Short Phrases, Tonal Scope

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Schubert composed his Gesänge zur Feier des heiligen Opfers der Messe, D 872, better known in English as his “German Mass,” in late summer or fall 1827, at the behest of the poet, Johann Philipp Neumann, who paid him 100 florins to create a work for congregational singing as an adjunct to the spoken Latin Mass in Catholic liturgy. Schubert wrote it for SATB chorus with accompaniment of a wind orchestra. The fourth movement, an Offertory just one page long, offers a neat microcosm of elementary tonality very like the “familiar style” of Protestant hymns later in the century. The text of the first stanza translates thus: [continued…]

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Tanglewood Details Announced

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BMInt alerted readers HERE a couple of weeks ago to the salutary fact that Tanglewood is planning to operate this summer, albeit for half its usual run. Now we’re pleased to go straight to the lede: Click HERE for the just-released calendar in easy-to-read form.

Once again BMInt’s resident curmudgeon rants on rep. But first comes Andris Nelsons’s edited welcome. [continued…]

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Martin Boykan: 1931 – 2021

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The Brandeis Music Department has sent a statement which BMInt reprints here.

Martin Boykan, a world-renowned composer, inspirational teacher, published author and prodigious performer, died peacefully at his home on March 6th at the age of 89, leaving his wife, Susan Schwalb, and his niece Ina Pour El and her family. His funeral took place in New York City on March 8, 2021.

Born in 1931, Boykan studied composition with Walter Piston, Aaron Copland and Paul Hindemith, and piano with Eduard Steuermann. He received a BA from Harvard University, 1951, and an MM from Yale University, 1953. In 1953–55 he was in Vienna on a Fulbright Fellowship, and upon his return founded the Brandeis Chamber Ensemble whose other members included Robert Koff (Juilliard Quartet), Nancy Cirillo (Wellesley), Eugene Lehner (Kolisch Quartet) and Madeline Foley (Marlborough Festival). This ensemble performed widely with a repertory divided equally between contemporary music and the tradition. At the same time Boykan appeared regularly as a pianist with soloists such as Joseph Silverstein and Jan de Gaetani. In 1964–65, he was the pianist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. [continued…]

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French Harmonium Romps with Piano and Strings

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BMInt: We gather that you have been depositing rediscoveries from your moldy archives onto YouTube to share of some interesting material that might not otherwise emerge from obscurity…undeserved, from what we have heard in the case of your mastertape of a cassette-only release from 1978.

FLE: The foundational story to my production of “Harmonium and Company” goes back several decades to my moderate case of arrested-development-organ-nut syndrome. After a very brief stint with organ builder Charles Fisk, I began to accumulate organ parts, including at least one, complete 35-rank instrument; and I almost took a misguided first step to lease a very large disused power plant as my private concert hall.

What stopped you?

Somehow, I came to my senses before dipping into principal. That meant selling and/or abandoning tons of useless accumulated paraphernalia…save for a four-stop partially self-built baroque positive set up in my livingroom.

I bet that sounded pretty bad. [continued…]

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Tanglewood Announcement Once Again Summer Harbinger

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We won’t have to make do with a virtual shed and lawn this summer! After enduring a 16-month interregnum of hermetic distancing while making do with the virtuous virtual along with their subscribers, the BSO Trustees voted unanimously yesterday to reopen Americas’ preeminent summer music festival to living, breathing, if distanced outdoor or semi-outdoor crowds. Though we will have to wait until April 8th for program details, we take pleasure in management’s revelation that the six weeks between July 9th and August 16th will include a Saturday-evening and Sunday-afternoon Boston Symphony Orchestra series; a Friday-evening series featuring recitals, special guest artists and ensembles, and the Boston Pops; and a Monday-evening Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra series. The Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center, the BSO’s acclaimed summer music academy, will be featured in chamber music performances on Sunday mornings and Monday afternoons. The Tanglewood Learning Institute—launched in summer 2019—will also offer a variety of programs in summer 2021. In addition, Tanglewood will present family, community, and education programs, as well as maintain many of its free and reduced-price ticket programs for the upcoming season. Live video performance streams will be available throughout the summer on BSO NOW. And touchless ticketing starts on May 17th. [continued…]

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Big Presence, Huge Life Energy

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When two objects collide, the strength of one impacts the trajectory of the other, sending it flying with uncertain purpose and lifetime. That is how I would describe the effect Jim Levine had on my musical destiny when I first met him in the summer of 1967 at the Meadowbrook Orchestral Institute. [continued…]

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James Levine: 1943-2021

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We expect many encomia and thoughtful first-person accounts to follow this official BSO statement.

“The Boston Symphony Orchestra extends its sincere condolences to the family of James Levine at the news of his passing. One of the most profoundly gifted musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries, James Levine led many extraordinary performances during his tenure as BSO music director (2004-11), including most memorable interpretations of the works of Beethoven, Schoenberg, Mahler, Ravel, and Brahms, among others, as well as composers he championed, including Elliott Carter, Charles Wuorinen, and John Harbison; he also led the BSO in an acclaimed tour of European summer festivals in 2007. The last period of his tenure as BSO music director was plagued by ill health, which resulted in his resignation in 2011. Subsequently, there emerged allegations of sexual improprieties which virtually ended his career as many musical institutions severed ties with him, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra.” [continued…]

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Boston Bach Birthday: It’s Back

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First Lutheran Church of Boston will hold its annual celebration of Bach and his music on Saturday, March 20th to honor the 336th anniversary of Sebastian’s hatching. In-person attendance will be limited, but all five- and one-half hours of music will be transmitted through Facebook. FLC encourages virtual attendees to enjoy the customary sausage, Kraut und Rüben at home. Prosit neue Bach Jahr!

Current conditions impel the BBB to return to its roots with an all-day series of recitals featuring local talent. Performances from a lonely organ loft distance the recitalist from the audience, as will an outing from a solo pianist; the only ensemble occupying space together comprises a family unit. Livestreaming, and we mean “live,” will come as a first a first for the BBB.

At 9am FLC Kantor Jonathan Wessler will play the “Great Eighteen” organ chorales of Bach; Louise Mundinger follows at 10:45am with a fascinating program on the four seasons centered on Bach’s Four Duetti, S.802–805. At 1pm Erica Johnson will play works of Bach and his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, followed by more organ works of JS at 3pm (Jeremy Bruns) and 4:10pm (Wesley Hall).

In addition to the organ-related festivities, the Timko Family, members of First Lutheran, will play music of Bach and Petzold on the violin. Also, Noam Elkies will play Yuri Tulin’s piano transcription of Bach’s first Brandenburg concerto in honor of the 300th anniversary of those concertos), as well as his own “Two-Bit Invention”, composed in honor of his first haircut since March 2020 (!).

Absent a proper Vesper service with festival choral music, Wessler will close this year’s festival at 5:30pm with music heard at a mid-17th-century north German Orgelvesper (Organ Vespers); tenor William Farrell will supply the requisite chants. Those desiring to attend should sign up promptly HERE for the limited seating. To watch the recitals live from home, please visit HERE. [continued…]

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More Than Streaming Concerts, It’s Musical Storytelling

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Emmy Award-winning, stage, screen and TV director Habib Azar talks about his approach to BSO streams and to telling stories visually.

FLE: What’s your method of preparing for shooting — do you basically consult the score and chase the instruments across the pages? 

HA: Every project is completely different — it may sound obvious, but of course a director is first and foremost a storyteller. So step one is deciding what story one wants to tell. Is the space a character? Is the story about the conductor? About an event? About the musical interpretation? About a group of artists gathering during covid against all odds?

Once I decide on what the story is, I see what technical capacities are available (camera types and positions, lighting, etc.) and then decide how best to deploy everything to make it work. At that point, I’ll start diving into the score and try to come up with a detailed plan for how to shoot it. On top of that I try to stay nimble so I can adjust organically to what is actually happening in the performance. [continued…]

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BSO Vids: Calm or Lapel-Grabbing?

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Big BSO news this week comes in the announcement of Gail Samuel as the orchestra’s next President and Chief Executive Officer. HERE is the BSO press release. Last week, as a welcome extra, BSO Spirit of Beethoven offered a nostalgic and moving remembrance of BSO past .

It was 1975. WGBH, then a major content producer for PBS, was doing expensive and seriously produced live TV from Symphony Hall once a month. The nearly 50-year-old relic on offer, Channel 2’s take on Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony under Seiji Ozawa with soprano Susan Davenny Wyner and contralto Maureen Forrester and the NEC Chorus, replete with love beads, fros, and the ponderously pontificating, lockjawed, but much-loved announcer William Pierce, totally nailed the Zeitgeist.

In that nascent era of transmitting images over a distance, a major crew with a through-composed shooting script would turn a live concert into an art form we could savor on our 27-inch Living Color TVs. The relaxed and artful television began with the departure of an elegant model couple from their Beacon Hill townhouse and ended 92 minutes later with Ozawa’s clenched fist at the climax. Have a look HERE.

Something beyond nostalgia impelled me to dig deeper into those old shows and ask a retired producer thereof to contrast the BSO onscreen then with now. Among his many accomplishments, freelance director and producer William Cosel worked for WGBH and the BSO for 42 years, from 1963 to 2005. [Next week BMInt expects to publish an interview with current director of BSO Now shows Habib Azar]

FLE: Am I a fuddy-duddy when I observe that there are too many two-second and shorter shots, too much quick cutting, in today’s BSO online? [continued…]

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The Rite of Spring: Confronting the Autographs

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My oldest personal copy of the Rite of Spring full score is a crumbling Kalmus pirated edition of the revised 1921 score published by Edition Russe I bought in 1959;  it is now peppered with annotations in pencil and three different colors of ballpoint [click HERE to see a page]. The cover fell off years ago. I hope to find time to copy all these notes and corrections into a virgin copy, but it will take hours, if not days. My other references here are two color facsimile volumes: The Rite of Spring / Sketches 1911-1913, published in 1969 by Boosey & Hawkes, with a preface by François Lesure and a separate folder of detailed notes, letters, and commentary by Robert Craft; and Le Sacre du Printemps: Facsimile of the Autograph Full Score, edited by Ulrich Mosch, published by the Paul Sacher Foundation and Boosey & Hawkes, 2013. Added to this is an original edition of the piano-duet score, Le Sacre du Printemps: Tableaux de la Russie païenne en deux parties d’Igor Strawinsky et Nicolas Roerich, with title page in Russian and French, published in 1913 by Édition Russe de Musique. I remember buying this hardbound score for $8.50 some decades ago at Patelson’s, where it was on the shelf next to a new Boosey & Hawkes paperbound revised reprint of the same score for $35. [continued…]

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At HMA, a Heartfelt Gottschalk Mashup from Young Duo

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When you have observed [slavery’s] horrors as I have, when you have seen thousands of victims die through unimaginable tortures, then you would condemn without forgiveness the greatest of the inequities which the ages of barbarity bequeathed to us.    LMG

It was probably not only the upcoming Black History Month which caused known NOLA native and BMInt publisher Lee Eiseman to advocate for someone, or two, or more, to serve up a gumbo bowl of Louis Moreau Gottschalk three weeks ago in the superb Harvard Musical Association YouTube live series. It might also have been the sore need, right after the Inauguration of this new political era and year, for some musical freshness of openhearted sincerity.

The pianist and composer Gottschalk, with one parent French Creole and and the other German Jewish by way of London, was this young country’s first international musical sensation and celebrity: a son of its most cultured city, a youth prodigy in Europe publicly singled out for praise by Chopin no less and presently taught by a teacher of Saint-Saëns, raved over by famous critics like Berlioz (“Mr. Gottschalk is one of the very small number of those who possess all the different elements of the sovereign power of the pianist, all the attributes which environ him with an irresistible prestige … his playing strikes from the first, dazzles, astonishes …”), and himself a writer of articles in the American and French press — but today overlooked in the recital world. [continued…]

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A Suitcase Speaks

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Russian-American violinist Yevgeny Kutik has announced “Finding Home: Music from the Suitcase in Concert,” a five-installment “docu-recital” series based on his 2014 CD of mostly the same name. Each half-hour episode interweaves works from the album with Kutik’s personal narrative. Episodes will premiere weekly on his Facebook and YouTube channels every Thursday at 7pm beginning February 11th. “Finding home” explores antisemitism in the Soviet Union, the Kutik family’s months as “stateless” refugees, the challenges of starting a new home in the United States, and Kutik’s teachers and mentors. It also posits lessons for the future.

Kutik has produced the series and offers it free to viewers. Click HERE to register.

In 1989, when Kutik was five years old, his family emigrated from the deteriorating Soviet Union to the United States, leaving most of their possessions behind and fitting what they could into just two suitcases. Kutik’s mother, a violin teacher, filled one with sheet music from the family’s collection, believing that their music was a significant part of their family’s musical history. Years later Kutik began to explore the music from the suitcase, became enthralled with his discoveries, and recorded a selection for the critically acclaimed album, “Music from the Suitcase: A Collection of Russian Miniatures” (Marquis Classics), which debuted at no. 5 on the Billboard Classical chart and was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and in the New York Times

Kutik recently talked to BMInt about his undertakings. [continued…]

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The Rite of Spring: Confronting the Orchestra

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My immediate inspiration for an addendum to “The Rite of Spring: Confronting the Score” [BMInt 2008 HERE] comes from a Sony’s “Le Sacre du Printemps: 10 Reference Recordings” (87254 61742), from its 100th-Anniversary Collection (2013). Ranging over nearly 70 years, the collection begins with dubbed 78s from the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski in 1929 and Stravinsky’s own platters with the New York Philharmonic in 1940. The composer’s last preserved version of The Rite came in 1960 at the beginning of the stereophonic era. The collection reaches forward to 1996.

One might well imagine that in the decades after 1913, The Rite of Spring would be considered a conductor’s challenge, especially because the orchestra is so large and the textures so variable and colorful. But only the Danse sacrale, the Sacrificial Dance, presents any real challenge to time-beating. As to indicating the measure, all of the rest of The Rite seems quite straightforward. When the curtain rises in Part I on motionless dancers (Les augures printaniers [Spring Fortunetelling], No. 13, mm. 76-247), the conductor beats in an uninterrupted 2/4 pace for 171 bars, accentuating either with sharp downbeats or with offbeat bounces, as needed. In the “Dance of the Abduction” that follows, where the basic compound-meter pulse is in dotted quarters with cross-accents abounding, the conductor’s time-beating task, and the orchestra’s task in following the beat, encounter relatively few difficulties. Back in the Diaghilev days it may not have been always so, but today’s orchestra players tend to worry more about getting the notes out when the patterns are fast, high, or strained than about counting the beats, as long as they can feel the measures with an occasional nod from the conductor. [continued…]

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Moto perpetuo and Kinesis

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In musical notation, “moto perpetuo” doesn’t so much describe a physical impossibility but rather a state of uninterrupted, uniformly moving notes—as realized by various composers in their own distinctive manners. Paganini’s Moto perpetuo for solo violin (with or without boom-chick accompaniment, or even in the vocal form called “I’m a Little Busy Body” that Jerry    [continued]

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Schubert Transformed Minuet to Waltz

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Beethoven’s sets of pianos minuets from the 1790s, WoO 7 and WoO 10, could have been transcribed (by him or by a publisher’s hack) from a ballroom string orchestra versions. They are elegant enough and straightforwardly tuneful and danceable, but they have the flavor of dashed off for quick money — or, in those days, chump change and no royalties.

Schubert’s earliest minuets are precisely comparable; he inherited the classical minuet-and-trio form from Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven and ran with it. 30 Minuets for piano, D 41, date from 1813 (he was 16 years old); ten of these are lost, and one assumes that he wrote them for household use, or in school, because none was published until the Schubert Gesamtausgabe in 1889. The texture typically shows a left-hand part moving in quarters, sometimes with two changes of harmony in the bar; the Trio section often has a left hand in seesawing eighths. These textures suggest a relatively moderate tempo suitable for regular dance steps, roughly 100-120 to the quarter. No. 1 begins like “O my darling, Clementine”; nine others begin with a dotted upbeat. [continued…]

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Back Online With Nelsons and the BSO

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If Andris Nelsons and the BSO play and there’s no audience in Symphony Hall to hear it, does it still make sound? The answer is a resounding yes, as the music director returns to Symphony Hall this week to begin recording three new Beethoven-inspired concert streams for release in February HERE. The streams will be available for purchase and viewing on February 11th, 18th, and 25th.

Nelsons leads the band for the first time since last January, just weeks before the covid plague forced the BSO (and most everyone else) to close its doors to the public and cancel the remainder of last and all of this season. See the official announcement with video statements HERE.

Video and photos of Nelsons’s first appearance with the BSO in a year will include rehearsals (from January 6th) of the Eroica. The conductor and the musicians wear masks and situate themselves on a 36-foot extension—more than doubling the size of the stage—built to accommodate social distancing requirements between and among orchestra members. [continued…]

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Holiday Harmony Assignment

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In tonal music (at least until Debussy) there are basically two kinds of harmony: dominant harmony, and everything else. Dominant harmony is what we develop a feeling for when we consider harmonic motion: dominant progresses to tonic, V goes to I. The most obvious strong harmonic progression is dominant-to-tonic at the end of a phrase, and the strongest version of this is called “perfect authentic cadence.” Theorists cherish this as a PAC rather than as a Political Action Committee.

We hear the “most perfect” form of this in root position, with the leading tone (LT, or ^7) in the upper voice, rising to the tonic degree. Almost as “perfect,” the ^2-^1 in the upper voice places the leading-tone in an inner voice. Imperfect authentic cadences still resolve dominant-to-tonic, but can include inversions (not in root position), e.g. V6-I, with the leading-tone in the bass. [continued…]

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From Minuet to Scherzo to Waltz + Bow to Beethoven’s 250th

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The aristocratic minuet from the 18th century, a highly stylized dance for a couple, or for several couples in a square format, watched over by polite society, was considered proper and difficult, and therefore a social test. We have two feet, but the minuet has three beats to the bar, so the positioning of steps varied between left, right, and together. There are plenty of 32-bar standard minuets in music, 8 + 8 bars, each repeated, followed by a “Trio” consisting of another 8 + 8 bars repeated, and then a da capo. Beethoven’s 12 Minuets WoO 7, 6 Minuets WoO 9, etc., composed in the mid-1790s are typical, and you probably played the Minuet in G Major, WoO 10 No. 2, before you were ten years old because it was in everybody’s beginning piano book — maybe it was the first thing by Beethoven that you ever heard, even before Für Elise or the “Moonlight” Sonata. Schubert’s 30 Minuets, D 41, from 1816, weren’t published before 1889, and meanwhile ten of them were lost. (The Trio for No. 21 is only 15 bars — one supposes an engraver’s error.) Unlike Beethoven’s minuets, which he wrote for orchestra (i.e., ballroom use), Schubert composed his for piano, i.e., for home use.

[continued…]

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WHRB Remembers David Elliott

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The David Elliott Memorial Orgy (1942-2020) will commemorate the 58 years David served as voice of Harvard Radio, and will weave together iconic and beloved moments at WHRB that tell a story of the station’s longtime mentor, host, and friend. Listeners and WHRB alumni (“ghosts”) will also be commenting throughout. The Orgy is in nine sections: Early Years, Classical Music Relations, WHRB Historian and Community Keeper, Harvard Broadcasts, Special Programs, Love of Opera, and Holiday Broadcasts. The memorial is slated for Thursday, December 24 from 8 am to 6 pm on WHRB, 95.3 FM and streaming HERE.

The Early Years section will feature a discussion of and a work from one of David’s earliest WHRB broadcasts, a series entitled Voices That Live that the Boston Globe highlighted in 1961.

The Classical Music Relations section will likely prove most interesting to the Boston classical music community. It begins with interviews David conducted with three of the most influential figures in classical music: soprano Renee Fleming, violinist Joshua Bell, and composer Aaron Copland. It continues with excerpts from David’s interviews with directors of classical music organizations in the area, including Deb Boldin from the Chameleon Arts Ensemble; Benjamin Zander from the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra; Gil Rose from Odyssey Opera and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project; and Kathy Fay from the Boston Early Music Festival. Key musical recordings related to David will also be heard throughout this section. These include one for which he was the recording engineer: a luminous 1971 performance of Aaron Copland’s 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson from Sanders Theatre, sung by famed soprano and long-time Boston area opera teacher Phyllis Curtin, with Copland at the piano. Tributes will also be heard from other members of the Boston classical music community, including Ryan Turner, Martin Pearlman, Ron Della Chiesa, and Susan Byers Paxson. [continued…]

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Listening to the Ninth and Some Mahler in 2020

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Beethoven Death Mask (HMA Collection)

Were the world not in the throes of a once-in-a century pandemic, countless tributes and performances honoring Beethoven would be marking the composer’s 250th birthday celebration this month. Here in New York, I was looking forward to attending a performance of his Ninth Symphony, a touchstone to which generations have turned in search of hope, solace, perspective, courage, or simply a sublime musical experience. The work has so deeply enmeshed itself in history and culture that, as Charles Rosen said of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D Minor, “…it is difficult at times to say whether we are hearing the work or its reputation, our collective image of it.”[i] While unquestionably a crown jewel of the Western canon, the Ninth also stands apart from that canon on account of its sheer scope. Utopias germinate in periods of suffering and strife that nevertheless harbor the potential to transcend the ever fraught and undesirable present. Is it fair to suggest then, that the capacity of the Ninth Symphony to speak to us today has been heightened by the mounting challenges of our times?

The magnitude of our losses this year, and the failure of the federal government to contain the pandemic have led to collective disbelief, helplessness, mourning, and trauma. Non-pandemic news has been consistently alarming also, but one event stood out: the on-camera asphyxiation of George Floyd by a white police officer, calmly and in cold blood, so flagrantly violated our innate sense of justice that it instantly became an agent of change. Demand surged for racial justice, opening one of America’s rare windows since the Civil War for radical and meaningful change. What would it have been like to attend a live performance of the Ninth Symphony in this simultaneously harrowing and hopeful year? This question led me to wade into the lore of the work itself.

The Ninth’s central idea of a universal reconciliation is anchored in Friedrich Schiller’s ode “An die Freude” (To Joy), written in 1785 and revised in 1803, the latter version being the basis of Beethoven’s setting. The period of the poem’s composition saw the emergence of a new discourse that defined the human subject, for the first time in history, without reference to a larger religious or social framework and only in relation to itself. This figure—the individual, independent human being— had just come of age and had found its epoch-making expression in the Declaration of Independence, which spoke of “unalienable Rights” to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and in the French Déclaration des droits de l’homme (1789), which boldly opened with the statement that “men are born and remain free and equal in rights.” The historic moment marked the emergence of humankind from its “self-incurred immaturity,” in Immanuel Kant’s famous definition of the Enlightenment.[ii] [continued…]

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No Surprise: Beethoven Was 19th-Century Boston’s Favorite Composer

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At its founding in 1815, the Handel and Haydn Society committed to performing music both old (Handel) and new (Haydn). And before the composer’s death in 1827, several members proposed commissioning Beethoven for a new oratorio. The details and mysteries around this endeavor can be gleaned from this H + H feature.

The Society’s early interest in Beethoven was not limited to this possible commission. By 1837, they had performed his oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives eight times.

The Boston Academy of Music, an outgrowth of composer-educator-businessman Lowell Mason’s publishing ventures, formed a small orchestra under the direction of George James Webb. During the 1840s, this ensemble gave the first performances of seven of the nine Beethoven Symphonies, many of them on multiple occasions, and the Fifth, a dozen times. To our advanced ears, the orchestra would surely have sounded execrable, but certain auditors of the time became enchanted. Chief among them was John Sullivan Dwight, a Transcendentalist-Unitarian minister, who may be considered America’s first music critic. During the four decades he published Dwight’s Journal for Music, he gushed that Beethoven’s Symphonies exhibited the boundless striving to pronounce the unutterable, to embrace the infinite . . . the hearer, spell-bound, must follow the heaven-storming Titan, as far as his strength holds out.’’ [continued…]

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Fusing Music and Poetry on YouTube

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Emmanuel Music has reconfigured its three-part Britten Chamber Festival into a streaming format, with virtually all the pieces and personnel planned for the cancelled in-person concerts. Three concerts will stream as a festival over the weekend of December 18th -20th on Emmanuel Music’s YouTube channel.

Says Artistic Director Ryan Turner, “Benjamin Britten’s chamber music deserves to be heard more often. His vocal writing is on a par with any other composer. Inspired by Henry Purcell and Baroque form, Britten fused music and poetry with a simplicity and clarity that communicates directly with audiences.”

Britten’s Five Canticles, written for one, two, or three singers (always a tenor, written with Peter Pears in mind) and with varied spare accompaniment – a piano, a harp, and a piano and horn, highlights the series. Classic canticles usually a feature a hymn, but Britten gave the canticle form new meaning when he set a poem to music, ultimately including T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi” and “Still Falls the Rain” by Edith Sitwell. Canticle II, Abraham and Isaac, is almost a miniature opera, with dramatic gestures and strongly-formed characters. Each canticle becomes a miniature cantata with several constituent movements that also reflect elements of the song-cycle form. “The marriage of word and music that examines the human condition falls naturally into Emmanuel Music’s tradition, as does the cantata-song cycle form,” according to Turner. “Streamed concerts make us think differently about how we present the music,” because shorter segments seem to work best, we’ll alter the original three-concert format. Once we have everything recorded we’ll decide how best to package each concert segment. It’s actually nice to have that flexibility.” [continued…]

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Unlock Locke’s List for 2020

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Scene from Paisiello’s Le gare generose

in which he shares some major discoveries and pleasant diversions encountered in recorded opera and other vocal music, as well as a ballet to a scenario by Arthur Schnitzler.

What a strange, scary, and remarkable year 2020 has been, in all our lives! The social isolation that I have carried out pretty consistently has led me to look to music even more than usual for solace, enlightenment, and pleasant distraction. I gather that many music lovers have traveled a somewhat similar path since mid-March.

My penchant for opera, and for vocal music and for the theatre generally, has led me to get to know a number of recent CD releases, many of which I have reviewed for American Record Guide or for various online magazines (notably Bill Marx’s Boston-based The Arts Fuse).

BMInt has kindly offered to let me share my discoveries from the past year or so this, in my fourth annual round-up of operatic and other vocal recordings. (The others can be found by clicking here: 2017, 2018, 2019.) I’ll move in rough chronological groupings because I tend to think historically (as I suspect that many BMInt readers do). I will also briefly mention a few notable performances that I attended (whether in person or virtually).

Baroque Bounty

Either you love Baroque opera, or you don’t even want to read about it, much less listen to it. But, if the latter, I suspect that you haven’t heard many truly splendid recordings of that kind of music. This year brought us four of the most vivid and engaging such recordings I have ever encountered. [continued…]

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