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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Navajo Flutist Worth Hearing

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This week, Native American Flute concerts with Jonah Littlesunday are to be heard for the first time in New England. Nationally acclaimed Jonah Littlesunday, a full-blooded Navajo from Gray Mountain, Arizona, will be offering his spiritual and healing flute music, along with Navajo (Diné) history and folklore.

Littlesunday performed at fellow Arizonan John McCain’s funeral in Washington DC. Working with performance jitters, the young Navajo flutist wound up improvising for that event.

Upcoming concerts will be given in Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Peabody.

Give a listen to his Canyon Records album “Gratitude-Native American Flute Healing” HERE.

What may be surprising about “Gratitude” is its richness of content. Each of its eleven flutings possesses personalized poetry revealed in near-realistic musical depiction. For us “Bix to Buxtehude to Boulez” types, “Love’s Lullaby” might sound as if it were in a major key, even though it is in the world’s mode—pentatonic. Littlesunday’s full-throated flute delivers melodic friendliness and warmth accompanied by a steady drum beat that bonds Native American feet to the earth. Traditionally, boys would play the flute for mating purposes. [continued…]

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Beach Storms Esplanade

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Amy Marcy Cheney Beach

Concert to be held at Jordan Hall Wednesday at 7:00

 

Two decades ago, through this author’s efforts, Amy Beach’s name joined the Hatch Shell’s listing of 87 male composers. This Wednesday, August 7, at 7pm, the Mercury Orchestra will perform her monumental Gaelic Symphony, in E Minor, along with Charles Villiers Stanford’s Phaudrig Crohoore (An Irish Ballad), for a nominally Irish concert. (Canceled if rain.)

The Mercury performance shows that the grassroots momentum of re-recognizing Beach’s musical achievement continues. The Boston Globe’s fine recent preview details the BSO’s  surprising neglect of the composer since 1896, when they premiered the Gaelic; they last played a complete orchestral Beach work 102 years ago. The unveiling of her name in 2000 at the Hatch Shell preceded a Pops concert including Beach works under Keith Lockhart.

Because the Gaelic includes Irish tunes, it is sometimes assumed that Beach was Boston Irish, even though her New England family background was distinctly something other. (A local review from a couple years ago comically erred on this point.) Moreover, she married into Boston’s elite class, and for her to demonstrate musical sympathies with Irish immigrants could hardly have made sense within her circle; indeed, musicologist Sarah Gerk suggests that anti-Irish sentiment accounted for some of the (few) negative reviews that Beach’s Gaelic Symphony did receive. That the composer would step across class boundaries to express compassion for poor foreigners continues to resonate. [continued…]

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BUTI Calls O Fortuna

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Carl Orff

Founded in 1966, Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI) is one of the premiere training grounds for young musicians. Located just a mile from the Tanglewood campus, the students have access to the wealth of opportunities not only offered at BUTI but also as part of the relationship with the BSO. BUTI’s Young Artists Vocal Program (YAVP) exposes young singers to a varied six-week program. From private lessons to ensemble coaching to health and wellness, the vocalists thrive in conservatory-based intensive training.

On Saturday, August 3, 2019, BUTI will present the YAVP students in a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana at 1:30pm at Seiji Ozawa Hall. This free concert is open to the public, and features Orff’s arrangement of the work for vocalists, piano, and percussion. BUTI vocal faculty take on the solo parts, while the chorus comprise the students.

This masterwork allows multiple BUTI departments to collaborate and learn from each other as they prepare one of the most recognized classical music works. [continued…]

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Spirituals and Showboat on the Deep Charles River

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Paul Robeson in Showboat

Postponed until Thursday at 7:00

On Wednesday at 7:00 at the Hatch Shell Boston Landmarks Orchestra will offer a free concert of songs and spirituals by African American composers followed by a concert suite of excerpts and narration from Jerome Kern’s 1927 musical Show Boat. The musical introduced racial themes in forward-looking ways on the Broadway stage. Today it remains a beloved classic of American musical theater, while provoking both admiration and controversy.

“Deep River” is an essential American anthem. It is a sacred folk song born of slavery—as are all Negro spirituals—yet it speaks of hope, freedom, peace, and belonging. In the song’s lyric, the words “deep river” function as neither subject nor object, but as an all-pervading symbol of the transience of this world, and the promise of deliverance to the next.

We can’t identify individual authors of “Deep River,” but we do know it was created by and for African Americans. Many of the past century’s greatest African-American singers have featured it prominently on their programs, including Roland Hayes, Paul Robeson, and William Warfield. Marian Anderson sang it on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 at Eleanor Roosevelt’s invitation, after the Daughters of the American Revolution denied her permission to perform in Constitution Hall because of her race. [continued…]

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Eyes Shine for BPYO

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How does one sum up the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra’s eight-city, nine-concert tour of Brazil last month? Calling it “wonderful” and “extraordinary” might seem hyperbolic, and yet, the trip — which stopped in the metropolises of Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, Campinas, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, and Curitiba — was both.

We drew the repertoire from the BPYO’s last season and anchored it with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 on all nine concerts (featuring the exceptional Anna Fedorova as soloist; more on her in a moment). Surrounding the Rachmaninoff (depending on the evening) came one of three curtain raisers — Wagner’s Act 1 Prelude to Die Meistersinger, Weber’s Euryanthe Overture, or Clarice Assad’s Bonecos de Olindo — and a symphony: either Shostakovich’s Tenth or Dvorak’s Ninth.

That’s meaty fare, to be sure. Any mix of those pieces demands deep reservoirs of concentration and stamina from an orchestra – not to mention a huge range of technical and expressive nuance.

But those are just the sorts of challenges on which the BPYO and I thrive. Our interpretations of these pieces developed from the first concert in Salvador to the last one in Curitiba. Certainly the orchestra started from a position of strength (which, if you caught any of their Boston performances last season, won’t come as a surprise). But to hear these readings deepen — in terms of flexibility, subtlety, and power — over the course of nine nights was, frankly, very gratifying to me, and I hope, the listeners. [continued…]

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From Walnut Hill to NEC They Come

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The redoubtable Cathy Chan

The well-respected Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts Summer Festival has relocated to the New England Conservatory. Beginning on August 7th, NEC’s attractive new Burnes Hall will ring out with distinguished performers of varied cultures and generations in 15 recitals. Hardly strangers to NEC, since 1990, FCPA has presented 131 memorable concerts in Jordan Hall with notable pianists, cellists, and violinists, in standard repertoire as well as some traditional Eastern instruments and rep. Click HERE for this impressive historical list.

Until this summer the annual music festival took place at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts. Its alumni include Lang Lang, Yeol Eum Son, Kate Liu, Eric Liu, and Channing Yu, to name a few. For the past 30 years, students have come from all over the world to enjoy three weeks of exhilarating music making with the festival’s distinguished faculty members. The residents enjoyed many masterclasses, daily evening performances and concerto competitions. It provided a perfect platform for students of Asian heritage to study abroad, and allowed them to jump right into the heart of the Boston musical scene. Over the years, many stayed after the festival to study at Walnut Hill, and students from different years bonded into a big family all over the world.

Sadly, earlier this year, Walnut Hills administrators informed FCPA that venue rental fees, would double and triple (presumably 3x the original amount) in the next. The Foundation kept its mission of creating an accessible musical platform for all students by making the tuition affordable, and offering some scholarships, even if it meant leaving a negative balance.

So, this sudden and substantial increase in rental fees made a dent spiritually and financially, directly causing the discontinuation of the annual festival. The news struck and saddened the music community of Greater Boston. [continued…]

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Universe To Center on Hatch Shell Wednesday

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The first conductor

Nature planning to visit the Esplanade with rain, the Landmarks Orchestra concert will seek shelter in Jordan Hall tonight.

Boston Landmarks Orchestra begins its 19th season ( and 13th on the Hatch Shell) by commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo landing on the surface of the moon. In partnership with the Museum of Science, under the guidance of Wayne Bouchard, the Museum’s Interim President and CEO, and Danielle Khoury LeBlanc, Director of the Museum of Science’s Charles Hayden Planetarium, Wednesday’s program explores many aspects of the Apollo mission, space travel, and the wonders of the universe through the following works: John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Leroy Anderson’s Summer Skies, Richard Strauss’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, Joaquín Rodrigo’s In Search of the Beyond, John Williams’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Philip Glass’s Icarus at the Edge of Time (excerpt).

Charles Wilcox, the Planetarium’s AV Producer, Jason Fletcher, Associate Producer, Wade Sylvester, Special Effects Producer, and the staff of the Planetarium have created original video work, synchronized to the orchestra’s live performance. They have adapted material from the Planetarium’s full-dome science shows: Undiscovered Worlds; Moons: Worlds of Mystery; Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA; and Destination Mars: The New Frontier. They have also used material from the Planetarium’s extensive collection of entertainment programs featuring live musicians, entertainers, and albums by Beyoncé, David Bowie, Prince, and others. [continued…]

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Albright Leads Off Tanglewood’s “Big Ideas”

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Several years ago, Boston Symphony Artistic Administrator Anthony Fogg suggested a way of expanding the use of the Tanglewood facilities beyond the active period from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and also to provide a greater range of intellectual stimulation to Tanglewood visitors. The suggestion grew into the Linde Center, which consists of indoor spaces (to be cooled in the summer and heated in the winter) as well as a food service. The buildings that form the line of halls strung attractively along a covered walkway a short distance from Ozawa Hall were designed by William Rawn, the architect whose plans for Ozawa Hall proved so exceptional a quarter century ago. The formal opening took place a week ago, and the Linde Center is being used extensively during this summer, with a growing list of activities expected in later months.

In addition to the many types of performances, the Tanglewood Learning Institute (TLI) will present open rehearsals, master classes, interviews with leading artists, a series of lecture talks by distinguished participants who are not themselves musicians, but who may include some element of music’s relationship to their life and work. The first of this summer’s high profile lectures featured former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, speaking in Ozawa Hall on Saturday afternoon for about 40 minutes, followed by 15 or 20 minutes of questions posed by Ranny Cooper, who was Senator Ted Kennedy’s chief of staff. [continued…]

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WHRB Opened Ears on July 4th

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As was the case with many of its distinctive offerings, WHRB’s first nine-hour July 4th American classical music program came at the initiative of David Elliott, the voice of WHRB for 58 years. The station was broadcasting 24/7 by the year 2000, and he felt that it should recognize the Fourth with selections going beyond the usual warhorses (e.g., Appalachian Spring, Rhapsody in Blue). David attended scrupulously to every detail as he would do in his famed post-Met vocal broadcasts. He took time selecting each piece, comparing performances, and ensuring that each work flowed well into the next in order to give listeners a relaxing, enjoyable, and ear-opening nine-hour musical journey through American history.

I had developed an interest in American classical music early on when I first became aware of Aaron Copland while watching him conduct the New York Philharmonic in his own music on a Young People’s Concert telecast over CBS in December, 1969. WHRB was a wonderful place for me to explore this interest in greater depth and one of the highlights of my Harvard years was when David arranged for us to interview Copland during a visit he made to campus in November, 1977. [continued…]

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Something Old, Something New To Fill Hatch Shell

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The late Robert Honeysucker singing “At the River” in 2012.

Every Wednesday night, beginning July 10th, and continuing for seven weeks, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, made up of many of the area’s finest professional musicians, will offer free concerts at the Hatch Memorial Shell on Boston’s Esplanade. All concerts begin at 7 pm; the Season Tune-Up Party on July 10th begins at 6 pm.

In case of rain, most concerts are rescheduled for Thursday (though not all). If it rains on Thursday as well, concerts take place at an alternate venue (in most cases). Check the Boston Landmarks Orchestra website for rain plans, as they vary from week to week.

We use great music to bring together people from diverse backgrounds, and to address issues of vital importance to our community. Community involvement is the starting point in our planning process, not an added element. We offer concerts in a spirit of informality and fun. Children dance in front of the stage. A Maestro Zone is available where people of all ages can look at a conductor’s score, wave a baton, and receive a conducting lesson. Best of all—to certain people—we encourage you to bring your dog to any of our concerts. [continued…]

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