Pianist Victor Rosenbaum: Another Milestone

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The Longwood Symphony Orchestra, famously comprising musicians from the Boston medical community who play concerts to help raise money for health-related charities (this time to benefit Violence Transformed, a non-profit dedicated to documenting and celebrating the many ways in which our diverse communities harness art’s potential to effect social change), returns to New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall on Sunday, December 5th at 3:00 PM with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 and Piano Concerto No. 3 featuring pianist Victor Rosenbaum, “a fixture of the Boston musical community for more than 50 years, as performer, teacher, and college president,” who will observe his 80th birthday in December.

The New York Times put it succinctly after his performance at Tully Hall: Rosenbaum “…could not have been better.” And a headline in the Boston Globe summed up the appeal of Rosenbaum’s playing: “Fervor and Gentleness Combined.” Click HERE for his complete bio. A brief interview follows:

FLE: You are performing Beethoven’s 3rd concerto with the Longwood Symphony, a “doctors’ orchestra” that makes every performance a benefit for some needy group in a health-related field. Why did they invite you for this particular honor with this particular concerto? [continued…]

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Is NEC the Right Size? Is the Piano Department in Good Shape?

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Russell Sherman, NEC demigod

As we noted a few weeks ago here, New England Conservatory has added to its faculty roster, on one-year appointments, the two illustrious pianists Marc-André Hamelin and Jonathan Biss. To pursue some of the thoughts about teaching, institutional positioning, and other matters this move has aroused, we spoke with NEC’s new provost Benjamin Sosland and its Piano Department Chair Bruce Brubaker.

FLE: Marc-André Hamelin will apparently be teaching every few weeks whereas Jonathan Biss will be teaching three or four times a year.

BS: We’re still working it out with his schedule, but it’s three or four times over the course of a year.

Only a couple of students, my spies tell me.

He has just a handful of students, and he’s helping cover some sabbatical replacements – that was always the intention.

BB: I’m thrilled by these appointments and I take the willingness of these artists to join us as a sign of what NEC has achieved in piano. I’m not being conceited when I tell you that NEC’s piano program is now among the very top piano programs in the world!

Hamelin is covering a lot of Wha-Kyun Byun’s students because she’s taking a six-month sabbatical.

She’s taking sabbatical, yep, exactly. It’s not a bad bench team, if you will, to have those two gentlemen come and take care of her students. And some others, as it happens.

And Marc-André tells me that he’s very much in awe of the students that he’s had, such as George Li.

It’s Marc-André’s first real plunge into teaching at a conservatory level.

He’d never wanted to teach. [continued…]

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Elucidating 19th-Century Hymns

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Several times during the Covid lockdown I précised some parts of my unpublished book “Melody and Musical Texture,” seizing on some elementary aspects of harmony and small form and assembling short explanations with examples drawn from well-known hymns. If you want to review some of these, they go back to HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. After further thought, I lately decided to pile on some more, starting with the “familiar style” of 19th-century New England Congregationalists, before retrospectively examining the contrapuntal style of the 17th-century Lutheran chorale.

Olivet, composed by Boston’s own Lowell Mason, has been a popular hymn for nearly two centuries. The plain but well-shaped tune enjoys a harmonization that is likewise simple but perfectly suited to the text — easy to sing and to play. The melody, organized within the span of an octave, includes a recurrent rhythm (in the even more popular “Nearer, my God, to thee,” also by Mason, you will recognize some of the same rhythm). The first two phrases are roughly symmetrical: I-V-I is answered by V-I-V, following the text. (“Roughly” because there is more V in the first phrase than there is I in the second, but that doesn’t upset the harmony. It’s not the same as question-and-answer, either, nor call-and-response, but more like After-you-Sir, Yes-Sir.) The third phrase says: something-different after what’s-next. [continued…]

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Who’ll Be There?

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by William Britton ca. 1820

Regarding Boston Camerata’s forthcoming show, “WE’LL BE THERE!  American Spirituals Black and White 1800-1900,” at Longy on November 6th, we put some questions to Anne Azéma, Artistic Director and Joel Cohen Music Director Emeritus. A virtual interview follows.

FLE: You are clearly delighted to be telling BMInt readers about giving live performances again?

 Anne Azéma: What’s a deeper word than delighted?  I was almost overwhelmed emotionally in September, performing solo, live in the Netherlands, Italy, and Slovenia for actual human beings rather than cameras and microphones. Now, preparing for the first in-person Boston Camerata performance since March 2020, I think we will all remain stable and standing!  But the emotion in November is no less profound, for the entire cast, I believe. It’s a joy to be back.

You and Camerata are returning to your American vein.

Yes, I think it’s vitally important to bring the story of American spiritual song forward in time, to the threshold of recorded sound and living memory. And by advancing into the 19th century, when sources of Black music begin to be available, we can more equitably broaden our vision of American music and American values.  That’s a big priority.

What sources do you consult? [continued…]

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Understanding Tempos in the Finale of Bruckner’s Eighth

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On this upcoming Friday at 8:00, Symphony Hall will witness a significant musicological event: the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of Anton Bruckner’s massive, 84-minute Eighth Symphony. On evidence from the scores, Artistic Director Benjamin Zander will be restoring the tempo scheme honored in Bruckner’s time (the 1890s), particularly in the finale. No previous performance anywhere in the last 80 years had attempted to do this. The reasons for that situation emerge from history.

Shortly after the founding of the Collected Edition of the works of Anton Bruckner in 1929, the editors Robert Haas and Alfred Orel made the universal decision to allow only material written in manuscript by Bruckner or a recognized copyist to be used in the new publications. The entire venture was spurred by the new realization of the very serious difficulties amounting to wholesale reorchestration in the first publications of the Fifth and Ninth Symphonies which had been prepared respectively by Franz Schalk and Ferdinand Löwe in 1896 and 1903. These difficulties did not come to universal knowledge until the early 1930s, and at that time, correcting them became the principal impetus for the whole Collected Edition.

At that time many tempo indications and nuances which had been a prominent feature of the first publications were eliminated, even though many of them had been demonstrably closely overseen by Bruckner himself. Bruckner had for many years been very sparing in indications of tempo nuance, although he was clear and detailed with dynamic indications and the different conventions of phrasing used by winds and strings. Accordingly detailed instructions for overall tempos and nuances were placed in the first publications, using a vocabulary strongly reminiscent of the editing language of the Wagner operas, with words and phrases like “belebend” (more animated), “gedehnt” (stretched out), and “immer ruhiger werdend” (gradually becoming slower) which Bruckner himself never had used.

[continued…]

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Jamie Buswell: 1946 – September 28, 2021

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The violinist, conductor, teacher, and Grammy-nominated recording artist died recently at 74. James Oliver Buswell IV soloed with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at age seven. His almost seven-decade career encompassed 100 violin concerti on 5 continents with major orchestras and many of the greatest conductors. According to the Legacy obituary, “… his teaching, chamber music playing, conducting, and numerous recordings, he has touched countless lives. The music world mourns this musical and intellectual giant. Beloved as husband of cellist Carol Ou for 21 years, Buswell’s survivors include Anna Buswell, William Buswell, Joshua Buswell, and Rachel English, as well as four grandchildren, and his brother-in-law, Sam Ou of Boston.

[continued…]

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Indian Hill Music Transitions in Style

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Fish-scale patterned metal an important feature.

Indian Hill Music, the Nashoba Valley region’s premier non-profit center for music education and performance, will take the name Groton Hill Music Center with the fall 2022 opening of its stunning new home for music, currently under construction. Indian Hill Music has boldly undertaken one of the most ambitious cultural projects in New England, departing from Littleton to the North Central Massachusetts town where, in 1985, a handful of local musicians and music enthusiasts incorporated.

Designed by award-winning Epstein Joslin Architects of Cambridge (Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport; The Conrad Prebys Performance Center, La Jolla), Groton Hill Music comprises a 1,000-seat concert hall with lawn seating for seasonal concerts, a 300-seat performance hall, multi-scaled rehearsal and teaching spaces, state-of-the-art acoustics designed by Threshold Acoustics of Chicago, and dynamic architecture. Additionally, two-thirds of the land on which the facility sits — formerly an apple orchard and a horse farm — is preserved as picturesque agricultural fields.

The Center plans to be a gathering place for all to experience private lessons, classes, ensembles, and supplemental learning programs for all ages and abilities, with outreach to the underserved. Not does GHM offer concerts by its own Orchestra of Indian Hill and outstanding local and touring professional classical ensembles, they also present high-quality concerts in jazz, traditional/roots, and global music, and have 70+ faculty who teach in a variety of styles as well. Their website has all upcoming performances, faculty, and educational programs. According to staff, the interactive building will encourage musicians, educators, students, and audience members to inspire one another.

BMInt enjoyed a short interview with Fiorentino and a substantial conversation with architect Alan Joslin. Those follow after the break.

[continued…]

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Palaver from Boston to Portland and Back

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Starting this evening, Palaver Strings, a musician-led nonprofit chamber orchestra, dives into its eighth season of live and virtual concerts in Boston, Maine, and beyond. The Oct. 1 concert will take place at the Waldo Theater in Waldoboro Maine; tickets HERE. With more to come locally!

Palaver, founded in Boston in 2014, is co-directed by 11 core musicians; many of us were in music school. We were driven initially by a hunger for greater creative agency and artistic fulfillment, and a shared disillusionment with classical music norms. In our early years, most of our concerts took place in the intimacy of living rooms, restaurants, and galleries. Our first residency was at Boston Medical Center, where we played monthly concerts at hospitals and affiliated shelters for several years. These experiences at BMC were formative for the group and helped cement a commitment to community engagement. [continued…]

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Twenty-Four Hours and Counting to BSO Opening Night

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Béla Bartók (file photo)

“Led by both Music Director Andris Nelsons and Boston Pops Conductor Laureate John Williams, the BSO  welcomes back live audiences to Symphony Hall after a nearly 20-month absence. On the opening concerts on September 30th and October 2nd, Nelsons will lead Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture, the first work the BSO ever performed, before Williams takes the podium for the first Boston performances of his Violin Concerto No. 2. Dedicatee Anne-Sophie Mutter will be filling the soloist’s role. Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, one of the BSO’s most famous commissions, originally premiered by Serge Koussevitzky in 1944, closes the concerts”

The BSO press office answered our questions:

FLE: Tell us about opening night jitters. The BSO audiences have been absent for so many months. What do you expect and what do you worry about?

BSO Press Office: Coming off a very successful Tanglewood season, with the BSO performing two programs each weekend over a six-week season, we’re feeling very excited about reopening the hall and performing regularly for live audiences again. We’re confident that we’re doing all we can on the health and safety front, but we hope patrons will be understanding as we implement our new protocols for the first time this week. [continued…]

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New England Philharmonic Initiates Conductor Search

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Richard Pittman (file photo)

After the challenges of the past year and a half, being with an orchestra right now feels like taking part in a ritual from a past analog time but one that is vitally meaningful to my life today, perhaps more so than ever before. It is such a joy to be performing live orchestral music again.

In our divided and distanced world, it is a remarkable act for seventy people to come together in a single room to create something new together, understand each other without the need of words, and to achieve this through teamwork, precision, focus and by truly listening to, and hearing, one another. When I have stood in front of the New England Philharmonic as its conductor these past few weeks, the masks we are wearing and the distance that has been between us for so long seems to fade away for a few hours. A full body of orchestral sound embraces us, and the feeling of 70 pairs of eyes and ears all attuned to something beyond themselves connects and transports, even in our humble Sunday evening rehearsal room. [continued…]

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Cantata Singers & Emmanuel Music: Choral Catchup

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Bach Now with Emmanuel Music: This Sunday, during the regular 10am service, Emmanuel Music kicks off its 50th-annual Bach Cantata Series at Boston’s Emmanuel Church (HERE ) with Bach’s Cantata No. 72, “Alles nur nach Gottes Willen” and Henry Purcell’s heart-wrenching Hear My Prayer. The complete schedule for all 36 performances, with program notes and Pamela Dellal’s precise, thoughtful cantata translations has just been posted HERE. Three season highlights draw from outside of Bach’s sacred music: Elena Ruehr’s new Requiem on November 7th , Principal Guest Conductor John Harbison’s 1994 Chorale Cantata on March 6th, and James Primosch’s 2014 commission for Philadelphia’s excellent professional choir The Crossing (directed by Donald Nally). Primosch follows a tradition made popular by Britten is this new Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus, weaving together Latin mass texts and contemporary poems by Denise Levertov (see notes HERE and complete texts HERE). 

Ryan Turner, who sang under Emmanuel’s founding director Craig Smith from 1997-2007, continues his successful tenure as the organization’s second Music Director (history HERE). The Sunday services will continue to be live-streamed under the guidance of Emmanuel Music’s brand new executive director Jaclyn Dentino (bio HERE). [continued…]

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No Bohemians at this Mansion-Based Traviata

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MassOpera presents Verdi’s La Traviata to intimate effect at the Eustis Estate Museum, Milton in collaboration with Historic New England on October 17th through 24th. Tickets $75 to $35 HERE.

Katy Early, director and MassOpera’s Dan Ryan, conductor have reimagined La Traviata in a site-specific, immersive form in which audience members follow cast and players to four locations throughout the Eustis Estate as if they are inside the opera itself. It is Director Katy Early’s goal to have the audience “feel like guests at the party scenes and ‘flies on the walls’ of the moments between Violetta and Alfredo, as they grapple with how to be together through gorgeous singing.” In addition to the cast and patrons, the instrumentalists[i] will also be part of the action of the show, creating a true immersion.

The 90-minute condensed version runs for 18 performances before 25 audience members.“There are limits to how immersive a show can be given the constraints of COVID protocols and the very real concerns about consent that are being raised through the work of intimacy direction these days. Unlike some immersive plays that I’ve attended in the past, no audience members and performers will ever be touching one another, but there will be some really great eye contact à la the performance practice of Shakespeare in which the proverbial fourth wall will evaporate and everyone in the room will have to confront that they are real, live human beings sharing a space together. And that posture of really looking at one another and being witnessed is a brave thing to do! Violetta and Alfredo do it, the audience members will be invited to do so, and I think that’s what we’re all learning how to do again post lockdowns and Zoom screens,” according to Early. [continued…]

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Pianists Jonathan Biss and Marc-André Hamelin To Join NEC

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New England Conservatory announced today that pianists Jonathan Biss and Marc-André Hamelin are joining the piano faculty for one-year appointments at the start of the 2021 academic year. Both are renowned for their world-class musicianship, and bring a deep knowledge of piano technique and repertoire to the students at NEC through masterclasses, lessons, and workshops. BMInt is very pleased to share the story about these significant hires. The NEC piano department and students will benefit greatly.

“Jonathan and Marc-André are two of the towering pianists of our time, each of whom exemplifies the cross-section of extraordinary technical skill and probing, insightful artistry,” says Benjamin Sosland, Provost and Dean of Faculty, New England Conservatory of Music. “It is an exceptional honor to welcome them to our community, where they will inspire our students and build on NEC’s legacy of pianistic excellence.” [continued…]

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Music Society Returns to Namesake Town

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Marcus Thompson (file photo)

After artfully telling its subscribers to hold certain dates, and that locations would be revealed later, Boston Chamber Music Society finally identified Jordan Hall as the location for the first three shows of its new season, in which they will be offering favorite works by Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mozart, as well as world premieres of BCMS commissions: Lowell Liebermann’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Michi Wiancko’s Piano Quintet, and Joan Tower’s Viola Quintet “Purple Rain.” BCMS will also celebrate British composers and observe the anniversaries of Schubert (225th birthday) and Saint-Saëns (100th year of his death). Learn more HERE.

FLE: While concertgoing seems to be reaching tentatively for normalcy, BCMS will still not be making music as usual.

Marcus Thompson: Well, first of all, it’s really good to see you across the table, especially after more than a year in lock down. You will recall that, like so many others, we invented an online format for engaging our patrons and artists even when some who had planned to be in Boston were prevented from traveling. We started last fall with videos recorded in Fraser Studios and elsewhere, supplemented with archival live recordings to fill the time of a normal, 1.5 hour+ span. That made for a lot of content and proved tricky to navigate for everyone, so earlier this year we went for the one hour, video-only format with performances and short introductions recorded in advance. [continued…]

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“Snake” Released on CD

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Perhaps because I moved away from the Boston area some 50 years ago, I had never heard of Scott Wheeler, the much-performed composer of operas and instrumental works who has long taught music theater and song composition at Emerson College. I looked around, though, and found much praise for—among other recordings—a dramatic cantata The Construction of Boston, a collection of orchestral works (Heavy Weather), and William Sharp singing some of his songs.

The present release offers the first of three mythology-drenched operas from three different composers collectively known as The Ouroboros Trilogy. The ouroboros is a mythological symbol in many cultures: a snake biting its own tail, thus representing such things as the circularity of life and history. Singapore-born Cerise Lim Jacobs wrote all three librettos. The second and third operas in the trilogy are Gilgamesh, with music by Paula Prestini, and Madame White Snake, whose composer Zhou Long won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Music for it. [continued…]

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To Joy: New Tones Friday on the Esplanade

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Friedrich Schiller

Would we still read Schiller’s “An die Freude” if Beethoven had not set it in the finale of his ninth symphony?

Friedrich von Schiller (1759 – 1805) was a German intellectual, remembered as a playwright, a philosopher, and a poet. Interested in theology, he was ordered to study at a military academy; he studied law, then medicine; later he professed history. Throughout it all, he wrote. His writings were not without controversy; he crossed his pen against a duke’s sword and incurred his own father’s wrath. He wrote seemingly to exorcise personal demons. Linked to the German literary movement Sturm und Drang (literally, “storm and desire” although often rendered “storm and stress”), he valued nature, the individual, and strong emotion. This early Romantic trend in literature and thought stood in opposition to classicism and the Enlightenment. The movement is exemplified in Goethe’s epistolary novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers), first published in 1774. That novel is said to have sparked a rash of young men committing suicide across the European continent. Literature asked that you feel; society preferred one not feel quite so much. [continued…]

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Announcing a 207th Season and Beethoven’s Ninth

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Marin Alsop to lead Beethoven’s Ninth

The Handel and Haydn Society will bring live performances back in its new season, which in part recognizes the conclusion of Artistic Director Harry Christophers’s 13-year run. The 207th season will feature eight signature programs at Symphony Hall and H+H’s first ever performance at Carnegie Hall.

But before all that begins, and in order to do something right away to meet the pent-up demand of people bound and determined to get out and experience live concerts while they can, the H + H will be offering a free Esplanade performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on August 27th under Marin Alsop. Interestingly, Schiller’s ode “To Joy” will get a break. “Oh friends, not these tones” will take on an added meaning in new texts from the past US Poet Laureate.

BMInt invited  H+H President and CEO David Snead to engage in a discussion.

FLE: Tell us about the “joy” that the concert as a whole, and the last movement in particular, celebrate.

DS: Absolutely. We’re celebrating the joy of getting back to live performance in Boston.

Tracy K. Smith’s new poetry for the last movement, which receives its U.S. premiere, will be replacing Schiller’s celebration of joy and brotherhood in his ode “An die Freude.” Smith interestingly gives sisters equal time; “Joy, bright God-spark born of Ever Daughter of fresh paradise.” Read the complete text HERE

Her poem meditates on the meaning of joy at this at this moment. She wrote it pre-pandemic, I believe, thus it was not specifically about that, but it’s about joy of life from many different dimensions. [continued…]

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Signing Music

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After watching Christopher Robinson signing during last Thursday’s Boston Landmarks Orchestra concert, we wanted to know more about his work. He was very nice about explaining to this no-nothing a little something about the importance of his role.

I saw you form a triangle with your hands. Are you narrating what instrument is getting the solo?

Whenever possible I physically make a reference to instruments or visual attempts of note equivalence with some other tangible instrument that I convey with my hands.  What I am able to do in American Sign Language that a spoken language does differently is conveying tonal inflection, perhaps vibrato and a sense of tactile texture and temperature of the composition of the piece that is being performed — it is subjective, yet heavily informed by dramaturgical materials provided to me by Landmarks staff, and of course essential conversations with Christopher Wilkins at rehearsals. Every Interpreter is well rehearsed, given all scores, and we are given access to all orchestral rehearsals whether in-person and through remote means. In this show I especially relied on Christopher’s expansion on how and why the evening’s selections were curated inform how and when I ‘amplify’ certain pieces. I asked Christopher Wilkins on the evening of the rehearsal, ‘how aware were the [Gershwin and James P Johnson] pieces of one another?’ The conversation that came from that question became a visual template for me to express in ASL the context and musical conversation that is happening within the music, and interaction that the pieces suggest as they have been curated together in the evening — as a full course meal as it were. [continued…]

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More on Chausson

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Leon Botstein’s recording of Ernest Chausson’s only opera, Le Roi Arthus, (Telarc CD-80645), my first exposure to the work, introduced me to heavy echoes of Lohengrin and Tristan, but through a Gallic glass darkly, and with a prominent leitmotiv seemingly borrowed from Liszt’s Les préludes. It’s difficult to study this piece without seeing a score, or seeing it staged for that matter, but some characteristics of Chausson’s style become immediately apparent; an obvious Liszt-Wagner influence on the chromatic harmony; diatonic melody shaped by folksong and chant; sensitive orchestration often with organlike wind sonority. In all these Chausson appears as a true follower of César Franck, no mere epigone, but a genuine original, and one of the founders of the modern symphonic school in French music. (Vincent d’Indy, another passionate and prolific disciple of Franck, was another of the founders, but Chausson’s was the greater talent.) It was a substantial school whose offerings seldom made the grade in America, where Sibelius and Mahler eclipsed them. But the French symphonists were one of the springboards for the Impressionists that followed them; and Chausson was one of those who launched Debussy, the greatest non-symphonist of all. If you listen to the end of Act III of Debussy’s unfinished Rodrigue et Chimène (it’s recorded), you might think that Chausson could have composed it as an afterthought to Le Roi Arthus. [continued…]

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It Wouldn’t Be Summer Without Boston Landmarks Orchestra

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Under Music Director Christopher Wilkins, BLmO celebrates its 20th-anniversary season with live orchestral music on the Esplanade beginning Wednesday at 7:00. The six-week concert series showcases a diversity of music and cultures while delivering authentic musical and community partnerships. Rooting for uniquely American music, Wilkins will feature composers such as Jessie Montgomery, John Philip Sousa, Nkeiru Okoye, Aaron Copland, William Grant Still, Florence Price, Omar Thomas, J. Rosamond Johnson, Duke Ellington, and more. Music from Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela light up the summer nights, alongside masterworks such as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Our frank and in-depth discussion with Wilkins begins with his hopes and dreams rather than concert previews…the latter, of course follows.

FLE: You work so hard to reach out to the Black community, and you’re very successful in terms of getting performing groups and individuals to participate. So I was astonished to see so few Black audience members at the Bethel AME Church in Roxbury last week. What’s the problem? Are you overestimating the extent to which Black people want to hear their own music in the form in which you play it?

CW: A couple of years ago, I might have said that’s a fair assessment. But now I’m recognizing more the systemic nature of the problem. That’s true in so many fields, but my god with orchestras, it’s just a series of overlapping, self-reinforcing loops that go on and on. We have self-reinforcing loops occurring with orchestra personnel, repertoire, marketing, audience expectations, who gets invited, who feels welcome… [continued…]

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Organ Recitals Enliven Reopened Halls

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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…]

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Ives in No Danger From This Writer

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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…]

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BFO In-Person Concerts Start July 17th

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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…]

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David Elliott’s America on July 4th

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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…]

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