Beware the Clefs!

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Further to my example a few weeks ago of a seldom-seen bass clef in a trumpet part, in the first movement of Mahler’s Third. I’ve never been good at reading any but the treble and bass clefs, but I did have to study the more common C clefs in solfège class at the Longy School in 1954. The rare clefs (baritone, mezzo-soprano, French violin) I have to figure out one note at a time. I’m fairly fluent reading the alto clef (middle C on the middle line) for viola parts, but if there are a lot of ledger lines I have to stop and think; I’m much less fluent with the tenor clef, though cellists, bassoonists, and trombonists use it easily all the time. (Cellists read the treble clef too, though they seldom encounter it. I know of just one example of a trombone part in the treble clef, in Ravel’s l’Enfant et les sortilèges. Ravel’s other opera, l’Heure espagnole, has a freakish instance of a contrabassoon (sarrusophone) part with a high B flat above the staff, but this involves removing the reed from the bocal and playing only the reed — you all probably know the place I mean.) (Example below. It’s a stunt common in rehearsal warmups.) [continued…]

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Restoration-Era Macbeth Weaves Magic in Song 

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In Restoration England, Shakespeare’s Macbeth took a musical turn. Adapting the play to fit it to the times, Sir William Davenant infused Shakespeare classic tragedy with additional songs, particularly for the witches who lyrically weaved their magic on stage. The Henry Purcell Society will be performing A Restoration Era Macbeth, featuring music by John Eccles (with added music by Purcell, of course!) on June 11, 8pm at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul at 138 Tremont St. in Boston.

Davenant’s Restoration era Macbeth is rarely performed today, but it was the most popular version of the play at the end of the 17th century and throughout the 18th. Samuel Pepys, the great diarist of Restoration society and culture, attended the production several times and responded approvingly in his diary: [continued…]

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Organist To Take Wings in Providence

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Peter Krasinski talks at length herein about his upcoming improvised accompaniment to “Wings” the Academy Award winner for Best Film of 1927, which pictorializes actual events from World War I, including the epic Battle of Saint-Mihiel. The film runs free next Saturday at Central Congregational Church, 296 Angell Street, Providence at 7:30 courtesy of the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

I met with Peter in Providence for this interview in the comfort of First Church of Christ, Scientist.

SM: So, Peter, how/what are you doing these days, post-pandemic as it were?

PK: It has been very hard for a few years now and on so many different levels, but I am full of gratitude, especially for the venues that had signed me on for performances, many of which are only beginning to happen now because of the lockdown. The government did finally come up with some help to those of us who are gig-workers. [Gig-workers is the term for freelance artists for whom unemployment benefits is a non-factor.] That we are finally being recognized is a really encouraging sign, and that is something that has grown out of the pandemic, so you might call it “a devastating gift”. In terms of what’s happening now, though, there is an explosion of performances because the desire to be back in person has not been this strong since the influenza pandemic when people were not so aware of best practices for safeguarding our health. [continued…]

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“Pipedreams Live!” Concert To Open Methuen

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After you’ve celebrated your 75th season, what do you do for your 76th? This is a question which the Methuen Memorial Music Hall trustees had a year to ponder. Last year, 2021, they celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Hall’s acquisition and incorporation as a nonprofit community educational and cultural center. A tough anniversary to follow! [our article from last year HERE]

But this year marks another major observance for the Hall, the 75th anniversary of the rededication of the Great Organ, following its 1946-47 renovation by G. Donald Harrison and the Aeolian Skinner Organ Company. This anniversary, plus the reopening of the Hall to the public for the full 2022 summer concert season, following COVID-necessitated closures in 2020 and 2021, is something worth celebrating.

In recent years, Methuen has opened its 15-week Wednesday evening summer organ series with a Young Artists Concert, featuring emerging organ talents.  This year’s opener, on May 25, will be the Hall’s most ambitious program in that vein – a “Pipedreams Live!” concert, emceed by Michael Barone, host of American Public Media’s syndicated program, “Pipedreams.”  Six young organists, ranging from 16 to 21 years of age, will perform a variety of pieces, both well and lesser known. (complete program HERE). The concert will also be recorded for broadcast on “Pipedreams” later this summer. [continued…]

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David Elliott Memorialized

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The Staff and Trustees of Harvard Radio Broadcasting (WHRB-FM) invite us to join them on the afternoon of Friday, May 13th for the broadcast/livestream of a service and concert in the Memorial Church, Harvard, Yard, honoring David Elliott (1942-2020) and his 58 years of service to Harvard Radio and the greater Boston classical music community. The service will begin at 3:00pm and will include music selected by David, including the well-known hymns For all the Saints, Abide with Me, and Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, and the aria “Mary’s Prayer” from Douglas Moore’s opera The Devil and Daniel Webster, sung by Amanda Forsythe. Kathy Fay, Executive Director of the Boston Early Music Festival, will be one of the speakers.
 
A concert will follow immediately at 4:00 pm with the following program and performers:

[continued…]

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Sharing a Challenging Journey

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Winsor Music’s “My Journey to America” features the in-person world premiere of the title work by Afghan composer Milad Yousufi. His mentor, the Grammy-nominated concert pianist Simone Dinnerstein, will be playing in three other pieces on Sat., May 14th (7 pm) and Sun., May 15th (4 pm) at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 15 St. Paul Street in Brookline, Mass. BMInt spoke with Winsor’s co-Artistic Director Rane Moore and pianist Simone Dinnerstein.

FLE: Why is this concert special for Winsor Music?

This concert is special not only because we are featuring the incredible pianist Simone Dinnerstein, but also because the programming and guests beautifully embody Winsor Music’s ideals: mentorship, service, musical excellence, healing through music.

RM: How did you first connect with Simone?

Simone, who is one of the most acclaimed interpreters of Bach in her generation, originally contacted Winsor Music after hearing our Founder and Director Emeritus Peggy Pearson’s recordings of Bach with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.

Simone, you’re making two appearances this month—one at Emmanuel Music Bach Symposium, one at Winsor this weekend, and then again at Emmanuel in June.

SD: It’s strange how these things happen. Some years I play a lot in Boston, some years I don’t. This time it’s just a happy accident. After the Bach Symposium on May 13th, and Winsor on the 14th and 15th, I’m coming back on June 4th with two Bach, concertos, and an arrangement of Chorale Prelude that Philip Lasser arranged for piano and strings.

Tell us about your history with Winsor Music [continued…]

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Lucubrations on the BSO 2022-2023 Season

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Opening on September 22nd with Holst’s view of our solar system in orbit, Boston Symphony Orchestra inks a season of vibrancy and variety. Eighteen works by living composers, including seven world- and American premieres will share the stage with a Nelsons-led concert performance of Act III of Wagner’s Tannhäuser, the continuation of the Shostakovich cycle, and signature repertoire works by Bach, Beethoven, Bernstein, Brahms, Mahler, Rachmaninoff, Sibelius, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky. Click HERE for the complete calendar. Subscription renewals are open now, and general ticketing beings on August 8th.

Mark DeVoto opines: “The BSO’s 142nd season includes much to admire and anticipate with pleasure: A number of new works by young and promising composers, including even a few Americans; many young guest conductors; a relatively low quotient of tired warhorses (Sibelius 5, Strauss Alpensymphonie, Enescu Rumanian 1), and a few grand old long-neglected but beloved warhorses (Planets, Rachmaninoff 2 — good to see those fellows listed again). BSO last did Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, a piece I derided as bad-taste in my callow youth but now recognize as an inspired work of genius, at Symphony Hall in 2016 and Tanglewood in 2018 Over the years it trended toward status as a Pops staple. Some unexpected rarely-heard major items are planned as well: Mozart’s B-flat Major  Piano Concerto, K. 456, which I heard with delight 30 years ago in Symphony Hall (Orpheus with Radu Lupu); Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade for violin and orchestra, a much more valuable piece than the drab Chichester Psalms with which it shares the program; Mahler’s Sixth Symphony (an entire concert!), which back in 1966 the BSO actually recorded with Leinsdorf, and stunningly; Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin Suite, of surpassing orchestral brilliance.  Stravinsky’s 1947 Petrushka (only a connoisseur recognizes it as orchestrally inferior to the original 1911 version) and Perséphone, which aesthetically is not to every Stravinskyan’s taste. We’re getting rather too much Shostakovich, as usual, but this is one of Andris Nelsons’s current fixations and we have to give in to him; at least we get both of the piano concertos on a single concert. If Rachmaninoff seems too heavily represented with three works, at least we will hear the Symphonic Dances, his last composition (and IMHO his best — remind me to tell you how it sums up his achievement). A whole evening of Wagner’s Tannhäuser! And a tribute to Lili Boulanger with her charming D’un Matin de printemps; though it should be no one else’s concern, this is gratifying to me also because I have been president, off and on for 40 years, of the struggling Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund, Inc., which has promoted her legacy. So what of the weak spots in the season? Well, Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto is pretty bad, and so is Górecki’s Symphony no. 3; and I wish management included more American classics, such as works by Copland or Piston who were performed all the time when they were alive. I suppose you can consider Bloch’s Schelomo an American classic; I remember when Samuel Mayes played it at Tanglewood in the summer of 1959 when Bloch died, so it will be good once more to hear the “voice crying in the wilderness,” like much else we hear every day. ” [continued…]

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Machaut’s Le livre du voir dit Gets Boston Premiere

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From the years of pandemic in medieval France, the touching, bittersweet story of Machaut and his impossible romance with an admiring poetess. Their ensuing epistolary relationship, recorded and recounted in Machaut’s novel Le livre du voir dit, leads to intense joy and deep sorrow, and to some of the Machaut’s most profoundly felt musical and literary works.

Camerata’s performance at First Church Boston on May 7th at 8:00 includes celebrations for Camerata Music Director Emeritus Joel Cohen’s 80th birthday and Artistic Director Anne Azéma’s elevation to Officier of the French Order of Arts and Letters.

Ticketing HERE, with on-demand streaming from May 20 – June 5.

We perform Guillaume de Machaut’s marvelous music because of its intrinsic qualities of grace, elegance, formal perfection, and (we learn, more and more) deep feeling. He is rightly remembered in our time as, above all, an inspired composer, the most gifted of his generation. Yet the musical sounds are only a part of his achievement. The story –with– songs he tells in the Livre du Voir Dit is also, despite its frequent prolixity, a literary masterpiece. By retelling this tale, basing ourselves on Machaut’s, and Peronne’s own words, along with music, much of it intended for insertion into his verse novel, we attempt to evoke a whole: musical genius, the suffering of an aging churchman, the perky élan of a young female poetess, the quest for transcendence over mortal cares and infirmities via a transcendent love. [continued…]

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Celebrity Series Announces Season

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The Celebrity Series of Boston’s next season will mark its 84th year with 77 subscription events featuring a vast variety of artistic genres, generations of performers, and diverse performances including 25 classical concerts. Expanded programming will offer new venues to explore, artist debuts, beloved returning artists, and in-person and streaming options for both the ticketed and free Neighborhood Arts events. Click HERE for the complete classical listings. The glossy seasonal brochure is HERE.

Gary Dunning, President and Executive Director of the Celebrity Series of Boston, says, “Our commitment to support racial diversity and center equity, inclusion, and accessibility both on stage and behind the scenes constitute a continuing key strategic goal for the organization.” [continued…]

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Mighty With Pen and Sword

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Fermata Chamber Soloists will present Carl Stamitz’s Viola Concerto and the Boston premier of Le Chevalier de St. Georges’s Violin Concerto Op. 5 No. 2 in A Major. at the Somerville Armory, 191 Highland Ave. on Sunday May 8 at 3pm. One can read a review of a recent local performance of the overture to his opera L’amant anonyme HERE.

The life of Joseph Boulogne, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (ca 1739-1799) is the stuff of legends. Perhaps the most multi-talented and unique composer in all of western art music (and certainly for his time), this man was an athlete, military commander, violinist, teacher and composer. Born in 1745 on the island of Guadeloupe to a slave and George de Boulogne, a member of the French Parliament, it wasn’t until the mixed-race Joseph was 13 years old that he wound up in France. In many ways, Boulogne is a romantic hero, complete with the quintessential once-in-a-century talent, and general rejection from society at large typical of such figures. By the age of 17, Boulogne was the greatest fencer in Europe, a master equestrian, and a fine marksman with a pistol. It is a wonder that this man found any time for music, let alone enough time to completely master the violin. [continued…]

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Principal Cellist Pens New Book and Plays Concerto

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(Marco Borggreve photo)

Blaise Déjardin, BSO principal cellist since 2018, makes his concerto début in next week’s subscription concerts. For the program of riveting 20th century Germanic music, including Strauss’ Eine Alpensinfonie, Déjardin’s choice of Saint-Saëns’s Cello Concerto No.1 provides a melodic 19th century French contrast.

The upcoming concerts cap a recent winning streak by our native son. In February, it was announced that Blaise was to join the illustrious faculty at his alma mater, the NEC, this coming fall. Then March saw the arrival of Déjardin’s newest Opus Cello publication: an orchestral audition-day guide, written by a cellist for cellists (or so it may seem upon first glance).

Auditions serve as the challenging entrance exams for all aspirants to seats in an orchestra. Behind the now-obligatory anonymous audition screen sit the gatekeepers: a conductor and a jury of peers and potential colleagues. Intense preparation, and what some might say a lifetime of experience, will suffice only for a very few contenders. What makes the winning difference? Blaise Déjardin’s new book “Audition Day: Your Guide for a Successful Orchestral Cello Audition” aims to provide an insider’s approach to niche success. This new guide seeks to dispel the mysteries of the screen and illuminate a methodical, logical, and psychological preparatory course of action.

Déjardin’s publication goes beyond the mere technical tips and rudiments of orchestral playing; rather, it speaks to an organized and structured musicianship at its most effective. While the excerpts are concrete, what is less-so is the preparation process that a musician may implement before enduring such a professional feat. The first and most unique section of this book deals with this regimen. The second section discusses the often-required orchestral excerpts from the standard repertoire. [continued…]

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Radu Lupu, 1945-2022

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The superlative Romanian pianist Radu Lupu died April 17, in Switzerland, following long illness. He was 76. In his 20s, after winning several of the major competitions of the later 1960s, Radu Lupu began an international career with intensely focused recordings of repertory — late Brahms, “late” Schubert — which was not then at all overplayed.

Unlike the case with most others of his cohort, everything Lupu produced was imbued with a grave, long thought-about stillness and deep intention. It sounded unshowy and largely straightforward, at least this repertory, but also was above all quite consciously colored: Lupu felt that tone production was a “matching process for which [one] practices” and the physical contact of the keyboard was “a very individual thing determined by the color or timbre you hear and try to get, the piece you are playing, the phrase.” (His teachers had taught Lipatti and Richter.) [continued…]

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Two Generations of the Majors Direct NEC Operas

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Anthony Leon (Boxer) rehearses

A triple header of three one-act operas will place ten performances on the Plympton-Shattuck Black Box infield over the four days spanning April 22-24. Faculty Stage Director Joshua Major will be joined by his father, Leon, to direct NEC Graduate Opera Vocalists, and Robert Tweten will conduct: Jack Perla’s An American Dream, a contemporary account of the displacement of Japanese-Americans during WWII; Purcell’s haunting tale of love and sacrifice, Dido and Aeneas, and Ravel’s magical and joyous L’Enfant et les Sortilèges. The conservatory will be asking $10 per show or $25 for all three. Details appear at the end of this feature.

BMInt had an interesting conversation with Joshua and Leon Major.

FLE:  Tell us why you are playing three one-act operas separately over several nights.

JM: It has to do with COVID, the number of students, the level of students and the kind of singers we have. Bottom line, we’re constantly programming for the singers we have. So in this case we planned for our singers last Fall under the COVID NEC protocols:  Under 90 minutes, no intermission and time for the rooms to ventilate.

Last year our singers got almost no live performing experience and we wanted to catch up a little and give these students a little more stage time, but we had to work with the conditions already mentioned. So we came up with this plan to do three-one act operas, but we had to do it so that each opera had its own time window. We couldn’t do an evening of two one-acters or three one-acters without violating the rules

And so we have 10 performances in four days, and two, of the three are double cast.

I was going to direct all of them, but it became apparent that might not have been the smartest idea. So I dragged my father out of retirement. That’s Leon. You’re my father, right? [continued…]

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Anticipating Really Big Concerto and New Orchestra

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Ten years ago cellist-composer Sebastian Bäverstam began a compositional journey which will reach a significant waypoint on Saturday, May 28th at 3:00 at Church of the Covenant, Boston with the premiere of his cello concerto, once upon a time dubbed “Superman” (after Nietzsche).

Not only will the concert mark the premiere of the 40-minute concerto, it will also debut the 60-piece Vangarde Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble* slated to offer many more Bäverstam works, including a symphony and opera. Max Hobart has agreed to lead the orchestra in this inaugural concert. His willingness to champion this work “is a huge honor and privilege for me, both personally and professionally.” Bäverstam tells the quixotic  genesis saga:

My professional life during the pandemic has alternated regularly between utterly inactive and completely overloaded. The scheduled premieres for the cello concerto I finished composing in 2019 were cancelled, with no rescheduling in sight. The first few months of 2020 were subsequently quite difficult for me. I had just returned from studying composition at the Royal Conservatory of Stockholm with Per Mårtensson, where I finished composing this cello concerto. The final movement theme acted as a sort of personal mantra during the nine months it took me to complete while I was bustling about Stockholm, attending classes on electronic music, renaissance counterpoint, orchestration, and teaching private students. Though I had to cut my studies short for personal reasons, I was excited to come home and play my heroic piece of music for American audiences right away. [continued…]

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A Symphony Must Be Like the World

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Ben Zander’s lecture-guide to Mahler’s Third Symphony is not only admirably thorough, but also engaging in every one of its 76 minutes. My short first-person account will serve to point to that extended pre-concert guide to the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert at Symphony Hall on April 8th at 8:00. Zander will begin talking at 6:45. Tickets HERE.

I first heard Mahler’s Third Symphony on January 19, 1962, at Symphony Hall, on a Friday afternoon BSO program with Richard Burgin conducting. Although Burgin had conducted the first movement “Erste Abtheilung” a couple of decades earlier, we were hearing the first BSO performance of the complete work. Burgin had been the Boston Symphony’s concertmaster and assistant conductor for many years; Charles Munch, the principal conductor since 1951 and an Alsatian native, wasn’t considered much of a Mahler conductor.

When I got to know the score even a little bit better, I was dazzled especially by its orchestral size — almost as big as The Rite of Spring, with woodwinds by fours, and a scary beginning, with a single melody prominently in the middle of the score page, marked “Hörner 1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8. zu 8,” and when I sang my way through that bare melody I thought of how much it resembled Brahms. [continued…]

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RCS & BMOP To Premiere Land Sea Sky

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Lisa Bielawa

Un Nouveau Départ (A New Beginning), Radcliffe Choral Society’s joint concert with Boston Modern Orchestra Project at First Church Cambridge on April 2nd at 8:00, features the world premiere of Lisa Bielawa’s Land Sea Sky along with performances of  Nancy Galbraith’s Four Nature Canticles and Faure’s Messe des pêcheurs de Villerville. Director of Choral Activities, Andrew Clark, leads the concert which will also livestream. Commissioned by RCS, which has celebrated treble choral music-making within the Harvard community since 1899, Land Sea Sky responds to the young singers’ life journeys pandemic-interrupted education.

BMOP, where Bielawa served as composer in residence for three years, has often collaborated with the Harvard Choruses (the Radcliffe Choral Society, the Harvard Glee Club, and the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum) over the last ten years in memorable concerts such as Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, the Arvo Pärt Passio, Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, Ross Lee Finney’s Pilgrim Psalms, among other projects.

Bielawa responded to the RCS commission with a joyful retelling of three young women’s stories of journeying: Land, which recounts Nairobi-based writer Edith Knight Magak’s bus trip across Kenya to her nephew’s eighth birthday party; Sea, which is a setting of diary excerpts by British-born actress Fanny Kemble as she traveled by steamship across the Atlantic into New York harbor in 1832; and Sky, which celebrates the audacious opera diva Elisabeth Thible, the first woman to ascend in a hot air balloon — while singing — in 1784 in Lyon, France.”

BMInt conducted a phone interview with Lisa Bielawa as follows: [continued…]

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Contemporary Black and Latinx “Tracing Visions”

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Violinist Clayton Penrose-Whitmore

The Sphinx Virtuosi—a professional chamber orchestra comprising 18 of the nation’s top Black and Latinx classical musicians who are primarily alumni of the internationally renowned Sphinx Competition—performs its “Tracing Visions” at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on Sunday, April 3 at 1:30 p.m. The tour is part of the Sphinx Organization’s 25th-anniversary celebrations with the members and programming reflecting the Detroit-based social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

Members of the Sphinx Virtuosi work together as cultural ambassadors reaching new audiences through annual tours. A bit of a musical archeology project, “Tracing Visions” features composer, double bass player, and Sphinx alum Xavier Foley’s arrangement of the “Black National Anthem,” Ev’ry Voice; 2020 Sphinx Medal of Excellence recipient Jessie Montgomery’s Banner commissioned by Sphinx and premiered in 2014; Andrea Casarrubios’ Seven honoring the heroes who fought to save lives during the pandemic, featuring soloist and Sphinx Competition Laureate, cellist Thomas Mesa; Ginastera’s Concerto for Strings; as well as gospel and Brazilian dance music. The ensemble first took this program on tour in Fall 2021, marking the first live performances since the pandemic brought live concert events to a standstill. Reflecting on the Sphinx Virtuosi being back on tour, Sphinx President and Artistic Director Afa S. Dworkin paid tribute to the musicians’ perseverance during dark moments: [continued…]

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Our Transcendental Passion: The Legacy of a Movement

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B. J. Lang founded Cecilia in 1876

Paul John Rudoi’s Our Transcendental Passion will debut on April 2ndat All Saints Parish in Brookline at 8pm and April 3rd at Umbrella Arts Center in Concord at 7pm. Acting as a truly American Passion, the concert-length choral work juxtaposes the rise, fall, and legacy of Transcendentalism with reimagined Sacred Harp tunes and original music. The libretto is available HERE and tickets HERE.

Conductor Michael Barrett of the commissioning chorus, the 145-yearold Boston Cecilia, has invited soloists Sophie Michaux, Carley DeFranco, Daniel Lugo, and Dana Whiteside and a chamber ensemble of piano trio, percussion, and Appalachian lap dulcimer.

I accept the universe!” – Margaret Fuller

At the heart of Margaret Fuller’s quote is the essence of a movement gone too soon from American discourse. Transcendentalism was never going to encapsulate all its well-meaning members hoped to achieve. The movement’s proud impracticality and the very intense opinions of its followers led to its dissolution, yet its fire remains alive with embers perpetually illuminating an “Ideal” for an evolving nation. [continued…]

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What Has David Deveau Been Doing?

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Steinway & Sons Record Label has this month released David Deveau’s recording of Schubert’s last two piano sonatas, D 959 and D 960, from 1828, the year following the death of Beethoven. Along with the one that precedes them, are usually seen as a valedictory trilogy, though, in fact  Schubert intended them as parts of a larger set. The loss of the earlier master had greatly affected Schubert; just a few months later he had completed only these three first essays for the set, when death cut his life short at 31 years. Schubert’s last year also saw the completion of the Mass in E-flat Major, the String Quintet in C Major, and many of the individual songs that posthumously became Schwanengesang.

Steinway has always had a legendary roster of artists but has only established its own recording label in 2010, carefully selecting newer rosters from various genres that feature its pianos in a variety of settings and partnering to create free play-lists with other streaming music services such as Archiv, Naxos, Spotify, and Apple. Deveau plays a Steinway Model D in the magnificent Shalin Liu Performance Center Hall, which he had guided through the planning and opening , and as Artistic Director of the internationally acclaimed Rockport Chamber Festival for decades. [continued…]

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Flutist Linda Bento-Rei’s New CD

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It is not uncommon for gifted artists to explore beyond the boundaries of their own “proper” repertoire. Classical music has a long list of such people, both composers and performers. Flutist Linda Bento-Rei is one such, as she continues to demonstrate on her new CD, “Radically Traditional”. Working with a marimbist inspired her to examine tangos as well as classical pieces with significant Latin influence. Ultimately, she settled on six pieces composed between 1950 and 2010, all of them adapted in some way: for some she envisioned the arrangement herself, while for others her collaborators made their own arrangements. While the composers are from different countries (one even from the U.K., not an expected source of Latin-influenced music), the common thread of the pieces on the CD is fusion of styles, with the tango being the form most prominently featured.

All the artists have deep Boston connections. Bento-Rei, though now based in Florida, grew up in Massachusetts and received her degrees in flute performance in this city, from Boston and New England conservatories. She has made all of her recordings locally, at WGBH-FM’s distinguished Fraser Performance Studio. All of her collaborators on this disc—marimbist Michael Weinfield-Zell, percussionist Bertram Lehmann, oboist Andrea Bonsignore, clarinetist Bruce Creditor, bassoonist Richard Ranti, and French hornist John Michael Adair—reside, perform and/or teach locally. [continued…]

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Sebastian Reaches His 337th Year

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The Boston Bach Birthday is Back! First Lutheran’s 14th-Annual Celebration of the birthday of the greatest of all Lutheran composers, Johann Sebastian Bach, will be on Saturday, March 19th. Beginning at 8:30am and featuring concerts, organ recitals, and of course the famous German lunch (tickets $15, available at the door), the day will end with a service of Solemn Vespers at 5pm. As always, all musical events are free and open to the public, and all may come and go as able. The complete schedule of events is HERE.

Traditionally the Boston Bach Birthday has showcased First Lutheran’s brilliant Baroque pipe organ, perfect for the music of Bach. For this, the 337th year since Bach’s birth, the celebration will feature organists Jonathan Wessler (8:30am) and Andrew Scanlon (1:15pm). Wessler will play the entirety of Bach’s Orgel-Büchlein, rounding out the program with other early and pedagogical works of Bach, including two preludes and fugues from the spurious Eight Short collection and the unique and exciting Pedal-Exercitium. Scanlon’s program will include a diverse array of Bach’s music, touching on nearly every genre he produced: concerto transcriptions, chorale partitas, chorale preludes, sonatas, and large-scale free works.

Lest the Boston Bach Birthday solely concern itself with Bach’s contributions to organ music, instrumentalists also make an appearance. Violist Maren Rothfritz (11am) will play three of Bach’s cello suites, transcribed for viola. And FLC’s own Aurelia, Magdalena, and Linnea Timko (10:15) will play solo and accompanied violin music. [continued…]

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Creating Under Siege

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By no means did we sit weeping by the waters of Babylon. Our will to create was commensurate with OUR WILL TO LIVE. —Viktor Ullmann

There are times when a book is far more than “just” a book. That is the case with Our Will to Live by Mark Ludwig. Nominally, this book is a compilation of the music critiques written by composer Viktor Ullmann of the performances carried out in the Nazi Death Camp of Terezin. It is so much more. It is a history lesson, a warning, a reminder, a work of scholarship, a work of love.

The book itself as an object is an encapsulation of all that is within. It is large and weighty, but simple and elegant. Every aspect of the book was created with care and respect. The choice of Gerhard Steidl, known as an artist of the book, was a perfect marriage of publisher and subject. By enclosing this history in a vessel so beautiful, the contents are further sanctified, that is, made safe and holy; it is a work of art in and of itself, and speaks to the joy of creation.

Author Mark Ludwig, an emeritus violist of the Boston Symphony, describes in the introduction the seemingly chance circumstances that led to his connection with the artists and musicians held prisoner in Terezin during the World War II. The power of that encounter has led to the creation of the Terezin Music Foundation, which performs and promotes the works of the composers imprisoned there for the crime of being Jewish. [continued…]

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‘The Rest is Bunk’ Rants Horowitz in Latest Book

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The authorizer of the first Authorized Version

The standard account, the Authorized Version as it were, of how American classical music came about and developed, posits an infancy with the Colonial and Federal era hymnodists (William Billings, Lowell Mason) and the odd Moravian isolate (John Antes), an adolescence in the 19th century in which talented composers wrote undistinguished and imitative pieces in the prevailing German style (Paine, Chadwick, Foote, Huss, Beach), and then came into its own with a distinctly American voice after World War I in the persons of those born in the 1890s and later such as Walter Piston, Virgil Thomson, Roy Harris, and the leader of the pack, Aaron Copland.

 Joseph Horowitz, former New York Times music critic, artistic administrator (latterly of the Brooklyn Philharmonic and more recently of PostClassican Ensemble in Washington DC) and cultural historian, has written Dvořák’s Prophecy: And the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music (W. W. Norton, 2022, $30 list, $20.99 Amazon hardcover, $14.16 Kindle), to tell you that, how, and why the Authorized Version is bunk, and how its perpetrators pushed aside the sources and exemplars of the true national American idiom. While the extended title gives away his primary thesis, Horowitz goes out of his way to clear the air about many of the earlier (at least, late 19th-century) composers from these shores. It’s a pacey, vexatious, and entertaining 230-page rant. [continued…]

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Blomstedt Expounds on Bruckner 4

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Herbert Blomstedt (Hilary Scott 2019)

With the lamentable departure of the beloved Bernard Haitink from this sphere, Herbert Blomstedt, whether or not the fact interests him, (and he is no doubt tired of being interviewed on the subject) has assumed the elder-statesman mantle among the world’s great conductors. So, our recent interview with him entirely avoided the longevity topic and instead focused on his thoughts on repertoire for his upcoming BSO concerts on Thursday through Saturday.

But we cannot resist sharing an anecdote from Alex Ross’s New Yorker feature from last summer about the American-born Swedish maestro:

After the performance, I went backstage for what I assumed would be a brief chat with Blomstedt. He had the mien of a bookish village pastor, his face free of sweat. I had resolved not to ask the obvious, dumb question: How can he still be so vigorous at his age? Some have credited his pious, abstemious habits: raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, he has never had a drink or eaten meat. But, as he told Michael Cooper, of the Times, in 2017, “That’s not the reason. It’s a gift.” Blomstedt added wryly, “Churchill drank lots of whiskey and smoked enormous big cigars, and he lived to be ninety or so.

[continued…]

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BMOP at 25

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The conductor

Boston Modern Orchestra Project will resume concertizing soon in a highly appealing gala. In addition to initiating the organization’s celebrations of its first quarter-century, “Pulling Out All the Stops” celebrates the life and contributions of Larry Phillips, prizewinning organist and harpsichordist, co-founder of BMOP, and an author of 50 reviews for this journal. The gala also showcases the power and glory of the Symphony Hall organ “as a vital element of contemporary expression,” according to conductor Gil Rose.

Grammy Award-winning organ soloist Paul Jacobs, renowned for such feats as performing the complete works of Bach from memory in an 18-hour marathon, has also played the complete Messiaen, Brahms, and Franck organ works by heart, is also in demand for appearances as soloist with major orchestras. Currently head of the Juilliard organ department, he first came to the attention of this writer after winning the Arthur Foote Award of the Harvard Musical Association in 2004. He will join BMOP at Symphony Hall on for an evening of 20th-century organ masterpieces and iconic organ solos reimagined for orchestra.

The program at Symphony Hall on Friday, February 18th at 8:00pm comprises Bach-Elgar: Fantasia and Fugue in C Minor, Stephen Paulus Grand Concerto for Organ and Orchestra, Olivier Messiaen’s L’ascension, and  Joseph Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante for Organ and Orchestra. Thanks to a lead gift from the Ellis Phillips Foundation, free general admission to this concert can be reserved HERE. Reserved seating with attendant pre- and post-concert receptions can be ordered HERE.

My very pleasant conversations with Gil Rose and Paul Jacobs follow.

We haven’t talked in a while, but the way things are, you have more time to think about what you’re going to perform than actual performing.

Actually performing these days? It’s crazy. It’s just been the absolutely strangest experience… [continued…]

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