Berlioz Invited Wagner To Share a Pineapple

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Should music criticism only be written by people who observe the music scene impartially and with a certain “objective” distance? Or can a critic offer something special if he or she is quite the opposite: a deeply committed and even polemically inclined participant in the musical community? That question was raised frankly and confidently by Berlioz in a letter that has just been published for the first time, in the volume reviewed below.

The question will surely resonate with readers of BMInt. After all, one of this site’s great strengths has been its inclusion of the voices of people who are active in musical life and of others who have been involved with composition or performance at some earlier point in their development. Readers of BMInt thus may (we hope) have come to agree with Berlioz’s position that intimate knowledge can enable a critic to write with conviction and special insight.

Nouvelles lettres de Berlioz, de sa famille, de ses contemporains, edited by Peter Bloom, et. al., contains numerous revelations, large and small, about Berlioz and the musical life of his era. My review below (reprinted, with kind permission, from a recent issue of Music Library Association Notes, and lightly revised) explains the features of the book as a whole, but also draws attention to some lively and informative passages from the letters, including (toward the end) the declaration alluded to above, which comes from a letter that Berlioz wrote to his sister Nanci Pal early in 1845.

In 1860, Richard Wagner was in Paris, trying to arrange for the Opéra to give the world premiere of the revised version of Tannhäuser. In a letter probably written in May of that year, Hector Berlioz invited him to come over to dine. The various guests that evening, he promised, will share “a very lovely pineapple” direct from Brazil. And, after everyone else leaves, he and Wagner “will have the freedom to spend time together in my study.” Presumably he meant that the two would talk about topics of common interest, such as the Parisian musical world or the recent activities of their mutual friend Franz Liszt. Berlioz’s pineapple letter has now been published for the first time, in the book under review (pp. 548–49). It was apparently written later than any other that survives between Berlioz and Wagner. (They did meet again two months later at the home of Pauline Viardot—the renowned mezzo-soprano and composer—for an advance hearing of parts of Tristan und Isolde.) [continued…]

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Tanglewood 2020 Announced

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Now that the publication embargo has lifted, it can be told. The BSO will present concerts, lectures, and performances of astonishing variety once again at its summer home of some 84 years. Readers can skip the commentary and go directly to the June 19th to August 30th season calendar HERE.  A lot is also going on the Tanglewood Learning Institute too. Click HERE to find out what to think. Then take your time savoring, since tickets don’t go on sale until February 9th.

Ringo Star opens the popular offerings on June 19th, but the classical good news begins with BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons’s commitment to 12 appearances.  Many predictable favorite artists and conductors return, and 22 make Tanglewood debuts.

According to the press release, the season highlights include an Andris Nelsons-led Act III of Tannhäuser, Paul Lewis performing all five Beethoven piano concertos, a weekend-long celebration of Isaac Stern on the 100th anniversary of his birth, a Boston Pops presentation of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back under the direction of Keith Lockhart, Film Night hosted by John Williams, Thomas Adès directing the 2020 Festival of Contemporary Music, and a Popular Artist series with Ringo Starr, Trey Anastasio, and Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie. Alongside these programs taking place in the Koussevitzky Music Shed will be intimate chamber music and recital concerts in Ozawa Hall and engaging and thought-provoking activities in the Linde Center, which opened to great popular and critical acclaim in 2019 (see separate press release for 2020 Tanglewood Learning Institute programs here). Giants of the classical music field and beloved Tanglewood guest artists Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Pamela Frank, Susan Graham, Leonidas Kavakos, Midori, Yo-Yo Ma, and Gil Shaham, as well as the talented musicians of the Tanglewood Music Center, the BSO’s famed summer music academy, which presents free and discounted concerts all summer long. [continued…]

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Operatic Hollywood Horror via Mirowitz

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Berklee Silent Film Orchestra (BSFO) will perform its powerhouse score to the definitive, digital restoration of the 1925 silent movie The Phantom of the Opera at The Cabot in Beverly on Saturday, December 14, at 7:30 pm, following by a week its West-Coast premiere of this new pairing live at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival Day of Silents.  

BSFO’s director Sheldon Mirowitz assigned a “reel” of the movie to each of seven of his top students after creating themes and motifs for characters and situations which all the composers will employ. In the new score, a soprano will sing Marguerite’s “Ballad” from Gounod’s Faust in direct sync with actress in the film; the “Jewel Song” as well as other portions of the opera will resound at the appropriate moments on the stage of the Paris Opera. Mirowitz’s breakthrough concept of letting the silent faces speak and sing led to the acclaimed BFSO scoring of Dreyer’s Passion of Jeanne d’Arc, which BMInt reviewed and discussed at length HERE and HERE. Imagine hiring lipreaders to transcribe the actors’ French, German, and Latin.

For tickets to see and hear Phantom in the beautiful, jazz-age Cabot click HERE.

Directed by Rupert Julian, The Phantom of the Opera stars Lon Chaney, Hollywood’s “Man of 1,000 Faces” as Erik, the horribly disfigured phantom who leads a menacing existence in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House. When Erik falls in love with a beautiful prima donna, the master musician kidnaps her and holds her hostage in his lair. One of the most discussed — and unnerving — films of all time, Phantom gets a turbocharged, new life from the 12-member Berklee Silent Film Orchestra’s spectacular, modern score. Click HERE to see a short clip from a version Mirowitz (and BSFO alumni Eren Başbuğ) directed last year in Istanbul, Turkey with a local orchestra. [continued…]

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Richard Conrad To Be Memorialized

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How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.

The dynamic performer, insightful voice teacher, and brilliant operatic interpreter ranged from Monteverdi to Brel, touching countless lives with his singing gifts and distinctive ability to teach his craft to others. His friends and colleagues will commemorate Richard Conrad in words and song at the Eliot Church of Newton, 474 Centre Street in Newton Corner, on Saturday, November 16th at 7:00.

Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music, his paean to 16 of his favorite singers, will highlight musical selections from Schumann, Rossini, Sullivan, Bellini, Mozart, Giuseppe Verdi, Weill, Gershwin, and Henry Bishop from a great number of musicians from his circle. [continued…]

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Wyner and Stepner Step Up for Aston Magna

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Pulitzer Prize winning composer, eminent Bostonian elder statesman, and celebrated pianist Yehudi Wyner will be playing his Concert Duo for Violin and Piano with violinist Daniel Stepner at the 14th-Annual Scholarship Benefit Concert for the Aston Magna/Brandeis Unaccompaied Bach Workshop at the Brandeis University Slosberg Music Center, Sunday, November 10 at 3pm. Founded in 1972 by Lee Elman and Albert Fuller, the Aston Magna Festival (Daniel Stepner, Artistic Director) is the oldest annual summer festival in America devoted to music performed on period instruments.

Wyner received us in his studio, through a garden of asters, among musical scores, books, photographs and memories.  

Anne Davenport and Leon Golub: The relationship of a composer to his own work is a bit mysterious. A couple of weeks ago, you felt prompted to re-commune personally with your 14-minute piano solo Refrain of 2011. Did you uncover intentions, nuances or details that had remained latent to you when composing it? How transparent is a work to the composer from the start?

YW: That’s a profound question. The process of going back and really learning how to play it as I think it should be played was an arduous one. I had to work really hard to master a lot of the accuracy and technical detail, especially in the fast parts. In doing that, I really, I must say, I found myself feeling more and more convinced of its legitimacy and rightness. The other thing I discovered is that there were all kinds of small emendations, edits, revisions, details, notes here and there, a phrase here and there — but not much. [continued…]

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Early Songs of Resistance and Rebellion

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OK, Anne, you need to come clean. Boston Camerata’s November 8th Americana concert and CD celebration at Faneuil Hall seems to have a strange French accent on its Harmonia Mundi label. Do I detect foreign collusion?

Anne Azéma: (laughs) It’s certainly significant that there is so much interest abroad in a collection of very old American broadside ballads, fife and drum tunes, and patriotic calls to resistance of autocratic rulers. When we performed “Free America” at the invitation of Strasbourg, Boston’s sister city, three weeks ago, there wasn’t an empty seat to be seen in the Palais de la Musique et des Congrès. And the audience, including plenty of younger people, joined in loudly on the saucy refrain to “Yankee Doodle.”

I think that here at home we underestimate to what extent people in other countries celebrate and cherish that lofty “American Dream.” Right now people want to know if it still exists. Are we still n exceptional a role model for other lands? When we sing American songs of resistance and rebellion to a foreign audience, we are sending a message of reassurance about our beliefs in our homeland. Strasbourg is Boston’s sister city, thanks in large part to Charles Munch, and we continue to share something mutually important with its citizens.

Will you be singing and protesting about current events the way patriots have for two centuries at Faneuil Hall?

Well, yes and no. These beautiful, historical musical works make direct references to events that took place centuries ago, in Boston, New England, and elsewhere, roughly from the battle of Bunker Hill to the Abolitionist movement. What is amazing, however, is the constancy of certain themes or leitmotifs throughout our American history. Our forebears resisted, with all their being, tyranny and arbitrary abuse of power. So many of them struggled for inclusion and for racial justice – “All kindred, all colors…no nation or sect are rejected at all,” as the Shakers were singing, circa 1840. Americans were deeply allergic to the interference of foreign powers into our affairs, as Thomas Paine’s brilliant song text, “Liberty Tree,” underscores. And they constantly reaffirmed their birthright to freedom: “So guard your rights, Americans,” as the title song to the program exhorts us. [continued…]

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No Valkyries in this Opera Ride

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Lidiya Yankovskaya

MassOpera’s concert performance of  Dan Shore’s opera Freedom Ride, presented in collaboration with the Chicago Opera Theater (COT) this Sunday at 3:00 at the Strand Theater in Dorchester, sets the show in motion for its staged premiere production in February. Freedom Ride tells the story of one young black woman’s decision to join the civil rights movement as a freedom rider. COT Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya will conduct an orchestra of 26, and NAACP Award-winner Tazewell Thompson will direct.

MassOpera’s cast includes Alicia Russell, Imani Francis, Fred C. VanNess, Ron Williams, Steven D. Myles, and Melynda Davis. General admission tickets of $20, are available through MassOpera.

Lidiya Yankovskaya, conductor for both MassOpera’s New Opera Workshop performance and the premiere of Freedom Ride with Chicago Opera Theater, sat down to interview composer, Dan Shore about the creation of his opera.

LY: Dan—I’ve known about Freedom Ride for about 5 years, but the opera has been in development for a long time. Could you speak about how this project came to be? [continued…]

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Unforgotten Songs

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Gamin Hyosung Kang

“this is our song; we still have to remember her songs and pray for her” From East Asia – Unforgotten Song  November 16, 2019 | 8 p.m. Brandeis

Curated by a remarkable and visionary Korean musician named gamin, the upcoming concert will be as much ritual as it is performance. This evening will invite us to remember and honor the comfort women of occupied countries in East Asia who were forced into sexual slavery between 1932 and 1945. The Lydian String Quartet and skakuhachi player Adam Robinson will join gamin, and the video art of New York-based Chang-Jin Lee will add to the soundscape. At its heart, the concert will transform archived songs sung by survivors into tales of resilience, courage and strength in the face of suffering and injustice.  In poignant irony, the music-making results in a beautiful yet heart-breaking paean not only for victims in the past, but also for all people who are suffering from injustice in the world.

I am an admirer of Korean gugak, both the elegant court music, and the deeply expressive folk genre.  Over the years I have had the honor of listening to, learning from, and collaborating with a number of performers of this tradition. One of the most virtuosic, versatile and visionary is Gamin Kang, whose stage name is simply, gamin. She is a yisuja (master) of South Korea’s Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 46 (piri and daechita), as well as one of the most celebrated contemporary performers on piri (a tiny, yet enormously powerful bamboo reed instrument), taepyeongso (another reed instrument, with a trumpet-like voice), and saengwhang (reed mouth organ). [continued…]

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The Versatile Kevin Rhodes and PACO

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Conductor-pianist Kevin Rhodes

Kevin Rhodes, for ten years the principal conductor of the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, projects joy and excitement in every sentence he utters. His orchestra’s 42nd season opener, “The Art of Jazz,” jives by at the First Baptist Church in Newton this Saturday in company with a group of important 20th-century jazz-based works. Rhodes has inked himself for the solo spot in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

“I first came to Rhapsody in Blue as a young child. “My parents owned and ran a 24-hour trucker diner in southern Indiana where I grew up, so (what they knew of the) piano came from the man who serviced the pinball machines and the jukebox. For them, my learning Rhapsody in Blue was something to which they could relate and kept saying to my teacher, ‘I want him to learn that piece.’ ”

“When I finally heard a recording of Rhapsody in its symphonic formalwear, so to speak, I was surprised because it didn’t sound as much like Joplin as I had imagined. Many years later I discovered a recording of Gershwin’s piano roll of it in the Paul Whiteman version we’ll be doing with Pro Arte. Now THAT was the ragtime feel I was dreaming of. I don’t base my own performance on the idea of a recreation of Gershwin’s exact performance, but I have always tried to inhabit that somewhat carefree, or devil-may-care attitude of musicians hanging out jamming on a piece together, rather than trying to re-sculpt something we did in rehearsal without coloring outside the lines. [continued…]

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Ensemble Not Just Engrossing and Stimulating

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Eric Alatorre (Lisa Kohler)

Skylark Vocal Ensemble, founded in 2011 in Atlanta and Boston, and led by Artistic Director Matthew Guard, has produced programs that have been described as “engrossing” by WQXR FM in New York and “original, stimulating, and beautiful” by BBC Radio 3. However, the group’s upcoming 4 concerts portend to create not only “engrossing and stimulating” events but also a rather rare kind of musical experience.

With two Grammy® nominations under its belt, Skylark Vocal Ensemble is bringing performances of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil to the Simon Center for the Arts Thursday in Falmouth on October 24th, in Newburyport at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Friday, October 25th, in Chestnut Hill at Church of the Redeemer on Saturday, October 26th and in Harvard Square at St. Paul Parish on Sunday afternoon, October 27th. Details and tickets HERE. [The BSO will be programming the work in April to mark the 50th anniversary of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and BMInt has accounts of recent previous performances HERE, HERE and HERE]

Composed in 1915, Rachmaninoff’s 15-movement, 60-plus-minute “Vespers” consists numerous ancient Russian religious chants, some of which are over 1000 years old and when the piece was written, it was contingent on having the most powerful bass singers available. Their deep, deep tones alongside Rachmaninoff’s uniquely ethereal harmonies, can create a transcendental listening experience. [continued…]

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Trio Outs Damn Spot in Scottish Play

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To convey the mind of Lady Macbeth just in time for the sainted eve at the end of the month, the resourceful Merz [piano] Trio will lard excerpts and arrangements of Brahms, Charlotte Bray, Schumann, Johannes Maria Staud, and Verdi, along with dance and text from Macbeth, into an immersive cauldron. “Those Secret Eyes,” on October 26 at 8pm in New England Conservatory’s Plimpton Shattuck Black Box Theater, will boil over the confines of the chamber music recital.

Winners of the 2019 Concert Artists Guild Competition and gold medalists of the 2019 Fischoff and 2018 Chesapeake Chamber Music Competitions, the Merz is the current professional trio in residence at NEC, and their interdisciplinary approach involves readings, visual arts, and artisanal mélanges of music, wine, and food.

Taking its name from the early 20th-century “Merz pictures” of the German artist Kurt Schwitters, the Trio draws inspiration from his unique style of found-object collage. In keeping with Schwitters’s aesthetic of piecing together fragments, Merz projects link disparate musics, texts, artifacts, visual arts as well as dance, theater, and culinary arts to standard trio repertoire.

[continued…]

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Richard Ortner: 1948 – 2019

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The retired president of Boston Conservatory at Berklee, former Administrator of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Music Center at Tanglewood, and mentor and advocate for exceptionally talented performing artists and faculty died Thursday, October 10th after having lived with cancer for a long time. Ortner shared his lifelong passion for music and advanced training in the performing arts with the most renowned senior professionals of his time, the best and brightest young artists and students, and the widest possible audiences.

Born in Great Neck, New York, on May 28, 1948, Ortner began piano studies at age five and were reinforced by an excellent public school music program. He accompanied choruses both in junior and senior high school, and became the choir director of the Long Island Federation of Temple Youth. Following high school, he attended The Cooper Union, where he studied architecture while continuing to pursue his interest in music with piano studies (with Richard Faber of the Juilliard faculty) and by producing and hosting two classical music programs for WNYU (New York University) radio. He returned to studying music full time when he transferred to NYU, earning a B.A. in music in 1971. Ortner then began what he refers to as his “real musical education,”  three years as an usher at Carnegie Hall. (This also marked the start of his activities as a concert producer: after persuading the management of Carnegie Hall to turn over the Recital Hall, free of charge, he organized the very first Carnegie Hall Ushers Recital, which the New York Times reviewed enthusiastically. Later, he organized the first concert of the Washington Square Chamber Music Society at NYU.) [continued…]

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Dudochkin Pays Homage to Clara

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My tribute to the 200-year-old Clara Schumann comes to Jordan Hall next Sunday as the 29th Composer Celebration since I founded the series in 1990 with “A Salute to Prokofiev on his Centennial.” My collaborators and I then performed his music of all instrumentations with such success that my every subsequent year centered on the celebration of another composer.

Clara Schumann occupies a special part of my life. I am thrilled to present the music of this amazing woman who composed beautiful romantic music. A mother of eight with an incredibly successful career as a top pianist for 60 years, Clara had a tragic life, not only the decline and death of her beloved husband but also the deaths of four of her children.

Usually I go to the birth-countries of the composers in order to learn all about them and perhaps find new scores hidden in archives. I’ve been able to uncover music of Debussy, Massenet from the Paris Conservatory, Villa Lobos from his museum in Rio de Janeiro, some from Joaquín Rodrigo’s daughter in Madrid, (who later gave a lot of it to our NEC library), Puccini from Italy (his granddaughter Cimonetta even flew to our celebration at NEC), and Maxim Shostakovich came from St. Petersburg to celebrate his father’s 100 years, meeting with the NEC college orchestra and talking about Dmitri to the young musicians. [continued…]

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BPO Introduces Italian Pianist in BPC2

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Alessandro Deljavan plays Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Boston Philharmonic under Benjamin Zander in Sanders Theater on October 17th and 20th (matinee) and in Jordan Hall on October 19th. The program also includes the Overture to Mozart’s ‘Die Zauberflöte’ (The Magic Flute) and Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra.

A few years ago, after a piano competition jury failed to advance Alessandro Deljavan from the semifinals to the finals, a prominent teacher and musician approached the young Italian and attempted to buoy him up. “You should come back for the next competition,” she said. “If you play like a normal pianist, it is absolutely certain that you will win.”

Deljavan says he really didn’t know how to respond to such a remark beyond saying that the way he plays is normal to him. “To do anything else is just not possible.”

To today’s audiences Deljavan — who pronounces his name with the accent on the second syllable, del-JA-van — is certainly unusual, but what he does would have seemed perfectly normal to audiences of a century ago, when the public expected an instrumentalist to exhibit as much individual personality as a singer, to have an unmistakable voice, sound, and approach to music. He does boast a colossal and comprehensive technique, but he also has something to say with it. [continued…]

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Who’s on First?

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The 35th season of Laurence Lesser’s First Mondays at Jordan Hall takes as its thematic glue the connections of composers with each other and their friends and inspirers. Every concert includes voice; every concert includes NEC faculty and alums. Each program connects one “standard” piece with others to make some historical or musical point. The three fall concerts are all interrelated. Clara (b. 1819) and Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, Joseph Joachim and Johannes Brahms, hence “Friendship.”

Works of Robert and Clara Schumann open the series on October 7th. Bach and his crucial admirer Felix Mendelssohn supply the vital stuff of the November 4th show. For the December 2nd, Lesser will bring out examples of Brahms’s connections with Johann Strauss II, Schumann, Schoenberg and Joachim. Skipping January, and February, the series continues in March, April, and May with “American Sonorities” and more “Friendship.” The complete program is HERE. Lesser talks to BMInt below:

FLE: Do programmatic concerts really work or is it a marketing gimmick?

LL: After 34 years, I have developed a philosophy that says that there are a lot of very faithful listeners at First Monday concerts who trust me to stretch their listening ears. I imagine I have earned their loyalty by giving them something that they know already or that they feel comfortable with and then building into that things that they never have thought about or that would be interesting to them in terms of the background of what we’re presenting. I have the audience very much in mind, but I also have my vision in mind and to find the right balance between those two things has always been my motivation.

Does it make the compositions that appear on a particular program more satisfying to this audience after they’ve heard your talk about how the pieces are connected? [continued…]

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Alexander Borovsky Did WTC on Piano in 1958

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The sometime-Bostonian piano great Alexander Borovsky appeals to me. As one of his “grand-pupils,” I have always taken note of any references to him. My piano teacher JoAnn La Torra had studied with Borovsky and frequently mentioned him and his approaches in our lessons. Borovsky was born in Latvia in 1889 and died in Waban MA in 1968. His generally successful career in the U.S., included the distinction of having made the most appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra of any pianist. One was of the Roussel Piano Concerto, which he had premiered in Paris in 1927. It can now be heard on a CD from Yves St.-Laurent HERE.

Borovsky made some 78s, and a number of LPs for Vox in the early 1950s, all Bach and Liszt. The Bach included the 2 and 3 Part Inventions and all the French and English Suites. His Liszt sets were all the Transcendental Etudes and all 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies (the present program notes get that wrong, stating he did only the first 13) coupled with the Rhapsodie Espagnole. None of these has been reissued on CD except for one Hungarian Rhapsody in a VAI Audio anthology, although some excerpts may be heard on YouTube. An obscure label called Melo Classics issued a CD of a 1953 Paris recital including Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and Liszt. Amazon says it’s out of print but it can be bought through the Melo Classics website. It’s in quite respectable sound and the playing is very attractive.

Now we can hear Borovsky playing the complete Bach Well-Tempered Clavier. He taped the recording in 1958, for some unknown purpose, and it has survived quite well, the mono sound being quite respectable for its vintage. I presume these were studio sessions with the tapes edited at least somewhat, since there are no detectable errors in the playing. [continued…]

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Dreaming and Singing About Immigrants

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In our diverse city, one local opera company is taking innovative steps to reflect on and consciously explore immigration and longing for cultural identity.

Cerise Lim Jacobs’s ambitious production company, White Snake Projects, is producing a brand new NEA-supported opera this weekend at Emerson Paramount Theater. (Tickets HERE).  Three selections from a 10-part song cycle created by ten composers through community engagement and a talkback with the creators will frame the show. As producer and librettist, Singapore-born Jacobs is taking on an unusually topical subject for opera: current immigration policies in America. For I Am a Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams, which premieres on September 20-22, Jacobs teams up with Mexican-born, New York-based composer Jorge Sosa to explore immigration, dislocation, and transformation in America.

Dreamer features a cast mirroring the ethnicities of the characters and bringing their own personal varieties of perspectives on the immigrant experience. The production team is “intentionally diverse” and mostly female, reflecting the ambition of Jacobs and White Snake Projects to integrate original opera with social activism. In the story, Rosa, an undocumented Mexican immigrant and a “dreamer” develops a  relationship with her court-appointed attorney Singa, an ethnically Chinese immigrant from Indonesia, while waiting in jail before being deported. [continued…]

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Concordant Chamber Music Starts Third Decade

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A score of years ago, a small number of dedicated volunteers joined forces with me to create a series chamber music concerts and do educational outreach in Concord. It all began, when newly tenured as a violinist in the BSO, I was relaxing over a dinner with perhaps an abundance of wine, when my then neighbor cellist Andrés Díaz and I began to muse about bringing some of our colleagues to Concord.

No one imagined what the Concord Chamber Music Society would become. Since 2000, some of the world’s most celebrated artists, including Gil Shaham, Lynn Harrell, Peter Serkin, David Finckel and Wu Han, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, the Borromeo Quartet, have played with us and for us; several will return for this celebratory season. And the wonderful musicologist Steven Ledbetter will once again be preparing us with very informative lectures.

I hope that many BMInt readers and their friends will join us. Specifics follow:

The 20th-anniversary season opened last Sunday with The Nightingale’s Sonata, a special multimedia event at the Concord Free Public Library. Tom Wolf read from his new book before, pianist Vytas Baksys and I offered Franck’s passionate Violin Sonata. A book signing and reception followed.

Acclaimed pianist Marc-Ande Hamélin, violinist Glenn Dicterow, former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic; viola soloist, recitalist and chamber musician Karen Dreyfus; cellist Andrés Díaz, winner of the prestigious Naumburg International Competition and Avery Fisher Career Grant; and I will play works by Kodály, Paul Chihara and Dvořák on September 29th for the opener. [continued…]

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Ave Atque Vale: Symphony Hall To Lose Lowe’s Signature Sound

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Since 1984, when Seiji Ozawa invited Malcolm Lowe to become the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 10th concertmaster, his glorious, impeccable musicality has inspired audiences and fellow players. Today, the orchestra announced the end of Lowe’s 35-year tenure in one of the most important positions in the classical firmament.

The second-longest-serving concertmaster in the orchestra’s 138-year history (after Richard Burgin, whose 42-year tenure started in 1920), Lowe succeeded the esteemed Joseph Silverstein, who served from 1962 to 1984.

Click HERE for a list of concertos he played at Symphony Hall. And HERE to hear him speak with WGBH’s Brian Bell about his work with the orchestra. Lowe writes:

“From the bottom of my heart, I thank my orchestra colleagues and Andris Nelsons for their dedication and their ability to delve deeply into the music and ask the unanswerable questions—to find the voice that lifts music from the ordinary to an extraordinary living poetry. I will cherish forever the shared moments of everyday work, moments striving in our artistic search, practicing, trying to perfect, to contribute, to give meaning to our efforts, the music, our team, and our orchestra. I am also forever grateful to our generous audiences and donors for their incredible passion and support year after year, concert after concert—their enthusiasm never wanes.”

FLE: Do you have any recollection of your audition? Burton Fine, then senior principal in the BSO strings, recently told me about how he set up the audition in which you spectacularly triumphed. He recalled that there had been absolutely no doubt that you were the winner. You excelled beyond everyone else who auditioned, and you had shown leadership qualities as well as beauty of tone and refined musicality. He was so pleased to be involved. Were you as brilliant all that? [continued…]

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Odyssey’s Tudor Season Spans Six Neglected Operas

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A reliable denizen of the second tier of composers, Camille Saint-Saëns lacked, according to one wag, but one quality: inexperience. Musical facility and reliability aside, his wideranging intellect and long life elevated him to cult status in his day, though rarely without controversy. He sided with Dreyfus during that infamous affair and was driven from the Schola Cantorum by D’Indy for his (incorrectly) supposed Jewishness. The Nazis banned his music.

His Carnival of the Animals, Second Piano Concerto, Organ Symphony, Danse macabre, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Requiem, Christmas Oratorio, ballet Javotte, Piano Quartet, and Septet retain places in the standard repertoire, or ought to. This writer thinks highly of his chamber music for harmonium and piano. Among his 13 operas, can Samson et Dalila be the only hit?

Gil Rose, the resourceful leader of BMOP and Odyssey Opera, believes otherwise. Having discovered 51 minutes excised from the debut performance in Paris, on September 21st Rose will lead in concert form what he believes to be the US premiere of the uncut Henry VIII (1883) at Jordan Hall. Leon Botstein of Bard and the American Symphony Orchestra also set great store by this opera and revived it in concert form seven years ago, taking some judicious cuts.

The plot unfolds as Henry attempts to divorce Catherine of Aragon for the favors of Anne Boleyn. Eager for verisimilitude, Saint-Saëns researched manuscripts of Tudor music and incorporated English, Scottish, and Irish folk melodies as well as a William Byrd air collected in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (published only six years later) into Henry VIII. At the same time he embraced French grand opera expectations. [continued…]

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A Wild Goose Flying in the Sky – Gugak from Korea

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Ji Young Yi, Gayageumi

A principal dancer in the Boston Ballet, an honored Candidate for Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 23, a boundary-crossing cellist, and a singer whose repertoire draws from ancient shaman ritual — all walk up to the barre….

No, this is not a spin-off of that classic joke, but an invitation to attend what will surely be one of the most enthralling, exuberant and flat-out gorgeous concert experiences of 2019, when the Korean Cultural Society of Boston presents “Festival of Dance and Gugak” at Jordan Hall on Sunday, September 29th at 3:00 PM. Details HERE.

Gugak, Korean traditional music is one of the great classical musics of the world (see Michael Church’s inspirational volume “The Other Classical Musics: Fifteen Great Traditions” for some other examples). If you listen far enough back to any classical music, you will find two purposes for the extraordinary sound worlds we humans create: a desire to connect with the divine, and a desire to connect with one another. This is true of ‘my’ classical music, and it is also certainly true of the great repertoire of gugak. [continued…]

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Richard Conrad: 1935-2019

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Singer, voice teacher, and impresario Richard Conrad died peacefully at home in Eliot, Maine on August 26th after a long illness. His brother Howard, sister-in-law Susan, and longtime friend and colleague Ellen Chickering were at his side. The dynamic performer, insightful voice teacher, and brilliant operatic interpreter ranged from Monteverdi to Brel, touching countless lives with his singing gifts and distinctive ability to teach his craft to others.  

Eldest son of Lester and Mildred, Conrad grew up in Larchmont, NY. He graduated from New York State University and Boston University where he studied commercial and fine arts. Conrad began his vocal studies in Boston as a baritone under Harry Euler Treiber. Here he studied Lieder and German operatic repertoire with famed conductor and composer, Felix Wolfes, who is noted for his piano-vocal scores of operas by Strauss and Pfitzner, as well as his achievements at the Metropolitan Opera and teaching at New England Conservatory. Conrad pursued additional repertoire studies with art song champions, Aksel Schiøtz and Pierre Bernac.

During these early studies, Conrad developed exceptional skill in managing the “head” register, and was encouraged to emulate baritones of the 18th and the early 19th centuries, many of whom sang as tenors. As a result, in 1961 he debuted as a tenor in Boston in the American premiere of Mozart’s La finta semplice, following which came his recital debut in Washington, DC. [continued…]

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Holy Cross Cathedral & Organ Mark Restoration Milestones

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Leo Abbott

Twenty-six years ago, Leo Abbott, the organist of Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, gave a benefit recital to raise money for badly needed repairs to the cathedral’s legendary 1875 Hook organ. The organ was big — some claim it to have been the largest American-made organ in the country when it was built — and the maintenance needs were big as well. With few other sources of funding in sight, Abbott made his benefit recital an annual tradition.

This fall, Abbott, now Organist Emeritus, will give the 26th annual benefit recital on Sunday, September 15, 2019 at 3 p.m.. This one, however, will be different in one important respect: not only is the organ in better shape, buts its acoustical environment has been restored to a state very near that for which the organ was voiced.

The pipe organ benefits enormously from the resonance of the room it occupies. Thus the recent restoration of the cathedral interior, which included removing carpeting in favor of a light-grey marble floor, is as meaningful to the sound of the organ as it is to the architecture.

Abbott’s unbroken string of 26 annual recitals is remarkable enough, but it’s not all he has done to overcome decades of deferred maintenance and bring back to instrument to good playing condition. He assembled a dedicated band of volunteers and carefully supervised them as they helped with various tasks. He sought and found other sources of funding. And he tirelessly drew attention to the organ’s unique character. [continued…]

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Dancin’ on the Quarter-Shell

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Florence Beatrice Price

Postponed to Thursday

The Boston Landmarks Orchestra will take inspiration from Terpsichore during its annual Dance Night next Wednesday on the Esplanade.  Programs featuring dance groups provide an opportunity to showcase the depth of talent that runs through Boston’s diverse cultural communities. In recent seasons, dance collaborations have represented traditions from West Africa, Armenia, Colombia, Cuba, Ireland, Korea, Puerto Rico, Syria, and Venezuela.

Johannes Brahms was still a teenager in Hamburg when he met the exiled Hungarian violinist Ede Reményi. Reményi had been active in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, and came to Hamburg in 1851 to evade capture by the Habsburg military authorities. He soon fled to the United States, returning to Hamburg in 1853. There, he invited Brahms to serve as his piano accompanist on a European tour. It was Brahms’s first extended trip outside of his native city. While touring in Weimar, Brahms played for the most famous of all Hungarian musicians, Franz Liszt. Liszt then returned the favor, reading Brahms’ Scherzo Op. 4 at sight. In Hanover, Brahms met Joseph Joachim, who arranged for Brahms to pay a visit to Robert and Clara Schumann, a visit that changed the course of his career and his life. [continued…]

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Musically Warning of Climate Change

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Wednesday’s Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s Green Concert at the hatch Shell should really be called the Blue Concert, or more precisely, the Aquamarine Concert. Our partnership with the New England Aquarium, engaging Bostonians in dialogue about issues of vital importance to the community, is central to the missions of both organizations.

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the jester Trinculo hides from an approaching storm by crawling under a cloak next to Caliban, who gives off “a very ancient and fish-like smell.” To explain his choice, Trinculo proclaims, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” Last summer, we performed music of the twentieth century in order to address the plight of the North Atlantic right whale and the effects of ocean pollution. This year our “strange bedfellows” are Music of the Late Romantic Age and Climate Change.

The New England Aquarium is a global leader in studying the effects of climate change on our oceans—indeed on all of life—as well as in furthering public awareness and public action surrounding these issues: [continued…]

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