Easley Blackwood, Jr.  1933-2023

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Easley Blackwood, Jr., a composer and pianist of remarkable accomplishment, died on January 22 at the age of 89. This word comes from the University of Chicago Music Department, where he taught for 39 years. Non-musicians today remember his father, Easley Blackwood, who developed the Blackwood Convention in bridge playing. Easley Jr., a graduate of Yale (‘53 and ‘54), was known early in his career as one of the most brilliant students ever of Nadia Boulanger; He studied with Messiaen, too, and on his return to America, he quickly made a national impact with his Symphony no. 1, a Koussevitzky Foundation commission, premiered and recorded by the Boston Symphony in 1958. (Reprinted on Cédille CDR 90000 016.) In the 1970s Blackwood was widely known as a superb pianist, specializing in twentieth-century music. One well-known recital program consisted of Ives’s “Concord” Sonata and Boulez’s Sonata no. 2, both played from memory, and at other times he played Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern (I heard a rumor, which I confidently believe still, that Blackwood learned the piano part of Pierrot Lunaire by ear from Steuermann’s recording before studying the score). [continued…]   [continued]

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What’s on First?

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The Serenade by Wilhelm Stenhammar that the BSO played last week began with an Overtura first movement, appropriately enough for a serenade, and this set me to thinking: what’s an overture for? Begin with a specialized dictionary definition, e.g.: “an act, an offer, or a proposal that indicates readiness to undertake a course of action” — diplomatic overtures, for instance. The French overture (in two or three sections) in Baroque suites is one formal type that disappears after Bach. The Overtura of 30 bars that begins Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge is essentially a herald, announcing all the different guises of the basic theme, and one thinks of his use of this sectional title as idiosyncratic. But a classical overture is basic: an orchestral introduction to an opera, necessarily of at least a few minutes’ length but also something in the nature of a symphony as well — especially of a first movement of a symphony, necessarily in sonata form. But it won’t do to have a 15-minute symphonic first movement as a curtain-raiser, nor even ten-minute example in most cases. Let’s imagine that the opera composer, after completing the sung portion of an entire evening’s opera, needs to come up with an orchestral introduction, but would rather, at that point in creativity, be writing a symphony for relaxation, or at least change of pace. [continued…]   [continued]

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Honoring Barbara Owen at 90

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Over three quarters of a century, a flood of essays, reviews, and books has poured from Barbara Owen’s pen, typewriter, and computer, including numerous periodical and anthology articles, entries in The New Grove Dictionary of Music, and several books, including The Organ in New England, E. Power Biggs: Concert Organist, The Registration of Baroque Organ Music, The Organ Music of Johannes Brahms, and The Great Organ at Methuen. She has served the American Guild of Organists as Regional Councillor and chapter Dean, is a Past President of the Organ Historical Society, a Trustee of Methuen Memorial Music Hall, and is currently active as an organist, lecturer and organ consultant. She worked as pipe voicer for the CB Fisk organ firm for many years. She has also written five reviews for this site.

The First Religious Society and the Methuen Memorial Music Hall will celebrate her many accomplishments in organ building, preservation, scholarship, history, and music on Saturday, January 21, 2:00-4:00 PM at the First Religious Society of Newburyport, Pleasant St with ten distighuished speakers and seven well-known organists. The readings and performances will be livestreamed HERE. Michael Barone (Pipedreams, American Public Media) will serve as Master of Ceremonies. Click HERE for the complete program. [continued…]

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Conductor Notches 20 Years With BSO

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Alan Gilbert (Michael Avedon photo)

American conductor Alan Gilbert—Music Director of the Royal Swedish Opera, Chief Conductor of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, and former Music Director of the New York Philharmonic from 2009 to 2017—and frequent BSO guest Garrick Ohlsson will premiere Justin Dello Joio’s piano concerto Oceans Apart, written for Ohlsson. Swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammar’s wide-ranging 1911 Serenade has a satisfyingly symphonic scope. French composer Lili Boulanger’s impressionistic 1918 depiction of a spring morning and Czech composer Antonín Dvořák’s celebratory Carnival Overture, from 1891, complete the program for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The conductor spoke with BMInt on Monday.

FLE: Many of us are very glad to see that you will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of your BSO/Symphony Hall debut with these concerts. So let’s begin by asking about the world premiere of Dello Joio’s Oceans Apart. Absent a history of performance practice, or lots of notation as to expression, how do you know what to do? Are you depending on interaction with the composer himself? The other question is, did you ask to conduct this? Or did the BSO make the match of you and Dello Joio?

They asked me to do it. This is a piece that apparently was commissioned some time ago and was not finished in time for the planned premiere, so they’re finally doing it now. And it’s always a pleasure to work with Garrick Ohlsson, who’s one of the great, great pianists and artists.  It would please me to be part of any project involving Garrick.

I don’t know Justin Dello Joio’s music. It’s a new piece for me and a new composer for me. But you can get very quickly to the heart of a score if you’ve spent a lot of time studying new music.  And I have to say, his notation is very, very intelligent, very forward, and it’s been fun to spend time with this score. It’s also interesting that we’re going to have the composer himself on hand. It means I’ll be able to ask a lot of questions, which can be very helpful. That being said, a score is designed to be intelligible and understandable in the absence of the composer—that’s the purpose of notation. Composers generally write pieces that they expect to be interpreted. [continued…]

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Mahler, Mary Jane, and Memory

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I’ve been revising chapters of my unpublished book, Melody and Texture in Music, hoping that the revised text will help to attract a publisher; meanwhile I have been posting fragments in these pages. My current revision is of Chapter 14, “Orchestral Texture,” which sometimes refers back to Chapter 10, “Contrapuntal Texture,” and Chapter 13, “Sonata Form.” Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, which I have long pointed to as a contrapuntal marvel, brings some of these things together.

Back in summer 1973, I drove across the country, listening on the radio to the Senate Watergate Committee hearings and John Dean’s riveting testimony.  At one point I stopped to visit friends in California; we smoked some local grass and listened to Mahler’s Fourth. [continued…]

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Changing of a Guardian at the BSO

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While we may have heard off-the-record grumblings for some months from BSO staffers, we were hardly prepared for the swiftness of the remedy…if we are even right in so regarding the announcements of the simultaneous resignation of President and Chief Executive Officer Gail Samuel and appointment of Jeffrey D. Dunn as interim in that capacity as of January 4, 2023. Eighteen months ago the BSO had lots of hopes that Samuel, its first woman CEO, would bring some of her LA Phil liveliness and relevance to the comparatively staid BSO. Rather than hearing Schadenfreude in response to this turnover, we note expressions of sadness over the lost opportunities and early departure.

The BSO trustees, who guard the guardians, quote Samuel: “When I arrived at the BSO, I was dedicated to re-opening Tanglewood and Symphony Hall and to increasing creativity at the BSO by welcoming artists to our stages more broadly representing the rich diversity that exists in our city. After navigating the profoundly complicated re-opening matters and having successfully laid the groundwork for continued evolution at the BSO, I have decided to step down.” [continued…]

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Locke Lists Rep-Enriching Opera Recordings and More

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The year end finds me recommending two dozen superlative operatic offerings of different kinds, plus a smaller number of recordings in other genres. As in previous years, my list focuses mainly on lesser-known operas because that’s what I tend to be sent for review. But the list also reflects my belief that the operatic tradition is wider and deeper than our “standard rep” of Carmen and so on leads us to think. (And I’m one of the world’s biggest Carmen fans.)

Some of these operas are in languages that I don’t know; it took extra effort to follow the libretto and translation that in nearly all cases comes with the recording, but I was glad I did.

A few were recorded before the pandemic began, others were made without an audience or with the seats half-filled, and frequently the orchestral players (except those in the wind sections) were masked. A few are important re-releases that first appeared years earlier on a different label or that had been sitting unreleased, often in the “vaults” of European radio station. One came to my attention belatedly by26 years. [continued…]

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A Half Century of Early Music Plus

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The Aston Magna Festival and Foundation will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in the coming summer. In the meantime, a special concert at Brandeis University Sunday, December 18th (3pm, Slosberg Auditorium, Brandeis University), celebrating the 30th anniversary of Daniel Stepner’s ascension to Artistic Directorship, will feature two Brandenburg Concertos, Vivaldi’s “Winter,” Pachelbel’s Canon and Gigue, and Corelli’s Christmas Concerto. Stepner recently shared his thoughts with the Intelligencer. Tickets HERE. Note: This show was cancelled.

BMInt: Congratulations Dan on your 30 years directing Aston Magna! Wonderful to hear that Aston Magna will celebrate its 50th next summer!

Thank you! Time flies when you’re having fun, and it is hardly believable to me that it’s been 30 years.

Were you involved in the birth of Aston Magna? [continued…]

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Adding to the Periodic Table of ‘Cambridge Elements’

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Our fellow Bostonian Mark Kroll has published again. This time the harpsichordist, teacher and writer has written “Bach, Handel, and Scarlatti: Reception in Britain 1750-1850” for Cambridge University Press (available HERE as a paperback or E-book). We are pleased to reprint a review by the noted Dutch conductor, organist, harpsichordist, and musicologist, Ton Koopman.

The ‘Cambridge Elements’ series provides concise publications on a wide range of subjects, including music history. A recent issue in this series (mainly intended as an online publication but also available in “old fashioned” book form) is by Mark Kroll and deals with the reception and appreciation of the music of Bach, Handel, and Scarlatti in Britain in the century after their deaths. An interesting subject! I read this little volume with pleasure. [continued…]

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H+H Ends Three-Year Search

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The Handel and Haydn Society has invited acclaimed conductor, cellist, and keyboardist Jonathan Cohen to lead the nation’s oldest performing arts organization into its next chapter of musical excellence. At 44, he becomes the organization’s 15th Artistic Director, and one of its youngest.

Cohen made his debut with the Society in 2020 in a memorable performance of Haydn’s Symphony No. 6, Le Matin and Symphony No. 92, Oxford, along with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1. He returned in 2022 to tackle three jewels of the Baroque era, Vivaldi’s Gloria; CPE Bach’s Magnificat, and J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 1. Cohen kicked off the 2022-23 Season in October to rave reviews with H+H with Glories of Bach, He is set to return December 15th and 18th to conduct H+H’s “A Baroque Christmas” at Jordan Hall.

We had a very interesting talk with him and H+H executive director David Snead:

FLE: After three years of getting rejections from one conductor, after another [laughter], you finally chose Jonathan Cohen as the Music Director Designate.

DS: We had a very thorough and deliberate process. I always said the search will take as long as it needed to and no longer and that’s where we ended up. [continued…]

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H+H Presents the Most Human of Operas

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Raphaël Pichon will conduct.

The Handel and Haydn Society is set to take on one of anyone’s greatest works with its semi-staged interpretation of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Raphaël Pichon, founder and artistic director of Pygmalion Ensemble, will lead on November 17th and 18th at 7:00 PM at Symphony Hall. World-renowned soprano Ying Fang as Susanna, soprano Jacquelyn Stucker as Countess Almaviva, bass-baritone Cody Quattlebaum as Count Almaviva, and bass Krzysztof Baczyk as Figaro will be joining the H+H Orchestra and Chorus. James Darrah, Grammy nominated producer and Artistic Director of Long Beach Opera, will stage-direct and design the performance. We talked with H+H Executive Director David Snead and Darrah yesterday.

FLE: David, how did this week’s Marriage of Figaro come to be?

DS: Raphaël Pichon likes doing projects. His Pygmalion Ensemble from France doesn’t do seasons, they do events projects. He loves doing things at unusual venues. He did a Brahms Requiem in a submarine base, for instance. The idea of doing Figaro was his and it’s also a new experience for our musicians. Raphael had an incredible cast to recommend, so we just thought it would be a great thing to have to in our season.

He was a discovery for me. I had never heard of Pygmalion Ensemble before you sent the press release. I was very impressed with what I heard. He’s very engaged and emotional about his conducting.

It’s been a very big, exciting project to do in two weeks. It’s not just going to be stand and bark. There’ll be interactions and a lot of blocking. There’s going to be strong acting. The singers will be in costume and off book. [continued…]

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An American in Berlin

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American-born violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley, the Berliner Philharmoniker’s principal concertmaster, will be featured soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto no. 1 when the orchestra appears at Symphony Hall on behalf of the Boston Celebrity Series Boston on November 13th at 8:00 [Tickets]. Joel Cohen, music director emeritus of the Boston Camerata and an occasional contributor to this publication, recently had an online, Boston-to Berlin chat with this gifted performer. A lightly edited transcript of their conversation follows.

J.C: Welcome to Boston, Noah Bendix-Balgley. Are you in fact the first American concert master of the Berliner Philharmoniker?

NBB: Yes, as far as I know. Of course, the orchestra is very international, and there are a number of Americans currently serving. [Note: The Berliner press office identifies five American-born musicians on the roster]

In any case you are a pioneer in that sense. My impression is that English is one of the working languages of the orchestra. [continued…]

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Luise Vosgerchian Centennial

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Today is the 100th birthday of a great musician who died in 2000. The renowned Luise  Vosgerchian was adored for decades as one of the most dynamic and progressive pianists and teachers ever in the entire Boston area.   [continued]

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Harmony as a Cross Section of a Life

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Rachmaninoff filled his three Symphonic Dances, op. 45, (1940) with modern-Romantic harmony, including echoes of Tchaikovsky’s Russia and a spicy original tinge not like anyone else’s, not like Rimsky-Korsakov or Scriabin (second prize in composition at the Moscow Conservatory when Rachmaninoff got the first), and very unlike the surging swells of the ever-popular Second Concerto, composed four decades earlier. The first dance demonstrates the bittersweet energy as well as any. It begins in C minor, first tentatively and then confidently as a march, builds to a climax, subsides to a calm and completely different section in C-sharp minor, and eventually returns to a varied da capo of the march, followed by a short Coda-apotheosis in bell-like C major. At this point a new theme appears, a broadly expressive melody that has always struck me with an ineffable sadness, because it is stated only once, never to be heard again, and dies away into gradual pianissimo silence. Years later I learned from several different sources that Rachmaninoff retrieved this lovely melody from the wreckage of his First Symphony, which had suffered a catastrophic premiere performance in 1897, and which the stunned composer then shelved after the critics savaged it. Rachmaninoff subsequently remembered his first symphony as a failed effort, “childish, strained, and bombastic.” [continued…]   [continued]

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The Miracles of Notre Dame

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The entire planet bore horrified witness as Parisians knelt and wept silently, or sang hymns. In real time, we saw the cathedral spire crumble in flames, we all feared that the mighty building, with its two towers rising to heaven, a structure medieval but also romantic and somehow eternal, might be lost forever.  

“The Miracles of Notre Dame” tells the story of the miraculous survival of the church by celebrating history vocal music sung within its walls as well as miracle tales, student songs, and minstrel turns performed in Notre Dame’s shadow, on either bank of the steadily flowing Seine. Boston Camerata collaborates with the Harvard Choral Fellows directed by Edward Elwyn Jones, and Longy School of Music of Bard College at Harvard’s Memorial Church on November 6th at 4:00. Thomas F. Kelly, and Caroline Bruzelius will lecture in the Pusey Room at Memorial Church at 2:30. Tickets HERE.But not eyes alone; if the architectural exploits of the cathedral were widely admired and emulated, the structures of musical sound as practiced withing the cathedral walls helped change forever the compositional and performance practices of Western Europe. They remain, as well, a source of inspiration today. [continued…]

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Leon Kirchner: An Animate Account

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Arriving from the presses in August came just the second major publication on this eminent American composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher, in an account from his daughter Lisa. On first glance flipping through the 375 pages, readers will seize on how editor Lisa has carefully radiused the edges and corners of the professional life of her father in this handsome tribute.  

No newcomer to what it takes to pull together such a volume, Lisa Kirchner begins her preface, “This anthology of writings by and about my father, Leon Kirchner, includes letters, analyses, interviews, and essays, interleaved with photographs, manuscripts, and art. While compiling the pre-existing materials, I wrote to many of my father’s colleagues expressing my hope that each might contribute an essay illuminating those elements of his aesthetic vision and credo that resonated in their encounters with him. My confidence was rewarded by their generosity and some 40 newly minted writings were rendered for inclusion in “Leon Kirchner and His Verdant World.”   [continued…]

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Four New Professors of the Practice

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The next installment in the Parker Quartet’s season includes the Blodgett Composition Prize performance of one of Harvard University’s graduate students Jonah Haven’s Laugh Radish at Paine Hall on November 6th at 3:00, along with Bartok’s Fifth Quartet and Korngold’s String Sextet (with cellist Raman Ramakrishnan and violist Marcus Thompson). The group’s violinist Daniel Chong has ‘… fallen absolutely in love with it. It’s just so expressive, charming, and vivid. It’s romanticism to a degree that only Korngold can really do.” The Parker Quartet, the first full-time Blodgett Quartet-in-Residence at Harvard University since the residency’s inception in 1985, recently added a distinction: status as the first to join the University’s senior faculty as Professors of the Practice. This means that in addition to presenting a four-concert series every season, teaching Chamber Music Performance, working with the composition faculty and students, and collaborating with other faculty throughout the university, the foursome will have the security to undertake longer-term projects that interest them.

This isn’t going to be tenure track, but there’s expectation that it’s for a goodly period. It’s the closest thing to tenure track that it can be seeing as though tenure track positions for string quartets do not exist. My understanding is that there’s no other quartet position in any university or conservatory quite like this.

But Harvard wants you to continue touring and wants you to continue to have a career and be in the spotlight. Performing is the equivalent of publishing for a more academic professor?

DC: Absolutely. What makes our position so unique is that there’s so much flexibility and the department is extremely supportive of our touring activities. The expectation is that we are out there continuing to be at the forefront of our field. [continued…]

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Thinking About Encores

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Jonathan Biss’s quiet, lovely encore at last Wednesday’s Boston Phil event, a true Moment musical, was no. 1 of Beethoven’s Six Bagatelles, op. 126. “Chips of marble from the workshop,” Hutcheson calls the three sets of bagatelles, and sometimes they are even substantial chunks. But many of these make ideal encore pieces. I even wondered, casually, if an encore could be fashioned out of no. 10 of Beethoven’s 11 New Bagatelles, op. 119? This must be one of the shortest actual compositions by anybody that actually ends in a double bar: eight bars repeated, with a four-bar coda. It’s marked Allegramente and lasts approximately 16 seconds — I timed it. Nothing even by Anton Webern is that succinct. I’m not saying that anyone should try to play this as an actual encore, but no doubt at some point someone will. (Perhaps adding Cage’s 4’33” in the process.) No. 11 of the Opus 119 set is a few bars longer, still less than a page, but it must be memorable; Max Reger made an enormous orchestral piece out of it, his Variations and Fugue, op. 86. [continued…]   [continued]

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$100 Million Clarinetist

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Yesterday’s Boston Globe took note of a heart-warming donation of $100 million to the Boston University Medical School, which will be renamed the Aram V. Chobanian and Edward Avedisian School of Medicine. A photograph identified the donor, Edward Avedisian, “a retired clarinetist and philanthropist,” and it impressed me that the paper mentioned “clarinetist” first. “All right, so I made a few dollars,” he said, and I am sure he made the money in other enterprises than music, but “clarinet” stuck with me because I remembered Ed Avedisian from when we were students at Tanglewood in summer 1959. I didn’t know him well; I was a 19-year-old sophomore, but he had already graduated from BU, was an official in the musicians’ union, and would play from time to time with the Boston Pops. Chobanian, his close friend ever since they were children growing up in Rhode Island, later became Dean at the med school. [continued…]   [continued]

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October Third Is the First Monday

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A faculty recital on steroids—with famous alums and the occasional current student collaborators all volunteering their services—that’s what New England Conservatory worthy Laurence Lesser inaugurated 38 years ago with his initial First Monday at Jordan Hall series of free concerts of great chamber music. If you want Larry to talk to you about this year’s edition rather than reading further, click HERE for his video of the October 3rd program: [continued…]   [continued]

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Mimi Seen at Cafe Momus After She Died

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Seeing and hearing any classical show in the magical and inspiring Emerson Colonial Theater interests us tremendously. Witnessing Puccini’s La bohéme from the venerable Boston Lyric Opera adds another dollop. For this production, director Yuval Sharon runs Act IV first and adds a “Wanderer”/interlocutor to explain the proceedings.

Boston Lyric Opera presents the favorite opera of starving artists and thwarted lovers September 23rd through October 2nd at the Colonial Theater…except the lovers don’t end up thwarted. Love triumphs over death in this show. Purchase tickets HERE.

This feature will first discuss the venue. Our interesting interview with Lauren Michelle, the show’s Mimi, follows several paragraphs down.

The oldest Boston theater to survive intact and one of Boston architect C.H. Blackall’s (he did many important theaters in Boston as well as Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline) most gracious creations, the Colonial Theater opened on December 20, 1900, and through, war and pestilence remained a beloved venue for important premieres and tryouts of plays and musicals. It narrowly escaped conversion to a food court six years ago. Flo Ziegfeld launched his Follies there, and notable players, playwrights and composers at the house include Irving Berlin, Sigmund Romberg, Richard Rogers, and Oscar Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Ether Merman, the Gershwins, Katherine Cornell Lunt and Fontaine, Katherine Cornell Tyrone Power, Paul Robeson, Laurence Olivier, Doyly Carte Company with the great John Reed. I remember that 1973 Pinafore well, as the last musical I heard anywhere without amplification. Imagine Merman projecting to the back rows in Annie Get Your Gun…singers needed great pipes until amplification changed belting to crooning. [continued…]

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BSO Opener Looks Lively

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The BSO subscription season begins this Thursday night with a lively and celebratory program HERE which finds the orchestra toasting itself through a namesake overture by John Williams, finding its place within the Planets, and showcasing the debut of pianist Awadagin Pratt in Bach’s Concerto in A Major and in Rounds, for piano and string orchestra, a new work written for him by the young Jessie Montgomery [the orchestra included her Starburst in a 2020 “American Promise”-themed program HERE]. A review on these pages noted how the 55-year-old Pratt  delivered “old-master richness” and compared him to Horowitz and Richter.

Pratt became the first African American to win the Naumburg International Piano Competition. That achievement launched an active performing career (including appearances with numerous American orchestras and for the Clinton White House and Obama White House), as a recording artist, and as a professor of piano at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Recent projects include the multimedia presentation “Awadagin Pratt: Black in America” which chronicles his life, including unpleasant encounters with law enforcement as a young man. He talked with us at length and rewardingly.

FLE: So where did the name Awadagin come from?

AW: My father was from Sierra Leone.

As of late, you’ve been talking a little about your roots, but more about your personal experiences of racism. Apparently you were arrested while running late to class at Peabody…while Black. [continued…]

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A “Troika” Before the Snows

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Odyssey Opera’s “Troika,” comprising Rachmaninoff’s complete operatic oeuvre, brings his three rarely heard one-act operas together for the first time according to conductor and Artistic Director Gil Rose. At Jordan Hall, Odyssey will conjoin Aleko, Miserly Knight, and Francesca Da Rimini in a three and one half-hour extravaganza. Audition them in Neeme Järvi’s excellent recordings HERE.

The stories by Alexander Pushkin and Dante tell of an exiled Russian nobleman consumed by jealousy, an aging Baron who dies calling not for his son but for his gold, and a young couple consigned to the Second Circle of the Inferno after an illicit kiss. Presented in concert in Russian, with English Supertitles in a collective US premiere on September 25, 2022 at 3:00 PM NEC’s Jordan Hall. Tickets HERE

FLE: All three operas can be auditioned in multiple YouTube streams. Miserly Knight got done at Bard this summer, and Aleko is hardly unknown. Commonwealth Lyric Theater, specialists in Russian/Ukrainian repertoire, did it in Boston about ten years back. [reviewed HERE]

Gil Rose: Even though it was a student work, Aleko has had something of a continuous concert life on stage. It gets done, often paired with various things.

And how did you come up with the idea of this triple bill? You say, they haven’t ever been fit together, though in 1906 at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, Rachmaninoff conducted a double-bill of Miserly Knight and Francesca da Rimini. You probably are correct in claiming a first for this 3.5-hour triple header. [continued…]

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“Sweet Sorrow” on Parting from NEC

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Pianist, composer, conductor, teacher, past Longy president Victor Rosenbaum celebrates his 80th birthday and retirement from his first and last job with a free Jordan Hall recital on September 17th at 8:00 PM offering a retrospective of music he loves: Brahms: Intermezzi Opus 118, Nos. 1 and 2, Victor Rosenbaum: Elegy-Impromptu, Beethoven: Sonata in E Major, op. 109, Schubert: Sonata in A Major, D. 959, as well as the world premier of composer-pianist Lewis Warren’s second Ballade. Rosenbaum’s elegant valedictory essay follows this short interview.

Are you satisfied with how your career has unfolded?

I made a conscious decision (spoken to myself and others in so many words) many years ago never to be bitter about what I might not achieve in fame or recognition. How tiresome are those regrets of many musicians who think the world failed to give them the accolades they deserved. By contrast, I feel very lucky that I have been able to play the music I love most, often with some incredible (and world famous) collaborators (like Leonard Rose, Robert Mann, Roman Totenberg, and many wonderful NEC colleagues). And I have taught all these years in one of the world’s great schools of music. What a great privilege! If I look back on opportunities missed, there is one moment that could have changed the trajectory of my career: it was when Erich Leinsdorf saw me conduct a little kids orchestra at a summer camp in the Berkshires where his daughter was a violinist. He must have seen something in our little attempt at the first movement of Beethoven’s First Symphony, because afterwards he invited me to be some kind of assistant at the BSO. Stupidly, I turned it down because I was in the middle of my graduate studies. I mean, really, how stupid can you be?

But, you know, even though that could have led to something very different and wonderful (and I always have loved conducting), I am rather happy that I have had a not too shabby career. I’ve traveled for concerts and teaching in many parts of the world (even to Iraq, believe it or not), and have had the admiration of my students and musical colleagues. A life in music is a pretty great thing, regardless of the degree of fame or fortune it brings. [continued…]

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A 40-Year-Old Society Takes Stock

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Marcus Thompson (file photo)

On September 18th at Sanders Theater BCMS begins its 40th season with what its fans like, great chamber music: Brahms’s Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 101, Poulenc’s Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano, and Beethoven’s Septet in E-flat major, Op. 20 in the company of Romie de Guise-Langlois, clarinet; Adrian Morejon, bassoon; Jason Snider, French horn; Yura Lee, violin; Marcus Thompson, viola; Clancy Newman, cello; Thomas Van Dyck, double bass. Tickets HERE.

Alongside its nine member musicians*, this season BCMS brings 16 familiar and exciting guests to 3 concert stages and adds nine works to its repertoire, including the premiere of an anniversary commission by Scott Wheeler. I enjoyed a very pleasant talk with Artistic Director Marcus Thompson about how the ensemble began, responses to recent challenges, the upcoming season, and beyond. 

FLE: Over nearly 40 years the Boston Chamber Music Society has maintained the appearance of being an exclusive club as the word  ‘Society’ implies. And maybe for roster of distinguished Member Musicians, it is something of a club which admits listeners to its fold. Long before so many other groups, series and venues got started, this Society has had quite impact on how and where chamber music is presented around town. Even though you weren’t a member in its first season, at some point ‘you made the cut,’ ‘paid the fee,’ got to be a member, and, for the last 12 years you’ve served as Artistic Director. What is BCMS’s origin story? [continued…]

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