Lost Baroque Jewish Oratorio Found

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Rembrandt’s wife modeled Esther

A month before Purim, the rattlingly joyful holiday celebrating a Jewish queen’s triumph over evil shegetz Haman, the ensemble MIRYAM, founded three years ago to bring Jewish early music to New England audiences, will debut the rarely heard Baroque oratorio Esther by Cristiano Giuseppe Lidarti. Rediscovered two decades ago and performed only a handful of times since (never on the East Coast), the Hebrew-language oratorio, written for the Jewish community of Amsterdam in 1774, is unique in a number of ways. An Austrian Christian of Italian descent composed it to a commission from a community of Portuguese Jews, employing a Venetian rabbi’s translation of Handel’s Esther libretto into Hebrew. It is the only complete oratorio surviving from the Baroque  with an entirely Hebrew text.

Aside from possessing historical and cultural significance, the oratorio also contains gorgeous music, with striking arias, beautiful choruses, and rich orchestration. MIRYAM’s roster, based mostly in Boston, draws also from Connecticut and NY. The ensemble will present the Boston and East Coast premiere on Saturday, March 2nd at 7:00 PM at Emmanuel Church in Boston and Sunday, March 3rd at 4:00 PM at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley; harpsichordist and conductor Dylan Sauerwald will direct an ensemble of five soloists, nine choristers, and 14 instrumentalists, while soprano Alicia DePaolo, director and co-founder of MIRYAM, will sing the role of Esther. Visit miryamensemble.org to reserve tickets or call 781-832-0968; further details are below and at article end. [continued…]

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On the Diseased State of Opera and Suggested Cure

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Veteran opera critic Conrad L. Osborne delivers a lifetime’s worth of keen perceptions, stern judgements, and personal angles in a quirky yet compulsively readable 827-page compilation on the state of opera today; his Opera as Opera: The State of the Art should be required reading for all operamanes.

Over the course of the past four centuries, opera—grand or intimate, tragic or satirical, moralizing or wacky, colorful and often rather “extreme” form of art (and/or entertainment)—has spawned legions of devoted fans and merciless critics.

Among the many intensely readable book-length essays on this complex, sometimes problematic genre, Joseph Kerman’s Opera as Drama [HERE] stands as perhaps the single most famous example (at least in English). Operagoers can also consult wonderful, thought-provoking histories full of insight and imagination: for example, Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker’s A History of Opera [HERE] or James Parakilas’s The Story of Opera [HERE]. Numerous richly informative books treat a narrower swath of repertory: e.g., Tim Carter’s Understanding Italian Opera [HERE] and Stephen Meyer’s Carl Maria von Weber and the Search for German Opera [HERE]. And there are authoritative books on individual opera composers, such as Hugh Macdonald’s recent, subtly witty Bizet [HERE]. [continued…]

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New Institute Broadens and Brightens Summer Spectrum

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The Boston Symphony Orchestra herein announces the opening this summer of its Tanglewood Learning Institute (TLI), an in-depth initiative of cross-cultural activities, at the orchestra’s summer campus in Lenox. This center will be housed at a multipurpose complex of four buildings called the Linde Center for Music and Learning, designed by architect William Rawn (who also designed Ozawa Hall), which will be the first all-season facility at Tanglewood. In coordination with the BSO’s regular Tanglewood season, TLI will present programs that connect the music being performed to broader social and artistic contexts. Centering on four TLI Weekends, the offerings include (in a program called “The Big Idea”) talks by the likes of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on nation-building (keyed to the BSO’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem), historian Doris Kearns Goodwin on leadership (anent Wagner’s Die Walküre), and Harvard psychology professor and conflict-resolution expert Daniel L. Shapiro on issues of freedom and peace (suggested by Schoenberg’s Friede auf Erden and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony).

The programming has traditional musical components as well, such as master classes, experimental offerings, composer and performer talks, a program on the music-cinema interface, an intensive eight-day session with the Juilliard String Quartet and members of the Tanglewood Music Center faculty and students, and other extended-learning programs. Details on all of these are available starting February 6th at TLI’s new web site, www.tli.org. You can also get a glimpse of the Linde Center, as conceptual drawings and as live work-in-progress, at the fundraising site for the project, [HERE]. The opening weekend for TLI and the Linde Center (with ribbon-cutting!) will be June 28th to July 1st. The BSO envisages that TLI programming will continue, at Tanglewood, in Boston, and online, during the non-summer seasons, though details of these programs were not yet provided. Tickets for all TLI summer programs will go on sale beginning February 10th through the regular Tanglewood channels. Excerpts from the complete BSO press release larded with some images run below the interview after the break.

BMInt has some questions for the Judith and Stewart Colton Tanglewood Learning Institute Director Sue Elliott. [continued…]

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No Goldbricking for these Forces

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Bach is the greatest,even in China

The self-led orchestra A Far Cry, normally artistically home at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Jordan Hall, and St. John’s Church JP, does a runout to Ithaca this week to kickstart a 3-day, 3-performance tour with the celebrated pianist Simone Dinnerstein built on an arrangement for piano and chamber orchestra of J. S. Bach’s keyboard classic Goldberg Variations by Sarah Darling, Alex Fortes, and Dinnerstein. The show comes to Jordan Hall on Feb. 8th, and to Mechanics Hall in Worcester on Feb. 9th.

Longtime collaborators A Far Cry and Simone Dinnerstein both came to prominence in 2007, as part of a burst of musical energy that erupted in the Northeast Corridor as the Great Recession started to upend traditional arts structures. The 17-member A Far Cry formed with a countervailing idea: that the ensemble should have no fixed conductor, working as a self-conducted chamber orchestra whose players shared leadership. Dinnerstein took a then-novel approach with self-funding her own professional recording debut recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which propelled her to national acclaim as critics praised as “an utterly distinctive voice” (New York Times) and “a timeless, meditative, utterly audacious solo debut” (O, The Oprah Magazine). Although Dinnerstein now plays concerts and concertos across the world, the Goldberg Variations remains central for the pianist, with much-praised collaborations adding choreography (with Pam Tanowitz) and the re-imagined arrangement that Cornell and Boston will hear.

Basil Considine of the Twin Cities Arts Reader spoke with Alex Fortes and Sarah Darling of A Far Cry on the Goldberg arrangement, the dynamics of playing in A Far Cry, and the joys of collaborating with Simone Dinnerstein.

Basil: Why the Goldbergs? [continued…]

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Favorite Memories of Sandy

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Wendy Maeda photo

Baritone Sanford Sylvan had so many great operatic roles, it’s hard and maybe even silly to single out any of them. The wise and sinister Chou En-lai opposite James Maddalena’s enthusiastic and oddly innocent Nixon in the original cast of John Adams’s Nixon in China. The exuberant Figaro jumping up and down on a bed with Jeanne Ommerle in the famous Peter Sellars/Craig Smith “Trump Tower” production of The Marriage of Figaro. Or as Orlando, in his mad scene, being wheeled across the stage on a gurney, in the Sellars/Smith production of Handel’s Orlando at the Loeb Drama Center in the days when the A.R.T. was run by Robert Brustein. Sylvan, with the music transposed for his mellow baritone, was singing the title role in the “second” cast, when there weren’t enough countertenors to alternate with Jeffrey Gall in the first cast.

Sylvan provided another extraordinary moment in another almost forgotten Sellars/Smith production, at Harvard’s Agassiz Theatre in 1983—a double bill of the Brecht-Weil Kleine Mahagonny followed by a staged version of excerpts from Bach cantatas under the title “Conversations with Fear and Hope after Death.” In the Weill, Sylvan was part of a male quartet singing “Oh moon of Alabama!” (that moon hanging overhead like a big Swiss cheese); in the Bach, crouching on all-fours, he sang a heart-rending aria, “How frightened, trembling are my footsteps,” to the obbligato accompaniment of Kenneth Radnofsky’s more-Weill-than-Bach saxophone (one of Smith’s most inspired decisions), as he crawled backwards under a kitchen table. He finally emerged with his arms stretched out against the table in the pose of a crucifixion—a visual and vocal image of total spiritual agony.  [continued…]

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Sanford Sylvan Leaves Us

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Known to Bostonians as frequent collaborator in director Peter Sellars’s and conductor Craig Smith’s re-imaginings of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte and Le nozze di Figaro (which also appeared in PBS’s “Great Performances”), for his work as a member of Emmanuel Music, for his longtime collaboration with pianist David Breitman in such works as Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin, and with the Lydian String Quartet in Fauré’s La bonne chanson, the beloved baritone Sanford Sylvan died yesterday.

Over the years in the Boston Globe, Richard Dyer has often been touched by Sylvan’s accomplishments, once describing how he had:

“…arrived at an accomplishment denied to most professional singers, the art of delivering American English in a completely natural, unaffected and expressive way… without a trace of the opera singer’s…orotund recital delivery; instead there is a confidential, communicative, and even at times imposingly public statement of private feelings. Over the years Sylvan has simplified his performances as his understanding has deepened, and today he is one of America’s master singers.” [continued…]

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Only Baritones Need Apply

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Brand-name baritone Thomas Hampson returns for his fourth Celebrity Series appearance alongside his son-in-law, bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni, with operatic and Broadway favorites in “No Tenors Allowed!” Resonance, pathos, and comedy will reign in selections by Mozart, Verdi, Rodgers & Hammerstein this Friday at Jordan Hall with Kevin Murphy presiding at the piano.

Hampson boasts an opera repertoire of more than 80 roles sung in all the major opera houses of the world; his discography comprises more than 170 albums, which include multiple nominations and winners of the Grammy Award, Edison Award and the Grand Prix du Disque. he was appointed the New York Philharmonic’s first Artist-in-Residence. In 2010, he was honored with a Living Legend Award by the Library of Congress. Hampson was made honorary professor at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Heidelberg. Italian bass-baritoneLuca Pisaroni is celebrated for charisma and versatility since his debut at age 26 with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival, led by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

If you want to learn which (if either) of the two will channel Ethel Merman in “Anything you can do…” from Annie Get Your Gun, read below the break. [continued…]

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Currier & Viva & Lives & Ives?

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The local musical cosmos will presently be aligning for the eminent and much-awarded American composer Sebastian Currier. He answers our interviewer’s question, “are you getting rather cosmic?” below the break.

Next Saturday, Boston Musica Viva, Currier in attendance, delivers a musical program calling sharp attention to the challenges facing all of us citizens of Earth and featuring the world premiere of his Eleven Moons. Commissioned for BMV and soprano Zorana Sadiq by Chamber Music America, Currier’s work incorporates perspectives from moon-related texts from science, poetry, fiction, religion, and fable. Other pieces at the February 2 BMV concert include Deborah and Richard Cornell’s Wind Driven, a stunning multimedia work on climate change; Brian Robison’s Bonfire of the Civil Liberties, a sardonic look at xenophobia in the name of patriotism and the atrocities at Abu Ghraib; Michael Gandolfi’s Budget Cuts, “a septet for three players and conductor” which takes the arts fiscal squeeze from diminishing public funding to a comical and poignant extreme; and the premiere of Viva!, a bagatelle by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich in honor of BMV’s 50th anniversary. [continued…]

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Félicien David Revived Digitally

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Félicien David (1810-’76) was widely known in the 19th century for Le désert (The Desert), a most unusual work that was performed throughout Europe and the Americas, including under Carl Bergmann in Boston’s fabled Music Hall, the 3000-seat auditorium on Winter Place built by  Harvard Musical Association members in 1852 that would serve as home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1887 until the opening of Symphony Hall, in 1900.

First heard in Paris in 1844, Le désert is a highly descriptive work for tenor (or two tenors in different movements), chorus, orchestra, and narrator. In a famous review, Berlioz hailed the work in detail, clearly relishing the chance to show that he was not alone among French composers in trying to expand the scope of concert music to include extensive description and even narration. Le désert now exists in two CD recordings, very communicative and appealing [HERE]. Two of David’s operas have also been recorded—again in fine performances—in recent years: the comic opera Lalla-Roukh and the grand opera Herculanum, which pits ascetic early Christians against luxury-drenched Romans and pitting all of them against a wily, shape-shifting Satan. (More on these operas below. Note: Félicien David should not be confused with Ferdinand David, for whom Mendelssohn wrote his violin concerto.)

[continued…]

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On Adapting The Scarlet Ibis

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The most frigid of times, January can also be the most florid of times for new opera in the Northeast. Hot on the heels of New York City’s PROTOTYPE Festival of new music-theater pieces, Boston Opera Collaborative is preparing to open its production of The Scarlet Ibis by David Cote and Stefan Weisman. This adaptation of a popular 1960 short story by James Hurst, a staple of many Minnesotan English curricula, taught in high schools from Rochester to Farmington to Mankato, also runs from Thursday through Sunday at Longy in Cambridge. Tickets HERE.

A tragic story of childhood and illness, The Scarlet Ibis has long fascinated readers. The operatic adaptation by Cote and Weisman first appeared at the 2015 PROTOTYPE Festival, and this year will be staged by both Boston Opera Collaborative and Chicago Opera Theater. Basil Considine spoke with librettist David Cote about adapting The Scarlet Ibis for the stage and walking the line between theater criticism and opera writing.

BC: How did your partnership first conceive of adapting James Hurst’s The Scarlet Ibis as an opera? [continued…]

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BMOP Mounts 12-Tone Take on Children’s Book

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The Boston premiere of Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Charles Wuorinen’s “an over-flowing feast of witty, inventive music-theater,” will take place Saturday night at Jordan Hall in the third installment of the Boston Modern Opera Project’s season as Gil Rose leads a semi-staged production featuring guest soprano Heather Buck. James Fenton derived his libretto from Salman Rushdie namesake novel. The result is a sophisticated, adult fantasy-opera based on an equivalently sophisticated children’s novel written by a man under a death sentence. “For those who want an opera of widely diverse dramatic character and complex music, this is for you,” says Gil Rose.

Bombay-born Salman Rushdie completed his first children’s novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, in 1990, while in hiding in England under an intentional assassination-sentence by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini for blasphemy to Islam in the author’s previous book. [continued…]

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A Far Cry Reflects on a Legacy

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Pamela Frank (file photo)

In advance of the Criers’ concert at Jordan Hall this Friday, violinist Jesse Irons reflects on a program that encompasses Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile, Vivaldi’s: Concerto for 4 Violins in B minor, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, and Haydn: Symphony No. 44.

Some years ago, my dear Peabody Conservatory violin teacher Shirley Givens was excited that her star pupil Pamela Frank was coming to perform as soloist with the Baltimore Symphony. Givens had her ways, and she finagled the entire studio to attend a dress rehearsal where Pam performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto, followed by a chat. The stunning performance showcased Pam’s incredible ability to weave in and out of the orchestral textures: to soar above when needed, and to almost embed and strengthen the orchestra when the part called for it. It was an entirely egoless performance, all about Beethoven’s intention, and the music was fully alive and moving.

About a year later, Givens, planning to be away for the week, had arranged for a special guest teacher for her studio. I was extremely nervous for what would be my first lesson with Pam, but I pulled out Mozart’s Violin Concerto in D Major No. Four. I remember playing through the first movement and being out of breath. Pam asked, with a smile, “how do you feel?” Tired, I said. Pam looked at me and said, “You better not be tired, you have two more movements to play!” I was instantly smitten. After the lesson, I bought her recording of the Mozart violin concertos and I’ve probably listened to her recording of the fourth 100 times. In fact, I used to tune my violin to it! [continued…]

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Helen, thy beauty is to me….

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Helen of Troy by Rossetti

Odyssey Opera continues its sixth season next month at the Huntington Theater with the Boston premiere of Gluck’s (1770) Paride ed Elena to Ranieri de’ Calzabigi’s libretto. This marks the first of three works to be performed in Winter/Spring 2019 inspired by one of the most enigmatic figures in ancient history, Helen of Troy. The company tells us that Paride ed Elena (Paris and Helen) will feature three leading female roles performed by Mireille Asselin (Elena), Meghan Lindsay (Paride), and Erica Schuller (Amor), with orchestra and chorus conducted by Gil Rose, and stage direction by Crystal Manich (Pittsburgh Opera, Utah Opera).  The fully-staged, five-act production will be sung in Italian with English subtitles.

Paride ed Elena was the third and last of the so-called “reform” operas on which Gluck collaborated with the librettist Ranieri de’ Calzabigi. According to Gil Rose, Odyssey Opera’s Artistic and General Director, “Paride ed Elena is yet another operatic gem that has disappeared from the canon. The ‘why’ remains a mystery as this opera has something for everyone: a passionate love story, glorious orchestral textures, sensual ballets, and the sumptuous melodies that we’ve come to expect from Gluck’s masterful vocal writing. Odyssey Opera is thrilled to revive this neglected work and introduce it to Boston audiences.” [continued…]

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Interesting and Unusual Opera CD Suggestions

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Last year in this space [HERE] I offered an overview of more than a dozen fascinating new CD releases of opera recordings, ending with detailed reviews of two additional operas: by Bellini and by English composer John Joubert. My feature stirred up some lively comments.

During 2018 the harvest has been even more astounding. Whether you are new to the world of opera listening or have great familiarity with the repertoire, you are bound to find something for your taste, or to give as a gift to someone who loves music, theater, or the singing voice.

I divide the pile of discs into several rough categories, for convenience: 1) relatively well-known works that have been recorded many times; 2) a handful of valuable Mozart recordings from different points in his career; 3) lesser-known works by well-known composers; 4) Baroque and Classic-era works done in some version of Historically Informed Performance style; 5) forgotten French works from the 19th century that have now been given first recordings, in superb performances; and 6) other forgotten works that turn out to be quite interesting, most of them, too, in expert performances that play to a work’s strengths.

Well-Known Works, Often Seen in a New Light [continued…]

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Camerata Seasonal Renaissance Music: Legendary & Hot

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The Green Mountain Man

Ever ready to assist in the marketing activities of our literate and resourceful presenters, we herewith take note of the potential Gloire, Sororité and Fraternité in Boston Camerata’s five forthcoming holiday concerts.

Artistic Director Anne  announces that she is pleased this year, to be unveiling a brand-new production, full of color and sweep. “Gloria: An Italian Christmas” will feature six vocal soloists, harp, lutes, gambas, organ, cornetto, sackbuts, and choir, performing some of the hottest music of the late Renaissance and early Baroque. Some cast members, like bass singer-lutenist Joel Frederiksen, and the legendary cornettist Bruce Dickey, are coming over from Europe to participate. We are also happy to welcome students from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. Such an adventure for us…

FLE:  Yes, there are performers and hot music involved, but what about composers?

We’ll be featuring the titanic Gabrieli and Monteverdi along with a plethora from the Renaissance A-list: Marenzio, Cipriano, Willaert, and others. And, to keep the Camerata tradition alive, there will be Christmas songs from country chapels and popular sources. We found a cache of these simple, beautiful carol melodies in a Florentine print of the 17th century, transcribed some of them, and will be premiering them for modern audiences, alongside the magnificent sound structures meant for San Marco in Venice, and other major-league places.

The Camerata has also an extensive repertory book of Christmas concerts, and you are continuing to share it with the public. When did this all begin for you? [continued…]

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Marvin’s Ninth Inning

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In 2010, following his retirement after 32 years as Director of Choral Activities at Harvard University, Jameson (Jim) Marvin founded the Jameson Singers, an SATB choir of some 70 voices, which draws  experienced amateur singers across Boston (and includes many of Marvin’s former Harvard students). The ensemble’s 9th season will be Marvin’s final one. Exuberant and witty, Marvin discusses, among other things, the season to come: “Wondrous Light” holiday concerts on December 1st and 8th featuring works from early Renaissance to the present day (including some of Marvin’s own compositions and arrangements) and next May’s performance of the mighty German Requiem by Brahms.

GL: In your forthcoming book “Emotion in Choral Singing: Reading Between the Notes” (which will be released December 12th!) you write I believe choral music has the power to draw us into a spiritual realm, a transcendence that allows a fleeting moment of peace.” This is quite the statement!

JM It seems to me there’s a reason for choral music, a real purpose. And, simply put, it is easier to express emotion with text and singing. Of course instrumental music also has the great power to express emotion, but I find that the inclusion of text and the use of the human voice allows choral music to lift us out of our everyday experience. I believe strongly in that mission – an experience so momentary and yet so valuable. We are singing to inspire and also, to an extent, to educate. We are blessed as human beings to have the capacity to express emotion through singing or through music period. And I think humanity needs that.

Singing to educate…do you see yourself primarily as an educator? [continued…]

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MIT Announces Major Gift for Music Facility

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Will Frank Gehry be invited back?

Finding the money and the will to build a major building for the musical arts at Massachusetts’s most famous technical institute has been bruited about for more than 50 years. With the announcement that Joyce Linde, a longtime supporter of MIT and the arts, has made a “cornerstone gift” to enable building a new “state-of-the-art” music facility, that hurdle now seems overcome. The yet-to-be designed building must accommodate the current and future needs of the considerable and growing program. That there is such popular support of musical arts in various forms will come as a surprise to many, and the Joyce Linde commitment represents the beginning of an unfolding story.

The new building will stand between two illustrious neighbors. The Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto drew plans for the serpentine red-brick Baker House Dormitory when he was a professor in residence at the Institute in 1948, as one of but a few structures he built in America after the Finish Pavilion at the 1939 New York Worlds Fair. Eero Saarinen’s 1955 Kresge complex made a radical statement of form and material. A building committee will eventually name a signature architect worthy of this prime location.

“Our campus hums with MIT people making music, from formal lessons, recitals, and performances, to the beautiful surprise of stumbling on an impromptu rehearsal in the Main Lobby after hours,” says L. Rafael Reif, president of MIT. “Now, through a wonderful act of vision and generosity, Joyce Linde has given us the power to create a central home for faculty and students who make and study music at MIT — a first-class venue worthy of their incredible talent and aspirations. As a champion of the arts, Joyce knows the incomparable power of music to inspire, provoke, challenge, delight, console, and unify. I have no doubt the new building she has made possible will amplify the positive power of music in the life of MIT.” [continued…]

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Larry Phillips Remembered

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Our friend over many years and BMInt colleague Ellis Laurimore Phillips III died on October 31st, at age 70, from complications of Type-1 diabetes. The harpsichordist, organist, composer, music critic, and philanthropist, seemed never to age, though he bore a long decline with bemused stoicism. He partook in the musical and social life of Boston with a light-seeming but deeply committed grace. Larry’s professional music career ran for 40 years after he won the John Robb Organ Competition in 1972 from the Royal Canadian College of Organists and the International Harpsichord Competition in Bruges, Belgium in 1974.

According to the official obituary, early recognition led to signing with music agent Albert Kay Associates in New York City, who represented him from 1976-2002. He performed nationally as an organist and harpsichordist, making a valuable contribution to the Early Music revival of the 1970s with many solo performances including the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, and the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra. In the 1970s, Larry was a founding member of the musical trio, Quantz, an Early Music and Baroque ensemble. He was Artistic Director and founder of the Festival Music Players, a Boston-area chamber music sponsoring organization. Larry composed the motet, “All Shall be Well” for the Commemoration of the 700th anniversary of the foundation of Saint Botolph’s Church, Boston, Lincolnshire by HRH Princess Anne in 2008. Three of Larry’s hymns were published in the Unitarian Universalist Hymnbook, “Singing the Living Tradition” including “O Liberating Rose” which receives continued popularity among choral groups throughout Unitarian Universalist congregations. Larry worked as the Music Director for the First Parish Church, Waltham, where he was church organist and much beloved choir director from 1982-2002. Larry served as the co-founder and director of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network and an editor of the Signature Choral Series, published through the Unitarian Universalist Association. A list of his 50 BMInt reviews is HERE. [continued…]

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War and Dance in Brass

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Patrick Valentiino (file photo)

Bay Colony Brass provides Bostonian music lovers with unique large brass ensemble performances. The group—some 20 volunteer performers—was founded in 2000 and incorporates each member of the large brass instruments as well as percussion. Led by Music Director Patrick Valentino, Bay Colony Brass most closely resembles the one-to-a-part full brass section of a large symphony orchestra and bears little resemblance to the very different and larger British brass band. BCB uses five trumpet players, five French horns, four trombones, euphonium, tuba, and two or more percussionists but with a unique twist. Because of changing instrumentation between pieces, musical requirements, stamina, and preferences of the players and Music Director, keen observers will notice that the members rotate positions during the course of the concert.  Bay Colony Brass’s repertoire includes works from the Renaissance, Baroque, classical, 19th-century romantic, and 20th-century eras. There is music written for brass as well as transcriptions from orchestra works and Broadway, jazz, and film scores. The group has also commissioned recent compositions for today’s large brass ensembles.

This weekend, Bay Colony Brass is proud to present the US premiere of Christopher Gough’s Lexington and Concord as the featured piece in their performance Exploring War and Dance. Set in 4 movements, Lexington and Concord vividly depicts elements of life in the colonies that would lead to the start of the American Revolution. The work takes us through the growing unrest among the colonies and builds from there until war was inevitable. Rumor, gossip, and intrigue lead to a hymnlike rallying cry for quartet. Finally, the war itself, complete with the sounds of alarm, galloping horses, and approaching armies, ending with echoes from the beginning of the conflict.   [continued…]

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Tanglewood Season Only 7+ Months Away!

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The next 2019 Tanglewood season offers something for everyone, with concerts six out of seven days during most weeks and two on Sundays. The spectrum of offerings is remarkable as well. Traditional orchestral heavies are well-represented: two Mozart, six Beethoven (including three symphonies), Schubert (Symphony 2), two Mendelssohn (Midsummer and Scottish), four Schumann (including the increasingly popular Concert Piece for Four Horns), five Brahms, four Dvorak (including Symphonies 7, 8, 9), three Tchaikovsky, two Rachmaninoff (Piano Concertos 1 and 3), and so on—mostly with the BSO but also including the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra. The complete calendar is HERE.

An especially ambitious offering, with the TMC Orchestra: Wagner’s Die Walküre complete, act I on July 27th and the other two on July 28th, afternoon and evening. The stellar cast: Amber Wagner (Sieglinde), Simon O’Neill (Siegmund), Ain Anger (Hunding), Christine Goerke (Brünnhilde), James Rutherford (Wotan), and a Fricka not yet chosen. I remember back in 1965 or 1966, when Leinsdorf directed act I in Symphony Hall, my mother wrote me she was about to go hear it reluctantly, knowing how she loathed Wagner. The next day she wrote again —“I take it all back, it was glorious!

A generous helping of visitors adds to the variety. The Venice Baroque Orchestra on July 11th will play Albinoni, Corelli, and five Vivaldi (winding up with Summer, the silliest piece imaginable, but forgivable because it is summertime, after all). The National Youth Orchestra of the USA offers an intriguing program: Berlioz’s Nuits d’été and Strauss’s Alpensinfonie, a large-scale work that has acquired too much popularity in recent years. The Knights, nominally a chamber orchestra, comes on August 15 to play a Hungarian program: Ligeti, Kurtág, Kodály (Galánta Dances) and the Brahms Hungarian Dances and Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham. On August 21 the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, 80 musicians strong, performs “on traditional Chinese instruments placed in a Western configuration.” [continued…]

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BoC-Berk Band Hits Silkroad for Werden Brüder

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Sandeep Das to play tabla

For almost two decades, Boston’s Silkroad initiative has attempted to enact, in music and other art forms, its firm belief that engaging and embracing difference builds a more hopeful world. They have shown that music specifically can spark radical cultural collaboration and passion-driven learning.

Friday November 16th at 8pm, Grammy Award-winning Silkroad soloists join the Boston Conservatory at Berklee student orchestra in dynamic performance at Symphony Hall. Conducted by Bruce Hangen, the program will feature poetry-inspired contemporary classical works by Tan Dun, Dinuk Wijeratne, and Gabriela Lena Frank among others. The Silkroad soloists include Sandeep Das, tabla; Maeve Gilchrist, Celtic harp; and Kaoru Watanabe, Japanese shinobue flutes / taiko drums.

“It is an honor to bring Silkroad artists Sandeep Das, Maeve Gilchrist, and Kaoru Watanabe to Boston Conservatory at Berklee for this exciting concert,” said Michael Shinn, dean of music for Boston Conservatory – Berklee. “This marks the start of a longer-term collaboration between the Conservatory and Silkroad that will reimagine conservatory music training, both in concert and in the classroom. With this special collaboration, Conservatory students will now have the chance to perform a radically innovative program alongside these cutting-edge performers in one of Boston’s iconic locations for music, Symphony Hall.” [continued…]

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Yes, Yes, Nonet

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Louise Farrenc by Luigi Rubio (1835)

The now elusive Louise Dumont Farrenc (1804-1875) was once a prominent French composer, virtuoso pianist, and teacher, who had received favorable notice from Hector Berlioz, Robert Schumann, and others. The Weston Wind Quintet & Friends will be giving a rare performance of her Nonet in E-flat Major op. 38, for string quartet and wind quintet [listen HERE] in a free one-hour concert in the Plymouth Public Library (132 South Street) Wednesday November 7th at 7pm.

The concert will include a performance by the ensemble and pianist Heeyeon Chi of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in an arrangement by French oboist and conductor David Walter.

Louise Farrenc displayed great talent as a child and was accepted at 15 by the Paris Conservatoire. She wanted to study composition as well as piano, but it was another half-century before women could even enroll in composition classes. Anton Reicha, the Conservatoire’s professor of composition, agreed to teach her privately. (His Conservatoire students included Liszt, Berlioz, Gounod, and Franck.) Reicha was not only a lifelong friend of Beethoven but also one of the early popularizers of the wind quintet, composing more than 20 full-length pieces for the combination. [continued…]

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Ardent for Du Bois

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W E B Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois’s 150th anniversary has inspired the Du Bois Orchestra to feature Schubert, Wagner, and Coleridge-Taylor at University Lutheran Church on November 3rd, in the third concert of a series celebrating the life and legacy of the visionary Harvard sociologist, who combined music, sociology, and philosophy to fight for social equity. Since the orchestra’s founding in the autumn of 2015, the ensemble has maintained that classical music can be key to authentic dialogue.

The orchestra, made up of college and conservatory musicians from around the Boston area, provides an engaging community for advanced orchestral playing while also seeking to employ music to overcome social exclusion, performing marginalized and underrepresented works along with standard repertoire. In addition, outreach to youth and the underprivileged are integral to the orchestra’s belief that music can unite and transform society.

Du Bois’s documented interest in music began at Fisk University, where as a student, he called on African Americans to “build up an American school of music which shall rival the grandest schools of the past,” and commenting on a student performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah by the Fisk Mozart Society, of which Du Bois was an ardent supporter, he wrote: “Our race, just a quarter-century removed from slavery, can master the greatest musical compositions.”

When he arrived in Cambridge in 1888, calling 20 Flagg Street home, just seven blocks from the venue of Saturday’s concert, Du Bois was eager to share his good singing voice with the Harvard community. He auditioned for the Harvard Glee Club, but was rejected because he was black. Undaunted, he pursued his own musical education, actively seeking out performances of opera and orchestral music during his studies in Europe and throughout his life. [continued…]

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A Gounod Journey Through Sensual Melody

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Charles Gounod

Odyssey Opera extends its salute to the French composer Charles Gounod, as Boston’s most innovative opera company claims the local premiere of the 1858 Le médecin malgré lui  (The Doctor in Spite of Himself).

In its sixth season, Odyssey, one of the nation’s most adventurous companies, continues its Gounod voyage on Friday November 9th at 7:30pm and Sunday November 11th at 2pm, in the Huntington Avenue Theater. “Gounod is rightly viewed as the creator of the genre of lyric opera,” explains Gil Rose, Odyssey artistic and general director. “Not only was he the creator of Faust and Romeo et Juliette, he substantially influenced the course of French music and helped restore a higher sense of artistic purpose to the French stage.” Often regarded as the apostle of a lyrical, sensual, seductive Romanticism, “Gounod knows how to grasp and transcribe the human heart. He had a magical gift for melody.”

This year is the bicentennial of Gounod’s birth, and Odyssey Opera offers a chance to become better-acquainted with one of the major French composers of the second half of the 19th century. Based on a play by the great satirist Moliére, Le médecin malgré lui is a three-act comic opera set to a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. This Odyssey production features baritone Stephen Salters (Sganarelle), mezzo-soprano Tascha Anderson (Jacqueline), tenor Piotr Buszewski (Leandre) in his Boston debut, and full orchestra and chorus conducted by Rose, with stage direction by Daniel Pelzig (Santa Fe Opera, Met, Lyric Opera of Chicago). The fully staged production will be sung in French with English subtitles, recitatives added by Erik Satie, “never heard before.” [continued…]

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Great and Imperial Classicists Cleaned

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Robert Levin

If plopped in Symphony Hall in a couple of weeks, would Schubert and Beethoven relish the Staubsaugering of two centuries of dust the from their Great Symphony and Emperor Concerto? BMInt’s own brilliant advisor the virtuoso pianist Robert Levin, with dynamic conductor Richard Egarr and the H+H Orchestra, will be cleaning up these masterpieces for rendition on instruments similar to those the composers knew, with the result that, in publicist-speak, these works will sound utterly fresh while maintaining their treasured grandeur and poetry.

Coming to Symphony Hall on Friday Nov. 9 at 7:30pm and Sunday Nov. 11 at 3pm; tickets HERE.

BMInt asked Egarr to give some thoughts on the Schubert and Levin to answer questions about the Beethoven.

Egarr: Schubert—what an extraordinary composer: Classical yet Romantic, intimate yet infinite. His Great symphony was considered unplayable because of its gigantic scope and difficulty, musical and technical, yet it has intrigued musicians since its creation, 1825-’27. [continued…]

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