H + H Introduces Czech Composer and Conductor

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Václav Luks to conduct

The Handel and Haydn Society’s planned performances of Jan Václav (Hugo) Voříšek (1791-1825) Symphony in D Major (1823) come to Symphony Hall on Friday and Sunday in a pair of concerts which also feature the 19th-century Black composer Joseph Bologne’s Overture to L’amant Anonyme, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. Czech harpsichordist, horn player, musicologist, pedagogue, and conductor Václav Luks presides at the podium.

Voříšek (probably best pronounced Vort-chi-shek; the German spelling is usually given Worzischek), a Czech native, was a slightly older contemporary of Schubert, born the year of Mozart’s death and active most of his life in Vienna; like Schumann and Stravinsky, he studied for a career in law, and like Chopin and Keats, he died prematurely of tuberculosis. Few have heard of Voříšek today, but the new New Grove gives him a three-page article with a short bibliography. In his time, he was known as an expert performer, a court organist, and a composer of considerable piano music, including short non-sonata pieces given the title of “Impromptus” by their publisher (the same thing happened to Schubert a few years later, for which Voříšek and not Schubert got the credit for inventing the form). His last major work is a compact but impressive Mass in B-flat major, of which a modern edition is now being prepared. H & H might look forward to that. [continued…]

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Yumi and Jake at Antelope Island: Whodunnit?

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Other people may love the suspense of murder mysteries, I, though, often begin with the last chapter or two so as not to get too freaked out. Thus, doing a review of Gerald Elias’s “Cloudy with a Chance of Murder” (Level Best Books) challenged me. It was tough, but I resisted peeking at the ending, and I’m glad I didn’t.

If the aging, blind, curmudgeonly, crime-solving violinist and teacher Daniel Jacobus, “Jake,” existed, I’d like to have the privilege of knowing him, despite his quirks. In fact, after reading this seventh of Gerald Elias’s musical mystery series—Jacobus debuted in 2009—this one leads me to dream up other mysteries for him to solve. And Cloudy is likely to make you do that, too.

Cloudy starts almost too slowly for my taste, though it provides more-than-adequate foreshadowing. However, the presence of Jacobus’s former student, the intriguing Yumi Shinagawa (an Americanized Japanese violinist, who first appeared in Elias’s inaugural (2009) book, and is now immersed in an ascending career that may be upended here, adds tension. Fortunately, much to the relief of this reviewer, Elias ultimately delivers an abundance of clever, entertaining twists of characters, plot and fate, at the stormy fictional Antelope Island Musical Festival, located at the actual State Park of that name, a nearly magical place in the middle of Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Antelope features bison and other wildlife, trails, a mountain, a ranch and more.

If you do not already “know” him, Jake embodies qualities of Beethoven, bluffer and blowhard; his blindness allows his other senses to divine all manner of surprises, yet his life challenges, starting as a child of the Holocaust, his accomplishments and tragedies make him both Polonius-like and prescient. He is a steadfast friend, a caring, avuncular soul rife with ribaldry and poignancy. [continued…]

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Judith Davidoff (1927-2021)

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The Sacred Muses lament the passing of the Grande Dame of the Viol.

The Early Music Movement recently suffered the loss of a major pioneer: Judith Davidoff passed on peacefully at home in New York City, at the age of 94, one month after her teacher and New York Pro Musica colleague, Martha Blackman. Considered to be the “Grande Dame of the viol,” Judith began her musical journey as a cellist in Boston, where she was born, raised, and educated. Also in Boston she became familiar with the Camerata of the Museum of Fine Arts, later known as The Boston Camerata, an ensemble that specialized in performing music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque periods on the instruments for which the music was intended. The American early music movement began to gather momentum in the mid 1950s, enthusiastically embracing newcomers like Judith. As a cellist, she accepted encouragement to take up historical bowed-string instruments, and the viola da gamba became the instrument with which she would become identified. Judith’s journey included residencies in both Turkey and Taiwan, studying the kemençe (a Turkish Black Sea fiddle) and the erhu (a Chinese fiddle), and she performed and taught at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts before settling in New York. The Boston Museum also allowed her access to instruments such as the vielle, nun’s fiddle, and the baryton, expanding her knowledge as an early bowed-string specialist. [continued…]

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Worthy Additions to Chamber Canon

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Composer David Post came to my attention through a work he wrote on commission for the Terezin Music Foundation [reviewed HERE]. His most recent CD on Centaur [HERE] makes an elegant addition to the contemporary chamber music canon. Consisting of three sonatas (for violin, cello, and piano) and a set of Variations and a Fugue on a Bach-Busoni Chorale, this CD reveals a composer of thoughtful eloquence, with a lyrical voice that lingers in the memory long past the end of the performance.

For this CD, Post has assembled an impressive roster of performers. Alyssa Wang has a dual career as a violinist and conductor, performing with the Boston Chamber Music Society and A Far Cry and being recently appointed Assistant Conductor of the Boston Ballet. Pianist Ruoting Li is a winner of the Lillian Fuchs Chamber Music Competition and made her Weill Recital Hall debut at Carnegie Hall in 2019. Pianist Steven Beck has worked with many composers including Pierre Boulez, Henri Dutilleux, Charles Wuorinen, George Crumb, and George Perle. He is the soloist on recordings of Peter Lieberson’s Third Piano Concerto as well as Elliott Carter’s Double Concerto. Among his many other accomplishments, cellist Samuel Magill is the former Associate Principal cellist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, as well as a former member of the Houston and Pittsburgh Symphonies. A former child prodigy who made her debut at 12 with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Beth Levin has also appeared as a piano soloist with the Seattle Symphony and the Boston Pops. More extensive biographical material is in the excellent notes. [continued…]

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Channeling Medieval Christmas

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It’s “A Medieval Christmas: Hodie Christus Natus Est” yet again for our Boston Camerata friends…on disc, and in person. The concert upcoming next Friday is officially sold out, but reprises come to Newburyport on Saturday and at First Church Cambridge on Sunday. The cast includes Anne Azéma, Camila Parias, Deborah Rentz-Moore (voices), Allison Monroe (vielle) and Christa Patton (harp and winds).

Channeling Christmas spirituality from Medieval France, Italy, England, Provence, the show includes music of the church and songs of private devotion around the joyous theme of the Nativity, songs to the Virgin Mary, processionals from Saint Martial of Limoges, hymns, lyrics, and miracle ballads, sung in Latin, Old French, Old Provençal, Saxon, interlaced with Medieval English texts of the Nativity. The ticket-info link is HERE.

FLE: Congrats, Anne, on the new Harmonia Mundi recording. But the dinosaurs among us will note that this is the second Boston Camerata to bear the title “A Medieval Christmas.” Is the needle stuck?

AA: Hopefully, not, although our own copy of the 1975 Nonesuch LP is by now pretty scratched. Actually, I discovered this signature Camerata program when I was still a student, on vacation in the Languedoc. There was a summer music festival in Sommières, the town where my mother had grown up, and this unknown bunch of Americans were scheduled to perform in a tiny Romanesque chapel. I had never heard any music like it, and I was enchanted. There was something so real and immediate about the repertoire, and the performance. It sparked something inside me. [continued…]

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Remembering Alvin Lucier, 1931-2021

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I knew the avant-garde composer from Lukas Foss’s composition class at Tanglewood together in the summer of 1959. Lucier was the next-oldest in the group (I was the youngest, a mere college junior) and remained pretty much aloof from the rest of us — Lita Dubman, Michael Horvit, Roger Hannay, Bob Baksa, and the Canadian Jacques Hétu; Gunther Parchman, a bass player from Louisiana, joined us from time to time. A New Hampshire native, Lucier had a Yale degree and was about to complete another at Brandeis, so he was also a local boy.  I remember his music from that summer as rather 1920s Parisian in quality, diatonic, with lots of bright notes.  We all had our music read by Fromm Foundation players — Fromm Week didn’t exist yet, but fellowship players included woodwinds and what later became the Lenox Quartet.  An amateur musician, Jack Lund, a delightful businessman and record collector with some extra money, came visiting and took us all to dinner, bringing news of a small commission at Foss’s recommendation, and it was Lucier who at summer’s end took home the award.

Only some years later did I hear about Alvin Lucier’s off-the-deep-end experimentalism.  My Reed College colleague Nicholas Wheeler, a physicist and a good cellist, had corresponded with him.  Lucier’s plans included equipping helicopters with huge speakers and microphones, to hover over cities during rush hour, record their traffic sound, and retransmit it back to ground level. The power consumption must have been enormous; whether the rebroadcast could have coped with engine noise, I never found out. Lucier surely would have known of George Antheil’s work with airplane propellers in Ballet mécanique, though Stockhausen’s Helicopter String quartet came half a century later. Later Lucier became a professor at Wesleyan. [continued…]

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Jephthah’s Daughter Rediscovered in Plain Sight

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A world premiere of a work nearly lost to history: New England Philharmonic to premiere an orchestral version of Beach’s concert aria Jephthah’s Daughter at BU’s Tsai Center on Sunday at 3:00. NEP will include the two other world premieres, including Bernard Rands’s Dreams, dedicated to the organization’s Music Director Emeritus, Richard Pittman and a couple of favorites. Music director candidate finalist Adam Kerry Boyles will preside. Complete “Dreams of Love and War” listing below.

Amy Beach has been regaining recognition in recent years. For instance, the many performances of major works like her Symphony in E Minor, op. 32 (“Gaelic”), recently by the Seattle Symphony; and closer to home, by the Eureka Ensemble in 2018, just a few blocks from Beach’s Commonwealth Avenue townhouse. It’s easy to think of these current examples, but important also to acknowledge the decades of work that it has taken to raise Beach’s stature closer to what it was at the time when she lived in Boston. Now all her large works have recordings of some sort, even if only on that resource that has become central to adventurous listening, YouTube.

– OR DO THEY? (ominous chords here) [continued…]

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Locke’s List for 2021: Notable Recent Opera and Other Vocal Recordings

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Elsebeth Dreisig (Kleopatra),

The year 2021 may have been a frustrating one for most performers and concertgoers, but CDs (and downloads, etc.) kept being released, mostly using studio and “live” recordings that had been made a year or two before—or sometimes much longer ago. These releases included some fascinating operas and other vocal works that were, until now, little known. And, given that streaming is now so easy and inexpensive (Spotify, Naxos Music Library, Apple Music, and so on), nearly all these items can be easily heard without one’s having to make a special purchase. Though often, for opera and vocal works, purchasing the item as a CD or download is the only way to gain access to the booklet containing texts and translations. (Some record companies thoughtfully make such materials available for free, on their website.)

Here were the highlights of my year of listening.

Medieval music: The Orlando Consort continued their remarkable series of the complete works of Guillaume de Machaut with a CD called “The Lion of Nobility.” The four male voices sing beautifully and enunciate the text clearly. (Machaut was almost more important as a poet than as a composer!) Particularly remarkable is a lai that was long thought to be monophonic; but recent scholars have shown that several strophes can be sung simultaneously, producing—here—remarkably engaging harmonies.

Baroque and Classical: I was struck again and again by the high quality of singing in most of the early-opera recordings that I got to review, including Cesti’s La Dori, Vivaldi’s Tamerlano, Hasse’s Enea in Catonia, and Gluck’s Demofoonte.

A fascinating “sampler” was put together by the renowned Canadian lyric soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian: arias for the “other” Cleopatra, princess of Pontus (which is located in what is today Turkey) and future queen of Armenia. All three operas are called Tigrane, after the prince that Cleopatra will marry; the composers are three of the aforementioned: Hasse, Vivaldi, and Gluck. The singing and conducting follow “mainstream” rather than “early music” norms and may appeal to listeners who sometimes find Historically Informed Performance a bit intense or frantic (or, in the string playing, scratchy). [continued…]

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Pianist Victor Rosenbaum: Another Milestone

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The Longwood Symphony Orchestra, famously comprising musicians from the Boston medical community who play concerts to help raise money for health-related charities (this time to benefit Violence Transformed, a non-profit dedicated to documenting and celebrating the many ways in which our diverse communities harness art’s potential to effect social change), returns to New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall on Sunday, December 5th at 3:00 PM with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 and Piano Concerto No. 3 featuring pianist Victor Rosenbaum, “a fixture of the Boston musical community for more than 50 years, as performer, teacher, and college president,” who will observe his 80th birthday in December.

The New York Times put it succinctly after his performance at Tully Hall: Rosenbaum “…could not have been better.” And a headline in the Boston Globe summed up the appeal of Rosenbaum’s playing: “Fervor and Gentleness Combined.” Click HERE for his complete bio. A brief interview follows:

FLE: You are performing Beethoven’s 3rd concerto with the Longwood Symphony, a “doctors’ orchestra” that makes every performance a benefit for some needy group in a health-related field. Why did they invite you for this particular honor with this particular concerto? [continued…]

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Is NEC the Right Size? Is the Piano Department in Good Shape?

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Russell Sherman, NEC demigod

As we noted a few weeks ago here, New England Conservatory has added to its faculty roster, on one-year appointments, the two illustrious pianists Marc-André Hamelin and Jonathan Biss. To pursue some of the thoughts about teaching, institutional positioning, and other matters this move has aroused, we spoke with NEC’s new provost Benjamin Sosland and its Piano Department Chair Bruce Brubaker.

FLE: Marc-André Hamelin will apparently be teaching every few weeks whereas Jonathan Biss will be teaching three or four times a year.

BS: We’re still working it out with his schedule, but it’s three or four times over the course of a year.

Only a couple of students, my spies tell me.

He has just a handful of students, and he’s helping cover some sabbatical replacements – that was always the intention.

BB: I’m thrilled by these appointments and I take the willingness of these artists to join us as a sign of what NEC has achieved in piano. I’m not being conceited when I tell you that NEC’s piano program is now among the very top piano programs in the world!

Hamelin is covering a lot of Wha-Kyun Byun’s students because she’s taking a six-month sabbatical.

She’s taking sabbatical, yep, exactly. It’s not a bad bench team, if you will, to have those two gentlemen come and take care of her students. And some others, as it happens.

And Marc-André tells me that he’s very much in awe of the students that he’s had, such as George Li.

It’s Marc-André’s first real plunge into teaching at a conservatory level.

He’d never wanted to teach. [continued…]

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Elucidating 19th-Century Hymns

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Several times during the Covid lockdown I précised some parts of my unpublished book “Melody and Musical Texture,” seizing on some elementary aspects of harmony and small form and assembling short explanations with examples drawn from well-known hymns. If you want to review some of these, they go back to HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. After further thought, I lately decided to pile on some more, starting with the “familiar style” of 19th-century New England Congregationalists, before retrospectively examining the contrapuntal style of the 17th-century Lutheran chorale.

Olivet, composed by Boston’s own Lowell Mason, has been a popular hymn for nearly two centuries. The plain but well-shaped tune enjoys a harmonization that is likewise simple but perfectly suited to the text — easy to sing and to play. The melody, organized within the span of an octave, includes a recurrent rhythm (in the even more popular “Nearer, my God, to thee,” also by Mason, you will recognize some of the same rhythm). The first two phrases are roughly symmetrical: I-V-I is answered by V-I-V, following the text. (“Roughly” because there is more V in the first phrase than there is I in the second, but that doesn’t upset the harmony. It’s not the same as question-and-answer, either, nor call-and-response, but more like After-you-Sir, Yes-Sir.) The third phrase says: something-different after what’s-next. [continued…]

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Who’ll Be There?

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by William Britton ca. 1820

Regarding Boston Camerata’s forthcoming show, “WE’LL BE THERE!  American Spirituals Black and White 1800-1900,” at Longy on November 6th, we put some questions to Anne Azéma, Artistic Director and Joel Cohen Music Director Emeritus. A virtual interview follows.

FLE: You are clearly delighted to be telling BMInt readers about giving live performances again?

 Anne Azéma: What’s a deeper word than delighted?  I was almost overwhelmed emotionally in September, performing solo, live in the Netherlands, Italy, and Slovenia for actual human beings rather than cameras and microphones. Now, preparing for the first in-person Boston Camerata performance since March 2020, I think we will all remain stable and standing!  But the emotion in November is no less profound, for the entire cast, I believe. It’s a joy to be back.

You and Camerata are returning to your American vein.

Yes, I think it’s vitally important to bring the story of American spiritual song forward in time, to the threshold of recorded sound and living memory. And by advancing into the 19th century, when sources of Black music begin to be available, we can more equitably broaden our vision of American music and American values.  That’s a big priority.

What sources do you consult? [continued…]

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Understanding Tempos in the Finale of Bruckner’s Eighth

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On this upcoming Friday at 8:00, Symphony Hall will witness a significant musicological event: the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of Anton Bruckner’s massive, 84-minute Eighth Symphony. On evidence from the scores, Artistic Director Benjamin Zander will be restoring the tempo scheme honored in Bruckner’s time (the 1890s), particularly in the finale. No previous performance anywhere in the last 80 years had attempted to do this. The reasons for that situation emerge from history.

Shortly after the founding of the Collected Edition of the works of Anton Bruckner in 1929, the editors Robert Haas and Alfred Orel made the universal decision to allow only material written in manuscript by Bruckner or a recognized copyist to be used in the new publications. The entire venture was spurred by the new realization of the very serious difficulties amounting to wholesale reorchestration in the first publications of the Fifth and Ninth Symphonies which had been prepared respectively by Franz Schalk and Ferdinand Löwe in 1896 and 1903. These difficulties did not come to universal knowledge until the early 1930s, and at that time, correcting them became the principal impetus for the whole Collected Edition.

At that time many tempo indications and nuances which had been a prominent feature of the first publications were eliminated, even though many of them had been demonstrably closely overseen by Bruckner himself. Bruckner had for many years been very sparing in indications of tempo nuance, although he was clear and detailed with dynamic indications and the different conventions of phrasing used by winds and strings. Accordingly detailed instructions for overall tempos and nuances were placed in the first publications, using a vocabulary strongly reminiscent of the editing language of the Wagner operas, with words and phrases like “belebend” (more animated), “gedehnt” (stretched out), and “immer ruhiger werdend” (gradually becoming slower) which Bruckner himself never had used.

[continued…]

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Jamie Buswell: 1946 – September 28, 2021

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The violinist, conductor, teacher, and Grammy-nominated recording artist died recently at 74. James Oliver Buswell IV soloed with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at age seven. His almost seven-decade career encompassed 100 violin concerti on 5 continents with major orchestras and many of the greatest conductors. According to the Legacy obituary, “… his teaching, chamber music playing, conducting, and numerous recordings, he has touched countless lives. The music world mourns this musical and intellectual giant. Beloved as husband of cellist Carol Ou for 21 years, Buswell’s survivors include Anna Buswell, William Buswell, Joshua Buswell, and Rachel English, as well as four grandchildren, and his brother-in-law, Sam Ou of Boston.

[continued…]

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Indian Hill Music Transitions in Style

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Fish-scale patterned metal an important feature.

Indian Hill Music, the Nashoba Valley region’s premier non-profit center for music education and performance, will take the name Groton Hill Music Center with the fall 2022 opening of its stunning new home for music, currently under construction. Indian Hill Music has boldly undertaken one of the most ambitious cultural projects in New England, departing from Littleton to the North Central Massachusetts town where, in 1985, a handful of local musicians and music enthusiasts incorporated.

Designed by award-winning Epstein Joslin Architects of Cambridge (Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport; The Conrad Prebys Performance Center, La Jolla), Groton Hill Music comprises a 1,000-seat concert hall with lawn seating for seasonal concerts, a 300-seat performance hall, multi-scaled rehearsal and teaching spaces, state-of-the-art acoustics designed by Threshold Acoustics of Chicago, and dynamic architecture. Additionally, two-thirds of the land on which the facility sits — formerly an apple orchard and a horse farm — is preserved as picturesque agricultural fields.

The Center plans to be a gathering place for all to experience private lessons, classes, ensembles, and supplemental learning programs for all ages and abilities, with outreach to the underserved. Not does GHM offer concerts by its own Orchestra of Indian Hill and outstanding local and touring professional classical ensembles, they also present high-quality concerts in jazz, traditional/roots, and global music, and have 70+ faculty who teach in a variety of styles as well. Their website has all upcoming performances, faculty, and educational programs. According to staff, the interactive building will encourage musicians, educators, students, and audience members to inspire one another.

BMInt enjoyed a short interview with Fiorentino and a substantial conversation with architect Alan Joslin. Those follow after the break.

[continued…]

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Palaver from Boston to Portland and Back

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Starting this evening, Palaver Strings, a musician-led nonprofit chamber orchestra, dives into its eighth season of live and virtual concerts in Boston, Maine, and beyond. The Oct. 1 concert will take place at the Waldo Theater in Waldoboro Maine; tickets HERE. With more to come locally!

Palaver, founded in Boston in 2014, is co-directed by 11 core musicians; many of us were in music school. We were driven initially by a hunger for greater creative agency and artistic fulfillment, and a shared disillusionment with classical music norms. In our early years, most of our concerts took place in the intimacy of living rooms, restaurants, and galleries. Our first residency was at Boston Medical Center, where we played monthly concerts at hospitals and affiliated shelters for several years. These experiences at BMC were formative for the group and helped cement a commitment to community engagement. [continued…]

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Twenty-Four Hours and Counting to BSO Opening Night

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Béla Bartók (file photo)

“Led by both Music Director Andris Nelsons and Boston Pops Conductor Laureate John Williams, the BSO  welcomes back live audiences to Symphony Hall after a nearly 20-month absence. On the opening concerts on September 30th and October 2nd, Nelsons will lead Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture, the first work the BSO ever performed, before Williams takes the podium for the first Boston performances of his Violin Concerto No. 2. Dedicatee Anne-Sophie Mutter will be filling the soloist’s role. Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, one of the BSO’s most famous commissions, originally premiered by Serge Koussevitzky in 1944, closes the concerts”

The BSO press office answered our questions:

FLE: Tell us about opening night jitters. The BSO audiences have been absent for so many months. What do you expect and what do you worry about?

BSO Press Office: Coming off a very successful Tanglewood season, with the BSO performing two programs each weekend over a six-week season, we’re feeling very excited about reopening the hall and performing regularly for live audiences again. We’re confident that we’re doing all we can on the health and safety front, but we hope patrons will be understanding as we implement our new protocols for the first time this week. [continued…]

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New England Philharmonic Initiates Conductor Search

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Richard Pittman (file photo)

After the challenges of the past year and a half, being with an orchestra right now feels like taking part in a ritual from a past analog time but one that is vitally meaningful to my life today, perhaps more so than ever before. It is such a joy to be performing live orchestral music again.

In our divided and distanced world, it is a remarkable act for seventy people to come together in a single room to create something new together, understand each other without the need of words, and to achieve this through teamwork, precision, focus and by truly listening to, and hearing, one another. When I have stood in front of the New England Philharmonic as its conductor these past few weeks, the masks we are wearing and the distance that has been between us for so long seems to fade away for a few hours. A full body of orchestral sound embraces us, and the feeling of 70 pairs of eyes and ears all attuned to something beyond themselves connects and transports, even in our humble Sunday evening rehearsal room. [continued…]

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Cantata Singers & Emmanuel Music: Choral Catchup

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Bach Now with Emmanuel Music: This Sunday, during the regular 10am service, Emmanuel Music kicks off its 50th-annual Bach Cantata Series at Boston’s Emmanuel Church (HERE ) with Bach’s Cantata No. 72, “Alles nur nach Gottes Willen” and Henry Purcell’s heart-wrenching Hear My Prayer. The complete schedule for all 36 performances, with program notes and Pamela Dellal’s precise, thoughtful cantata translations has just been posted HERE. Three season highlights draw from outside of Bach’s sacred music: Elena Ruehr’s new Requiem on November 7th , Principal Guest Conductor John Harbison’s 1994 Chorale Cantata on March 6th, and James Primosch’s 2014 commission for Philadelphia’s excellent professional choir The Crossing (directed by Donald Nally). Primosch follows a tradition made popular by Britten is this new Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus, weaving together Latin mass texts and contemporary poems by Denise Levertov (see notes HERE and complete texts HERE). 

Ryan Turner, who sang under Emmanuel’s founding director Craig Smith from 1997-2007, continues his successful tenure as the organization’s second Music Director (history HERE). The Sunday services will continue to be live-streamed under the guidance of Emmanuel Music’s brand new executive director Jaclyn Dentino (bio HERE). [continued…]

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No Bohemians at this Mansion-Based Traviata

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MassOpera presents Verdi’s La Traviata to intimate effect at the Eustis Estate Museum, Milton in collaboration with Historic New England on October 17th through 24th. Tickets $75 to $35 HERE.

Katy Early, director and MassOpera’s Dan Ryan, conductor have reimagined La Traviata in a site-specific, immersive form in which audience members follow cast and players to four locations throughout the Eustis Estate as if they are inside the opera itself. It is Director Katy Early’s goal to have the audience “feel like guests at the party scenes and ‘flies on the walls’ of the moments between Violetta and Alfredo, as they grapple with how to be together through gorgeous singing.” In addition to the cast and patrons, the instrumentalists[i] will also be part of the action of the show, creating a true immersion.

The 90-minute condensed version runs for 18 performances before 25 audience members.“There are limits to how immersive a show can be given the constraints of COVID protocols and the very real concerns about consent that are being raised through the work of intimacy direction these days. Unlike some immersive plays that I’ve attended in the past, no audience members and performers will ever be touching one another, but there will be some really great eye contact à la the performance practice of Shakespeare in which the proverbial fourth wall will evaporate and everyone in the room will have to confront that they are real, live human beings sharing a space together. And that posture of really looking at one another and being witnessed is a brave thing to do! Violetta and Alfredo do it, the audience members will be invited to do so, and I think that’s what we’re all learning how to do again post lockdowns and Zoom screens,” according to Early. [continued…]

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Pianists Jonathan Biss and Marc-André Hamelin To Join NEC

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New England Conservatory announced today that pianists Jonathan Biss and Marc-André Hamelin are joining the piano faculty for one-year appointments at the start of the 2021 academic year. Both are renowned for their world-class musicianship, and bring a deep knowledge of piano technique and repertoire to the students at NEC through masterclasses, lessons, and workshops. BMInt is very pleased to share the story about these significant hires. The NEC piano department and students will benefit greatly.

“Jonathan and Marc-André are two of the towering pianists of our time, each of whom exemplifies the cross-section of extraordinary technical skill and probing, insightful artistry,” says Benjamin Sosland, Provost and Dean of Faculty, New England Conservatory of Music. “It is an exceptional honor to welcome them to our community, where they will inspire our students and build on NEC’s legacy of pianistic excellence.” [continued…]

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Music Society Returns to Namesake Town

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Marcus Thompson (file photo)

After artfully telling its subscribers to hold certain dates, and that locations would be revealed later, Boston Chamber Music Society finally identified Jordan Hall as the location for the first three shows of its new season, in which they will be offering favorite works by Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mozart, as well as world premieres of BCMS commissions: Lowell Liebermann’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Michi Wiancko’s Piano Quintet, and Joan Tower’s Viola Quintet “Purple Rain.” BCMS will also celebrate British composers and observe the anniversaries of Schubert (225th birthday) and Saint-Saëns (100th year of his death). Learn more HERE.

FLE: While concertgoing seems to be reaching tentatively for normalcy, BCMS will still not be making music as usual.

Marcus Thompson: Well, first of all, it’s really good to see you across the table, especially after more than a year in lock down. You will recall that, like so many others, we invented an online format for engaging our patrons and artists even when some who had planned to be in Boston were prevented from traveling. We started last fall with videos recorded in Fraser Studios and elsewhere, supplemented with archival live recordings to fill the time of a normal, 1.5 hour+ span. That made for a lot of content and proved tricky to navigate for everyone, so earlier this year we went for the one hour, video-only format with performances and short introductions recorded in advance. [continued…]

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“Snake” Released on CD

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Perhaps because I moved away from the Boston area some 50 years ago, I had never heard of Scott Wheeler, the much-performed composer of operas and instrumental works who has long taught music theater and song composition at Emerson College. I looked around, though, and found much praise for—among other recordings—a dramatic cantata The Construction of Boston, a collection of orchestral works (Heavy Weather), and William Sharp singing some of his songs.

The present release offers the first of three mythology-drenched operas from three different composers collectively known as The Ouroboros Trilogy. The ouroboros is a mythological symbol in many cultures: a snake biting its own tail, thus representing such things as the circularity of life and history. Singapore-born Cerise Lim Jacobs wrote all three librettos. The second and third operas in the trilogy are Gilgamesh, with music by Paula Prestini, and Madame White Snake, whose composer Zhou Long won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Music for it. [continued…]

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To Joy: New Tones Friday on the Esplanade

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Friedrich Schiller

Would we still read Schiller’s “An die Freude” if Beethoven had not set it in the finale of his ninth symphony?

Friedrich von Schiller (1759 – 1805) was a German intellectual, remembered as a playwright, a philosopher, and a poet. Interested in theology, he was ordered to study at a military academy; he studied law, then medicine; later he professed history. Throughout it all, he wrote. His writings were not without controversy; he crossed his pen against a duke’s sword and incurred his own father’s wrath. He wrote seemingly to exorcise personal demons. Linked to the German literary movement Sturm und Drang (literally, “storm and desire” although often rendered “storm and stress”), he valued nature, the individual, and strong emotion. This early Romantic trend in literature and thought stood in opposition to classicism and the Enlightenment. The movement is exemplified in Goethe’s epistolary novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers), first published in 1774. That novel is said to have sparked a rash of young men committing suicide across the European continent. Literature asked that you feel; society preferred one not feel quite so much. [continued…]

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