BSO To Drop Archora on Expectant Listeners


Hrafn Asgeirsson photo

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

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

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

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

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

No Comments »

 Okeghem Takes Flight


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

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

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

1 Comment »

BSO Announces Subscription Season


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

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

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


“What’s Going On” at Trinity


Can you believe it? Berklee College musicians and the choir of Trinity Church, Boston, perform Motown hits, Sunday, April 7th at 5pm, free and open to all.  

Marvin Gaye’s groundbreaking 1971 album, What’s Going On? is full of loving outrage, asking questions—about injustice, poverty, drugs, violence, the environment, and war—that are every bit as timely now as they were a half century ago. The incomparable jazz singer Gabrielle Goodman, joined by a cadre of virtuoso Berklee colleagues and the Trinity Choir will perform works by Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and other Motown stars. Featured Berklee artists include longtime Nashville recording artist Donna McElroy, Berklee’s executive dean the drummer Ron Savage, renowned musicologist Emmet Price, and vocalist Larry Watson, who imparts to his ensembles the African axiom of Ubuntu, “I am because we are.”

As early as four years old, Marvin Gaye began singing in his Washington, DC, Pentecostal Church, with his father at the piano. By the 1960s he had achieved success, first in a gospel quartet and then with popular R&B love songs, singles, and duets with Tammie Terrell. Her early death from cancer sent Gaye into deep depression and disillusionment, about himself and the record industry. As he said to an interviewer: [continued]

No Comments »

Beethoven’s Ninth Conference at BU


Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony needs no tribute on its 200th birthday, but is being honored with repeat performances everywhere, including several nearby; on May 12th Lexington Symphony will essay it in a matinee.

Retired professors are often the only ones who have time to present research findings at conferences; thus a small cohort of Beethoven experts and their friends (even a few graduate students) gathered on Wednesday in Hillel House at Boston University to honor the forthcoming (on May 7th) bicentennial in “Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: a 200-year Perspective.” Organized by the founding co-directors of the Boston University Center for Beethoven Research, Jeremy Yudkin (Boston University) and Lewis Lockwood (Harvard), whose “Beethoven’s Lives: The Biographical Tradition” Boydell & Brewer recently published, the festival heard from six scholars including one visitor from overseas. Beate Angelika Kraus of the Beethoven Archive in Bonn has just prepared and published, based on dozens of different manuscript sources, what will likely be the definitive orchestral score of the Ninth Symphony for years to come. [continued]

No Comments »

Atmospheric But Not Dreary


Odyssey Opera, in partnership with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), presents the New England premiere of Dominick Argento’s opera The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe, on Friday, April 5, 2024, ay the Huntington Theater in Poe’s birthplace of Boston. For one-night only, the Grammy Award-winning conductor Gil Rose leads a formidable cast including tenor Peter Tantsits as Poe, the Odyssey Opera chorus, the acclaimed BMOP orchestra in a semi-staged version. A world premiere studio recording will follow on BMOP/sound. Synopsis and history HERE. Tickets HERE  An interview with the conductor follows.

FLE: We’ve talked many times, but I’ve never actually delved into your biography at all. So what guru or mentor formed your interest in looking up unjustly neglected works?

GR: Oh, Wow, it’s a good question. You stumped me right out of the gate.

One person that had a big effect on me was the author Joe Horowitz. The arguments he made in some of his books like “Understanding Toscanini” and “Wagner Nights and other ones. “The Ivory Trade”…  they just resonated with me about something unhealthy about the systems under which our orchestras and opera companies operate. That’s where it all came from. [continued]


A Long Road of Remembrance and Hope


The oratorio O Lungo Drom (The Long Road) is an authentic testimony of the Sinti and Roma people, whose journey since time immemorial has been shrouded by poetic and popular imagination. It finds its voice for the first time here directly through the words of Sinti/Roma poets and writers, set to music by Roma composer Ralf Yusuf Gawlick. This oratorio will receive its joint U.S. premières on April 5th at College of the Holy Cross and the 6th at Boston College, with soprano Clara Meloni, baritone Christoph Filler, cimbalomist László Rácz and the Alban Berg Ensemble Wien, the same cast performing on the world première recording recently released on Decca Eloquence Australia. Harpsichordist Peter Watchorn, a professor at Boston College and co-founder, executive producer and CEO of the record label Musica Omnia (which hosts seven Gawlick recordings), recently spoke with the composer.

PW: In the past decade, you have shared your thoughts with BMInt’s readership on three previous occasions, each time prior to the première of a major new work: Missa gentis humanæ, Kollwitz-Konnex (… im Frieden seiner Hände) and Herzliche Grüße Bruno ~ Briefe aus Stalingrad. Why now a work on the Sinti and Roma? [continued]

Comments Off on A Long Road of Remembrance and Hope

Julia Perry Fêted


The Julia Perry Centenary Celebration and Festival in New York City,  running March 13th-16th, reveals a significant composer who has been known by only a very small fragment of her creative output, although she had a recognized period of success in the 1950s and early ‘60s and kept writing through a prolonged illness. It’s a [continued]

Comments Off on Julia Perry Fêted

Celebrating Lutheran Master’s 339th Birthday


Boston’s annual celebration of all things Bach returns to First Lutheran Church of Boston on Saturday, March 23rd. Founded 17 years ago and occurring every year since (excepting only the unfortunate cancellation of the event at the last minute during the initial COVID-19 quarantine), the annual Boston Bach Birthday draws hundreds each year in celebration of Johann Sebastian Bach and his contributions to music. Held on the Saturday nearest Bach’s March 21st birthday, it is an all-day festival of concerts featuring the music of Bach, those who influenced him, and those who were influenced by him. All musical events are free and open to the public.

Begun in 2008 as a celebration of “Boston’s Bach Organ,” the Richards, Fowkes & Co. opus 10 pipe organ traditionally features prominently at the Bach Birthday, and 2024 is no exception. Three organists will play recitals, beginning with FLC Kantor Jonathan Wessler at 9:00am. Continuing his series of “sets” of organ works by Bach (the Great Eighteen organ chorales in 2021, the Orgel-Büchlein in 2022, and the Six Trio Sonatas in 2023), this year FLC Kantor Jonathan Wessler starts off the day with the complete chorale partitas of Bach. The four authentic Bach partitas will be preceded by three earlier partitas attributed to Bach. Wessler returns to the bench for the prelude to Vespers begins at 4:15pm, offering chorale preludes by Bach, Sweelinck, and Reincken on Lutheran chorales for Lent. At 11:25 Fred MacArthur will play smaller-scale Bach organ favorites. Fred is one of Boston’s most revered organists, having studied with the legendary Boston organist and pedagogue George Faxon. And finally, organist Jerrick Cavagnaro is a new face to the Boston organ scene, albeit one with a deep résumé: not only is he the new associate director of music at Trinity Church, but he was also a competitor in the most recent Boston Bach International Organ Competition, and has just been announced as a semifinalist in the National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance. His 1:30 program features music in the keys of E, F, and G. [continued]

Comments Off on Celebrating Lutheran Master’s 339th Birthday

Visiting Aucoin’s Underworld


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

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

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

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

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

Comments Off on Visiting Aucoin’s Underworld

NEP Piques Our Interest


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

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

Comments Off on NEP Piques Our Interest

Will Symphonies Survive?


 Jared Hackworth

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

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


Lookouts Aloft! A Composer Puts Out to Sea


Smyth in 1901 by Sargent

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

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

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


Chausson and Charles Munch: In Brief


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


Takács Quartet To Debut Flow


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

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

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

Comments Off on Takács Quartet To Debut Flow

A Beloved Genius Departed This Sphere


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


Dance Music of the Germania Musical Society


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

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

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


Bodies and Souls To Inhabit Sanders


Benjamin T. Rossen’s The Unknowable: An Operatic Ballet in Two Acts follows a young woman’s journey towards sincere curiosity in the face of a demoralizing reality, exploring themes of empathy, frustration, compassion, and inquisitiveness. Interweaving dancers and singers, the narrative is centered on the powerful musical experiences of ‘Les nuits d’été’ by Berlioz and ‘Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen’ by Mahler, carefully chosen for their rich soundworlds and allegorical relevance to the characters’ personal journeys. The Lowell House Opera production runs on February 10th and 11th in Sanders Theater at Harvard University. Tickets HERE.

“We believe that The Unknowable offers a relatable and relevant experience for a 21st-century audience, addressing universal themes of challenging decisions and the internal struggle to attain unequivocal answers.” Our Q and A with the composer follows. [continued]

Comments Off on Bodies and Souls To Inhabit Sanders

Tanglewood 2024 Looks Good


This summer’s two months at Tanglewood offer a more varied and richer schedule than ever, on the fully equipped campus in Lenox that has abundances for every taste. The Boston Symphony shares the Shed and other halls with several other orchestras; recitals and chamber music abound, beginning with a String Quartet Marathon of three concerts on June 30th. The calendar is HERE. Tickets go on sale March 19th .

The listing that I received has some gaps (programs not yet determined), but Beethoven’s orchestral music appears on no fewer than six dates (July 5 and 21, August 4, 18, 24, and 25), including four symphonies (of course the 9th) and three concerti. Stravinsky appears on four dates (July 12 and 15, August 9 and 10). There’s an entire evening of Richard Strauss (July 7). Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony will be performed twice, by the TMC Orchestra on July 8 with Nelsons, and the National Children’s Symphony of Venezuela on August 8 with Dudamel. [continued]


Chaos instead of music?


BMInt presents a not-so-short history of Shostakovich’s The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District in connection with the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of the complete opera on January 25th and 27th. Tickets HERE

On January 26, 1936, Dmitri Shostakovich’s opera The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District was presented in Moscow. This was not breaking news. Lady Macbeth had enjoyed almost simultaneous premieres in 1934, at the Maly Opera Theatre in Leningrad on January 22 and then at the Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre in Moscow two days later. The piece had elicited high praise from the February 1st edition of Soviet Art: [continued]

1 Comment »

Peter Schickele Dies at 88


Peter Schickele died on January 16th, after increasing health problems that confined him to his home in Woodstock, New York. He was 88 years old. He had a long parallel career as a serious composer and a musical comedian, in which he was known all over as P. D. Q. Bach and made memorable recordings still in print. His parodies of learned styles and burlesques of well-known masterpieces endure for their educational value as much as for their unerring drollery — as in the Concerto for Horn and Hardart in which a quasi-Mozart appoggiatura is drawn out for 30 seconds before gasping to a resolution, and in the Quodlibet with tonic-dominant melodies from all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies accumulating, followed by a combination of Schoenberg’s Little Piano Piece, op. 19, no. 2, and Puccini’s Un bel di vedremo (who would have thought that one could work?). You can’t forget his Beethoven Fifth first movement as a down-on-the-farm sportscast, or the mini-opera The Abduction of Figaro. The NYTimes obit is HERE. [continued]


Dreading the Augmented Sixth


The augmented sixth chord tends to be a dreaded subject in harmony courses, because it comes near the end of the textbook (e.g., Chapter 27 of Piston-DeVoto Harmony, 5th edition) but it really isn’t that complicated. There are maybe six or seven different kinds in regular use, some with geographic names: the Italian, German, and French sixths are well known, and some writers recognize Swiss or even Polish sixths. (You might wonder about the famous Neapolitan sixth, as well as the Russian sixth that I have puffed about in these pages, but these are not augmented sixth chords.). All of them have in common the interval of augmented sixth, typically in the upper voice and bass: [continued]

Comments Off on Dreading the Augmented Sixth

Unnamed String Trio To Open 2024 for Chinese Foundation


In their second season as an as-yet-unnamed partnership, the well-known soloists Stella Chen, violin; Matthew Lipman, viola; and Brannon Cho, cello will make mark an intriguing Boston debut recital at Jordan Hall Saturday night for the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts with Leo Weiner’s String Trio in G minor, Op. 6, Emmy Frensel Wegener’s Suite for Violin, Viola, and Cello; Gideon Klein’s String Trio, and Mozart’s Divertimento in E-flat Major, K. 563. More details on the concert and ticketing can be found HERE . The players reponded collectively to our questions.

This program is one we absolutely adore. It would be impossible to deny that one of the biggest draws of forming a string trio is getting to truly live with the Mozart Divertimento ― a piece so grand, loved, and profound. We’ve paired it with three seldom played works that are full of spirit, character, and every bit as lovable. [continued]

Comments Off on Unnamed String Trio To Open 2024 for Chinese Foundation

Texts Meet Tones: Origins and Meanings


by Elias Dagher

Although we started working on the Boston Text and Tone Festival last summer, the four days of concerts running from January 18th-21st will reflect and celebrate years of close professional relationships, new encounters, old friendships, and diverse musical perspectives. The concerts will feature 12 performers, 21 composers, and 25 poets. Details and tickets HERE.

Our friendship began while we were studying solo piano repertoire during our time at NEC. As we started working more and more with singers in text-based music making, we experienced a new kind of expressive mixture, the wild world where openness and directness meet. The “abstract” world of music itself (open-ended, suggestive, spiritual) met the “literal” world of words (direct, structured, narrative). Or is it the other way around? Perhaps music is more literal and poetry more abstract! Whatever the case, there are infinite possibilities whenever these universes collide. And thanks to countless poets and composers over the past several hundred years, they have collided over and over again. [continued]

1 Comment »

“No Choice but Love: Songs of the LGBTQ+ Community”


A two-CD song recital that I set aside last year because it didn’t have program notes or the sung texts just surfaced in my pile. This time I noticed a QR code that gets me the program notes on my cellphone, and I finally figured out that they’re also on the record company’s website. I read them—they’re by the much-published writer on music Roger Pines—and was immediately intrigued.

Eric Ferring, a marvelous young tenor who has been doing lyric and coloratura roles at the Met recently (e.g., Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Pong in Puccini’s Turandot) made his debut recording in this album with pianist Madeline Slettedahl.

No Choice but Love: Songs of the LGBTQ+ Community is an imaginative compilation of songs by gay and lesbian composers (seven men, two women) plus a “Mexican American transgender composer”, Mari Esabel Valverde. The more recent songs often address the challenges of being different (or being thought “different”) in mainstream society, and these are the ones that held my attention most. [continued]

Comments Off on “No Choice but Love: Songs of the LGBTQ+ Community”