015 that Andris Nelsons would become the 21st Kapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra beginning in its 2017-’18 season gave us all a bit of a shock, inasmuch as the maestro had only just assumed his full responsibilities as Boston Symphony Orchestra artistic director the year before. The BSO was quick to paint the positive implications of a “…strategic alliance [that] will allow Andris to consolidate the core of his European work in a place that shares a musical heritage with the BSO.”

Today we are getting more details of that cross-fertilization initiative which, beginning a year from now, will encourage:  co-commissioning, sharing the spotlight on each orchestra’s culture and history, and musician exchanges between the two orchestras and their respective acclaimed academies for advanced music studies. The BSO tells us that a “Leipzig Week in Boston” (February 2018 and November / December 2018) and a “Boston Week in Leipzig” (June 2018 and August / September 2018) will make much of each other’s musical traditions, through orchestral programs, chamber music, archival exhibits, and lecture series. Christoph Wolff, Adams University Professor at Harvard, former director of the Bach Archive in Leipzig (2001-’13), author of numerous acclaimed texts on the history of music from the 15th to 20th centuries, and sometime contributor to BMInt adds significant intellectual luster as artistic adviser to the BSO / GWO Alliance. [continued]

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Is Maelzel the Boss?

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Taking on Gunther Schuller’s Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee for something like the 35th time and bringing us a beloved symphony of Beethoven and concerto of Mozart, the BSO under Nelsons with pianist Emanuel Ax played brilliantly last night.    [continued] [continued]

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Respected Chorus Plans Benefit

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Boston’s Back Bay Chorale, a 120-member auditioned chorus led since 2004 by Music Director Scott Allen Jarrett, draws experienced singers from the metropolitan area. Even in a city especially blessed by a great number and variety of singing ensembles, the Chorale has an enviable reputation among nonprofessional choruses for its high-quality performances, imaginative programming, commitment to the commissioning of new works, and its vision for the future. Since its creation 44 years ago, the ensemble has made an unwavering commitment to sharing a rich selection of the vast choral repertoire ranging from the European Renaissance to contemporary music of many countries and languages, mixing “warhorses” (e.g., Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Orff’s Carmina Burana) with unduly neglected or lesser known masterpieces and newly commissioned works (e.g., Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil [“Vespers”], Pizzetti’s Requiem, Marjorie Merryman’s Three Ballads, and Mohammed Fairouz’s Anything Can Happen). [continued]

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Greek for the Strong of Heart

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Boston Lyric Opera brings a new British verismo opera to Boston’s Paramount Center at Emerson on ‘Wednesday through Sunday. “Turnage’s opera Greek, and the play it’s based on, Sophocles’s tragedy Oedipus Rex  [multiple-choice test for classicists HERE], tamper a bit with the story,” according to director Sam Helfrich. “I like messing with the classic model, finding a new window into the house,” he says. 

Set against the background of British politics in the 1980s, this contemporary work showcases the music of Mark-Anthony Turnage and the 1980 play by actor and playwright Steven Berkoff (1937-). In film, Berkoff has brought to life many memorable villans, such as Victor Maitland in Beverly Hills Cop and General Orlov in Octopussy. True to the disturbing plot points of Oedipus Rex, and infused with the politics and language of Berkoff’s play, Helfrich says Greek is not for the faint of heart.  “It’s raw and slightly ugly,” Helfrich says.  “But it’s what I want opera to be: a theatrical experience.”  (NOTE: In addition to explicit language and themes, Greek includes violence and sexual content. It is not recommended for immature audiences.) [continued]

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Merging Schuller’s Threads

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Berklee School of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee teamed up last week for “Schuller: A Musical Celebration,” a celebration of Gunther Schuller’s jazz arrangements, classical chamber compositions, and a third-stream work.        [continued] [continued]

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Retiring Nickrenz Still Lively

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At the end of the current concert season, one of the leading Boston cultural lights will begin to dim a bit. The announcement that 79-year-old musician, mentor and bon vivant Scott Nickrenz will retire from his position as Abrams Curator of Music at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum prompted us to talk with him about his gifts to our musical life.

As soon as her museum opened, in 1903, Mrs. Gardner began inviting friends to concerts featuring some of the world’s major players. Music has been central to the Palaces’ mission ever since. When Nickrenz arrived there in 1990, after a distinguished career as a violist—one reviewer noted in the 1970s that when performing he stood like a rock star—he could hold court over what was by some measures the oldest chamber music series in the country.

FLE: Even though the world is much more attuned to the new Calderwood Hall at the ISGM, many of us retain intense but mixed emotions about concerts we heard in the Tapestry Room for so many years. At one point there was a plan to continue them there as an adjunct to the Calderwood Hall series.

SN: A couple of times a year we invite patrons to concerts in the Tapestry Room. It’s a token of respect for love for the past, and to remind people that it was a major hall for so many years. There are stories that don’t go away, like when Glenn Gould lost his cufflinks at the piano. [continued]

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Heply Digging Schuller

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MIT’s Killian Hall became a jazz club last Tuesday evening as Joe Lovano and kindred souls called forth the great spirit of Gunther Schuller.     [continued] [continued]

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