Eyes Shine for BPYO

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How does one sum up the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra’s eight-city, nine-concert tour of Brazil last month? Calling it “wonderful” and “extraordinary” might seem hyperbolic, and yet, the trip — which stopped in the metropolises of Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, Campinas, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, and Curitiba — was both.

We drew the repertoire from the BPYO’s last season and anchored it with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 on all nine concerts (featuring the exceptional Anna Fedorova as soloist; more on her in a moment). Surrounding the Rachmaninoff (depending on the evening) came one of three curtain raisers — Wagner’s Act 1 Prelude to Die Meistersinger, Weber’s Euryanthe Overture, or Clarice Assad’s Bonecos de Olindo — and a symphony: either Shostakovich’s Tenth or Dvorak’s Ninth.

That’s meaty fare, to be sure. Any mix of those pieces demands deep reservoirs of concentration and stamina from an orchestra – not to mention a huge range of technical and expressive nuance.

But those are just the sorts of challenges on which the BPYO and I thrive. Our interpretations of these pieces developed from the first concert in Salvador to the last one in Curitiba. Certainly the orchestra started from a position of strength (which, if you caught any of their Boston performances last season, won’t come as a surprise). But to hear these readings deepen — in terms of flexibility, subtlety, and power — over the course of nine nights was, frankly, very gratifying to me, and I hope, the listeners. [continued…]

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From Walnut Hill to NEC They Come

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The redoubtable Cathy Chan

The well-respected Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts Summer Festival has relocated to the New England Conservatory. Beginning on August 7th, NEC’s attractive new Burnes Hall will ring out with distinguished performers of varied cultures and generations in 15 recitals. Hardly strangers to NEC, since 1990, FCPA has presented 131 memorable concerts in Jordan Hall with notable pianists, cellists, and violinists, in standard repertoire as well as some traditional Eastern instruments and rep. Click HERE for this impressive historical list.

Until this summer the annual music festival took place at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts. Its alumni include Lang Lang, Yeol Eum Son, Kate Liu, Eric Liu, and Channing Yu, to name a few. For the past 30 years, students have come from all over the world to enjoy three weeks of exhilarating music making with the festival’s distinguished faculty members. The residents enjoyed many masterclasses, daily evening performances and concerto competitions. It provided a perfect platform for students of Asian heritage to study abroad, and allowed them to jump right into the heart of the Boston musical scene. Over the years, many stayed after the festival to study at Walnut Hill, and students from different years bonded into a big family all over the world.

Sadly, earlier this year, Walnut Hills administrators informed FCPA that venue rental fees, would double and triple (presumably 3x the original amount) in the next. The Foundation kept its mission of creating an accessible musical platform for all students by making the tuition affordable, and offering some scholarships, even if it meant leaving a negative balance.

So, this sudden and substantial increase in rental fees made a dent spiritually and financially, directly causing the discontinuation of the annual festival. The news struck and saddened the music community of Greater Boston. [continued…]

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Universe To Center on Hatch Shell Wednesday

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The first conductor

Nature planning to visit the Esplanade with rain, the Landmarks Orchestra concert will seek shelter in Jordan Hall tonight.

Boston Landmarks Orchestra begins its 19th season ( and 13th on the Hatch Shell) by commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo landing on the surface of the moon. In partnership with the Museum of Science, under the guidance of Wayne Bouchard, the Museum’s Interim President and CEO, and Danielle Khoury LeBlanc, Director of the Museum of Science’s Charles Hayden Planetarium, Wednesday’s program explores many aspects of the Apollo mission, space travel, and the wonders of the universe through the following works: John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Leroy Anderson’s Summer Skies, Richard Strauss’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, Joaquín Rodrigo’s In Search of the Beyond, John Williams’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Philip Glass’s Icarus at the Edge of Time (excerpt).

Charles Wilcox, the Planetarium’s AV Producer, Jason Fletcher, Associate Producer, Wade Sylvester, Special Effects Producer, and the staff of the Planetarium have created original video work, synchronized to the orchestra’s live performance. They have adapted material from the Planetarium’s full-dome science shows: Undiscovered Worlds; Moons: Worlds of Mystery; Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA; and Destination Mars: The New Frontier. They have also used material from the Planetarium’s extensive collection of entertainment programs featuring live musicians, entertainers, and albums by Beyoncé, David Bowie, Prince, and others. [continued…]

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Albright Leads Off Tanglewood’s “Big Ideas”

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Several years ago, Boston Symphony Artistic Administrator Anthony Fogg suggested a way of expanding the use of the Tanglewood facilities beyond the active period from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and also to provide a greater range of intellectual stimulation to Tanglewood visitors. The suggestion grew into the Linde Center, which consists of indoor spaces (to be cooled in the summer and heated in the winter) as well as a food service. The buildings that form the line of halls strung attractively along a covered walkway a short distance from Ozawa Hall were designed by William Rawn, the architect whose plans for Ozawa Hall proved so exceptional a quarter century ago. The formal opening took place a week ago, and the Linde Center is being used extensively during this summer, with a growing list of activities expected in later months.

In addition to the many types of performances, the Tanglewood Learning Institute (TLI) will present open rehearsals, master classes, interviews with leading artists, a series of lecture talks by distinguished participants who are not themselves musicians, but who may include some element of music’s relationship to their life and work. The first of this summer’s high profile lectures featured former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, speaking in Ozawa Hall on Saturday afternoon for about 40 minutes, followed by 15 or 20 minutes of questions posed by Ranny Cooper, who was Senator Ted Kennedy’s chief of staff. [continued…]

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WHRB Opened Ears on July 4th

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As was the case with many of its distinctive offerings, WHRB’s first nine-hour July 4th American classical music program came at the initiative of David Elliott, the voice of WHRB for 58 years. The station was broadcasting 24/7 by the year 2000, and he felt that it should recognize the Fourth with selections going beyond the usual warhorses (e.g., Appalachian Spring, Rhapsody in Blue). David attended scrupulously to every detail as he would do in his famed post-Met vocal broadcasts. He took time selecting each piece, comparing performances, and ensuring that each work flowed well into the next in order to give listeners a relaxing, enjoyable, and ear-opening nine-hour musical journey through American history.

I had developed an interest in American classical music early on when I first became aware of Aaron Copland while watching him conduct the New York Philharmonic in his own music on a Young People’s Concert telecast over CBS in December, 1969. WHRB was a wonderful place for me to explore this interest in greater depth and one of the highlights of my Harvard years was when David arranged for us to interview Copland during a visit he made to campus in November, 1977. [continued…]

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Something Old, Something New To Fill Hatch Shell

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The late Robert Honeysucker singing “At the River” in 2012.

Every Wednesday night, beginning July 10th, and continuing for seven weeks, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, made up of many of the area’s finest professional musicians, will offer free concerts at the Hatch Memorial Shell on Boston’s Esplanade. All concerts begin at 7 pm; the Season Tune-Up Party on July 10th begins at 6 pm.

In case of rain, most concerts are rescheduled for Thursday (though not all). If it rains on Thursday as well, concerts take place at an alternate venue (in most cases). Check the Boston Landmarks Orchestra website for rain plans, as they vary from week to week.

We use great music to bring together people from diverse backgrounds, and to address issues of vital importance to our community. Community involvement is the starting point in our planning process, not an added element. We offer concerts in a spirit of informality and fun. Children dance in front of the stage. A Maestro Zone is available where people of all ages can look at a conductor’s score, wave a baton, and receive a conducting lesson. Best of all—to certain people—we encourage you to bring your dog to any of our concerts. [continued…]

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Before Haydn There Was….

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Dan Stepner (file photo)

This summer’s Aston Magna Festival begins with “The Birth of the String Quartet,” an exploration of the roots of that iconic ensemble, so central to Western music of the last three and a half centuries. Born of ensemble music for winds and gambas that flourished in the early 17th century, the string quartet as we know it had a long gestation period. Multi-movement string quartets like those of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven are a mid-18th-century phenomenon, but they were preceded by a rich literature of single-movement works going back more than a century.  We feature two of those on our program, one each by Dario Castello and Henry Purcell.  Two other works by early 18th-century composers — Caldara and Telemann — are two- and three-movement works respectively. (Telemann’s sole essay for string quartet is a fiddler’s joy!). Next on the program is a three-movement quartet by Franz Xavier Richter, a Czech who composed one of the first sets of six quartets (a standard practice, it seems, that Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven all later indulged in). Richter’s quartets are fresh, vivacious and egalitarian: all four players have regular solo turns.

The second half of our program features early quartets of Haydn and Mozart as well as a late, mature work of Haydn (“The Rider”). Mozart’s K. 156 (he was 16) is alternately elegant and profound. The two quartets by Haydn (Op. 0 [!] and Op. 74) dramatize his remarkable growth over a long, fruitful career. Haydn is often credited with having “invented” the string quartet, and these two works certainly demonstrate how Haydn developed the form so audaciously that it is no wonder that Mozart and Beethoven emulated him and built on his models. But a rich and varied store of pre-Haydn quartets deserve hearing, many republished only recently. [continued…]

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Photoplay To Honor Notre Dame

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Not Peter Krasinski

Organist Peter Krasinki, having been deeply moved by the destruction at the Paris landmark, will be providing a musical underlining for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” one of the most iconic films of the silent era, to encourage offerings for the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral.  The 1923 movie depicts the tortured hunchback Quasimodo in the person of the man of 1,000 faces, Lon Chaney. Misunderstood by nearly everyone but Esmeralda, he saved the holy edifice, crying “Sanctuary.” Directed by Wallace Worsley, and produced by Carl Laemmle, Universal’s “Super Jewel” of 1923, the company’s most successful silent film, grossed $3.5 million.

Peter Krasinski, a leading improvisational accompanist of silent film, will provide a “composition in real time” utilizing the spectacular 1921 Skinner pipe organ (opus 308) at Old South Church in Boston on Wednesday, July 3, 7:30 PM. [continued…]

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RCMF: Variety, Tradition and Pizzazz

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Pianist Stephen Prutsman
to open Festival

Beginning with a festive June 14th opener celebrating the Roaring ’20s in jazz, chamber music, and even an accompanied photoplay, the 38th-Rockport Chamber Music Festival, “Source and Inspiration,” will peel back the layers of the creative process, exploring the many sources that inspired composers and performers, it also promises to serve as a deep well of inspiration for all who attend the festival events. The gorgeous seaside venue will once again be the go-to site for top chamber music from veteran and upcoming performers. Artistic Director Barry Shiffman has inked a season with variety, tradition and pizzazz, as he tells us below.

Source and Inspiration: Is this a marketing label, or will the thematic glue be apparent to audiences who attend one or two events, or does it only emerge over several of the 30 events between June 14th and August 31st?

BS: The theme applies throughout the festival, from our opening night connecting jazz influence with the great French composers, to the splendor of mountains inspiring the film Mountain, dance inspiring “Take this Waltz” program, or A Far Cry performing Lembit Beecher. I don’t think that contemplation of the theme is necessary to enjoying a concert or a number of concerts, but is an interesting guiding light for the curation of the festival. I have been fascinated with the many ways a composer finds and reacts to that source of inspiration. I hope the audience enjoys seeing and hearing these links.

Are there individuals making festival debuts that you would like to highlight? [continued…]

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BSFO Musics Silent Joan of Arc

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Renée Falconetti

Ninety years after Carl Theodor Dreyer’s transcendent tale of power, belief, and martyrdom first came to the screen, it remains remarkably relevant and surprisingly current.

The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra (BSFO) will debut its new score for the definitive version of The Passion of Joan of Arc to accompany the newly available, revelatory 20 frames-per-second version on Thursday, June 6th at the Coolidge Corner Theater. Subsequent performances are inked for Sunday, June 9, 7:00 pm, at The Cabot, Beverly, MA; and on Thursday, June 20, 7:30 pm, at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, as part of the MVFC’s annual FILMUSIC Festival.  .

Berklee’s Scoring Silent Films director Prof. Sheldon Mirowitz tells us more.

The Passion of Joan of Arc is simply a remarkable and astonishingly powerful film, particularly groundbreaking for its extended use of close-up and for the stunning, incredibly intimate performance by Marie Falconetti as Joan. This makes it essential viewing for film aficionados. However, the film that they are familiar with is almost never seen as intended. [continued…]

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Longtime Voice of WHRB Honored

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David Elliott, the voice of Harvard’s radio station WHRB (95.3 FM) for 58 years, is going to be featured in the station’s Spring Orgy Saturday from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m. Precisely during the first four or five hours of this period, David used to oversee the broadcast of live programs from the Metropolitan Opera. After each opera, David treated the listening audience to historic recordings of opera highlights, along with insights on performance. For a while, he ran a contest in which the winner would be the fourth, or sixth, caller—a number he chose at random each week. We also heard his mellifluous, cultured voice on many advertisement and public service announcements.

Besides his many hours as DJ every week, Elliott served as president of the WHRB board of trustees. Aaron Fogelson, a senior at Harvard, is putting on the orgy to honor David, who stepped back from his many roles at WHRB) due to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, familiarly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in October 2018, noted in tributes by both Harvard Magazine  and The Harvard Gazette.

“There is much to be said about David’s 58-year career as an announcer, a mentor for students, and a pillar of Boston’s classical music community,” said Fogelson. “As one listener said, ‘David Elliott was the most important thing to happen to radio since its advent.’ While this may be a bit of hyperbole, it is easy to say he has been the most important thing to happen to Harvard Radio and possibly even, Boston radio generally. David is a great man with an enormous and loyal following that believes he deserves a bevy of public sentiments detailing his legacy.” [continued…]

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CLT Will Reveal Carmen’s Motivations

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Commonwealth Lyric Theater’s artistic and stage director Alexander Prokhorov has taken inspiration from Peter Brook’s La Tragédie de Carmen, which in 1983, condensed the opera to its most dramatic, action-filled moments. Prokhorov’s version, while preserving all great hits, like the lively and quintessentially Bizet quintet and the fun-filled children’s chorus (performed by the Lucky Ten Young Talent Studio), comes in at about two hours. [continued…]

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Lorelei Sirens in Full and Far Cry

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Two groups that do things just a little differently team up for a collaboration that’s going to be, well, just a little bit different. Lorelei Ensemble’s artistic director Beth Willer, and Sarah Darling, A Far Cry’s program curator for Friday’s Jordan Hall show, get to relate the scoop.

What drew your two groups to collaborate with each other, and what do you hope comes out of this musical meeting? 

Beth: I have long admired the work of A Far Cry, its collaborative energy, and ability to bring both standard and forward-thinking repertoire to life. Lorelei and A Far Cry seem like a natural pairing. We are both committed to co-creative work, and contemporary programming which can shed new light on existing repertoire, and both groups love to incorporate new works that push the boundaries of classical music. Of course, we look forward to learning from each other in the rehearsal process and premiering an entire program of repertoire that exceeds either group’s independent possibilities.

Sarah: I’ve been obsessed with Lorelei’s sound and energy for years. I remember everything about my first experiences hearing the group — which, incidentally, I can also say about A Far Cry! My ears perk up whenever I hear a group listening deeply and interacting with the degree of passion that classical music needs and frankly, deserves. Individuals didn’t vanish in Lorelei’s group sound; instead, you heard the full expression of what they could do when they were at their best. So I’ve been dreaming about putting these two groups on a single stage to see what happens for a long time.

What was the process of putting this program together? [continued…]

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Chorus Reaches Half-Century Mark

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Josh Jacobson, conductor

How do we celebrate such a milestone? According to a recent article in Chorus America’s journal, The Voice, “anniversary observances become most meaningful when they reinforce a chorus’s reason for being, when they inspire self-examination, and when they help to lay a foundation for the future.” For Zamir Chorale of Boston’s 50th Anniversary Concert, we will offer choral music from Jewish traditions, not just by Jewish choirs, but by all choirs across America—high school, college, conservatory, community, professional choruses, even church choirs. Most conductors know very little about our repertoire beyond a dreidel song or two. They are unaware of the significant repertoire that Zamir promotes: secular and sacred; Baroque, classical, romantic, modern, contemporary; classic compositions as well as arrangements of folksongs, popular songs, theater songs; music in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, German, English; a cappella and accompanied.

On Tuesday, June 4, at 7:30 pm, at Sanders, the ensemble will showcase some of its best repertoire and premiere commissioned works from Jeremiah Klarman, Ken Lampl, Jonathan Leshnoff, Charles Osborne, Nick Page, and Benjie Ellen Schiller. [continued…]

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Castle of Our Skins Wins George Henschel Award

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How many BMInt readers know anything of the history of one of our sponsors, the Harvard Musical Association? The private charitable organization founded by Harvard College graduates in 1837 maintains a longstanding tradition of commissioning new works, supporting local nonprofit musical organizations, and giving prizes and awards to young performers.

The Association announced one such award last week, a grant of $5,000 to Castle of Our Skins for a concert honoring the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffragist movement and celebrating the power of women’s voices. According to COOS president Ashleigh Gordon, “Fiber art and spoken word poetry showcases will be woven into the concert experience. Black women poets, quilters, musicians, and composers will all be elevated and celebrated.” Click HERE for the details.

The worthies of the Association encourage organizations dedicated not only to the performance and composition of serious music, especially chamber music, but also to the development of steady, attentive audiences appreciative of this kind of musical experience to apply for the annual Harvard Musical Association’s George Henschel Community Awards HERE.

More on all of HMA’s awards and grants can be found HERE.

[continued…]

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Harvard Sets Sails Friday for A Sea Symphony

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Ralph Vaughan Williams ca 1900

Behold! the sea itself!
And on its limitless, heaving breast, thy ships:
See! where their white sails, bellying in the wind, speckle the green and blue!

Ralph Vaughan Williams, an aspiring English composer, first became aware of the poetry of Walt Whitman in 1892. Whitman, whose bicentennial is being celebrated across America in 2019, became a touchstone for Williams, who carried a pocket volume of Leaves of Grass through the trenches of World War I. Whitman beautiful verses became a touchstone for Vaughan Williams, who helped usher in a new era of British choral music after a century of compositions dominated by German influence. Each man was a powerful disruptor, a breath of fresh air for their respective forms of poetry and choral composition. In short, few pairs of artists are better suited to one another. Vaughan Williams created two choral works from Leaves of Grass, both premiered at the Leeds Festival in 1910: “Toward the Unknown Region and A Sea Symphony.”

Humanist and metaphysical, the sections of Whitman that make up A Sea Symphony describe travel across the ocean as a metaphor for the soul’s journey into the infinite. To capture the majesty of the poetry and “the sea itself,” Vaughan Williams created a massive work, ringing with the mighty sounds of a symphonic chorus and orchestra. Few truly choral symphonies had been attempted before. The seventy-minute, four-movement piece begins with a fast-paced, booming introduction that immediately situates the audience in the power of the waves. It continues at a variety of tempos and dynamics, incorporating semi-choruses and two soloists — a baritone and a soprano — as it plunges into themes of life, death, and shared humanity. [continued…]

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Andrea Kalyn Installed as NEC’s 17th President

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The scene could have transpired predictably—an academic procession with the requisite stoles and speeches from worthies—but Friday’s ceremony, inaugurating the first female president of New England Conservatory, unfolded unconventionally. Wisdom, and optimism as well as self-deprecatory humor won the day for Music.

We heard no stodgy (if wonderful) Academic Festival Overture or Pomp and Circumstance. Instead the interleaved great performances of NEC faculty, students, and alumns gave evidence of the success of this most essential institution. Processional trombone fanfares (undergraduate quartet) from the balcony gave way after Board Chairman Kennett Burnes’s welcome, to three most excellent movements from Handel’s Water Music as interpreted by the subtle but brilliant NEC Faculty Brass Quintet, whose members all play in the BSO.

Then, Mark Volpe greeted us with a very funny and self-deprecatory account of how flunking Music History was a prerequisite for his office as BSO CEO. He told us about an exam in which he was asked to identify examples of 20 Phrygi’n modes. He got none.

NEC stepped up production values for this event, giving us theatrical lighting and even teleprompters. But Denyce Graves (NEC 1988) didn’t need an applied spotlight; she radiated her own. Her two songs with faculty pianist Cameron Stowe wowed us with jaw dropping and heart-rending theatricality and engagement. Her account of Michael Tilson Thomas’s Grace bestowed that quality on us like manna. [continued…]

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Noted by the Conductor

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Boston Philharmonic’s encampment at Symphony Hall on April 26th at 8:00 will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ensemble with an unusual pairing: Ives’s Third with Mahler’s Fifth.

Lying on a table, when Mahler visited a New York publisher early in 1911, was an unpublished score of a symphony by a composer he had never heard of — Charles Ives. After a quick perusal he slipped it into his briefcase with the intention of studying it on his way back to Europe and performing it the following season. However, Mahler did not return to his post as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. What Mahler must have recognized in that brief encounter with the younger American composer’s Third Symphony was a kindred spirit. He saw a composer who used the humble elements of popular culture — hymn tunes, folk songs — in the hallowed context of the European symphonic form, thereby giving renewed energy to both. An innocent Yankee sensibility resonated with his own penchant for using old Austrian folk songs and dances. [continued…]

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WordSong Channels Blake

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In “Tyger Circus,” mezzo-soprano Krista River, baritone Keith Phares and pianist Linda Osborn will offer 18 musical settings of William Blake’s eponymous poem. WordSong, Boston’s singular interactive concert organization, will be marking its 10th anniversary at First Church Boston on Friday, April 26th at 8pm.

We co-founding composers [Howard Frazin and Tom Schnauber] have spent the last 10 years exploring the idea that all listeners have an intuitive musical understanding. The unique concert format presents a collection of new settings of the same poem, usually something well-known to the general public, and performs each piece in tandem with a conversation that has the audience telling musicians and composers what they hear. In the past decade, what audiences heard from us and what we heard from audiences has been the inspiration for more than 70 concerts featuring 12 different programs presented in Boston and throughout New England, as well as in New York, Washington, Minneapolis, and as far away as Vancouver and Bulgaria.

Now we present 18 musical interpretations of the same poem. Is this really a good idea? Well is it a good idea for a trapeze artist to walk a tightrope without a net? It’s certainly not safe, but it’s almost always memorable one way or another. [continued…]

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Theodore Antoniou To Be Celebrated

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The friends and colleagues of the late composer, conductor, educator and ALEA III founder (1979) will memorialize him with performances of his works, a slide show, displays of photos, music scores and other memorabilia. Theodore Antoniou embodied a selfless commitment to promoting the future of music. He contributed in extraordinary and unprecedented ways to the training of thousands of composers and performers worldwide. Gifted, charismatic and always kind, he touched and changed the lives of everyone who had the good fortune to meet and work with him.

On Saturday at 1:00 at  Annunciation Cathedral, 514 Parker Street, His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios will preside over the memorial service. Yehudi Wyner, composer, pianist, professor emeritus Brandeis University; Samuel Headrick, composer, associate professor, Boston University; Apostolos Paraskevas, composer, guitarist, professor, Berklee College of Music will offer eulogies. Then some of Antoniou’s signature works will be heard: Aria from the 1986 film “The Girl from Mani,The Forgotten, suite for guitar (excerpts); Octet for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and string quartet.

The following will be performing: Maria La Vita, soprano, Julie Scolnik, flute; Peggy Pearson, oboe; Diane Heffner, clarinet; Janet Underhill, bassoon; John McDonald, piano; Apostolos Paraskevas, guitar; Aija Reke, violin; Jessica Amidon, violin; Scott Woolweaver, viola; Karen Kaderavek, violoncello; Tiffany Chang, conductor. Reception to follow.

ATHENS – Well-known composer and conductor Theodore Antoniou passed away on December 26th  after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84. [continued…]

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Concert-Meditation To Join Spirituals with Bach

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Bach is the greatest, even in China

Across the ages, the genius of Bach and the authentic mournfulness of the African American spiritual can speak together to the agony and triumph of Jesus. On Sunday, April 14th at 3:00 PM, an unusual free Palm Sunday Meditation-Concert at St. Mary’s Church in Charlestown will interleave deeply affecting songs such as “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” with Bach-Busoni piano meditations on texts such as “Ich ruf zu Dir” (I call to you, Lord Jesus Christ,… lead me from despair.) Bach’s Passion music will also figure at the meditative center of this amalgam. Peter Sykes will take the helm of the restored  1892 Woodberry and Harris tracker organ and Daniel Sauceda will direct soprano, organ and Charlestown Community chorus in the rousing closer, “Regina Coeli” from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.

Born in Chicago, soprano Sirgourney Cook toured internationally with singer-actress Jennifer Hudson for three years. Recently, she was featured as a soloist in Duke Ellington’s “Concerts of Sacred Music.” She continues to use music as an avenue to inspire, educate and advocate for underprivileged youth. Last year she dedicated her songs to the memory of her late teacher Robert Honeysucker, once the most profoundly moving spiritual singer hereabouts. This year she looks forward to a collaboration with the pianist Claudius Tanski.

A student of Alfred Brendel, Tanksi withdrew from the concert stage to embark on a spiritual quest at St. Peters Monastery in Salzburg. His appearance here coincides with his seminar on religious encodings in the Liszt Sonata to be delivered at the New England Conservatory on April 19th at 10:00 AM at Williams Hall. New England Conservatory’s piano department invites the public to join NEC students in exploring the challenges and complexities that pianists face in the world today, through presentations and masterclasses by guest artists and NEC faculty. [continued…]

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It All Started With a T-shirt

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What do Emmanuel Music, Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, and UMass, Amherst have in common? Well, as it turns out, the music of Bach.  So say a couple of participants in the UMass Amherst Bach Festival and Symposium, which begins on April 13th.

In March 2014, Amanda Stenroos, a UMass graduate student in the violin studio of Elizabeth Chang, came to a lesson wearing a t-shirt from the Bach Festival at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory. When she explained to Chang how much the venerable tradition of that festival, the oldest collegiate Bach festival in the nation, meant to her, it piqued Chang’s interest. Could this be a model for an event at UMass? A series of conversations ensued, first with Chang’s colleagues William Hite and Chris Krueger, who have devoted much of their careers to Bach’s music–both have significant and deep ties with Emmanuel Music’s renowned Sunday morning Bach cantata series as well as with Emmanuel’s founder Craig Smith. Later, Tony Thornton, director of choral studies at UMass, and musicology faculty members Ernest May and Erinn Knyt joined the conversation, and the 2015 UMass Bach Festival and Symposium was conceived. The team decided that the biennial event would be a music festival taking place concurrently with a scholarly symposium. This format, which is novel in the collegiate landscape, proved to be very successful. It included a symposium of scholars of international reputation (Richard Taruskin and Christoph Wolff among them) and a remarkable performance of the St. John Passion conducted by Julian Wachner featuring students, faculty, alumni, and guest artists in front of a sold-out audience. [continued…]

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Lyds Past and Present Unite for a Cause

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The late Mary Ruth Ray

First among first violinists of the Lydian String Quartet, Wilma Smith has come from halfway around the world to join with her former colleagues and successors. Born in Suva, Fiji and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, the former concertmaster of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will play her 1761 Guadagnini violin here for one performance only, Sunday, March 31, at 3 p.m. in an ad hoc Lydian Octet paying tribute to the memory of Mary Ruth Ray, the beloved Brandeis faculty member and founding violist of the Lydian String Quartet who died in 2013. [Click HERE for images of the ensemble through the years]. All proceeds from the Slosberg Music Center event will benefit the Mary Ruth Ray Scholarship Fund, which supports Brandeis undergraduate instrumentalists. Adults: $20; Seniors & Brandeis Community: $15; Students: $5, available in advance at brandeis.edu/tickets or (781) 736-3400; or at the door starting one hour prior to the performance.

The concert will open with Bach’s “Fugue” from Sonata No. 3 for Solo Violin, BWV 1005, arranged for nine violas by Mark Berger, featuring guest artists and former students of Ray. Described by music critic Conrad Wilson as “one of the miracles of nineteenth-century music,” Mendelssohn’s beloved masterpiece, String Octet, reunites current Lydian String Quartet members Andrea Segar (violin), Judith Eissenberg (violin), Mark Berger (viola) and Joshua Gordon (cello) with past members Wilma Smith (violin), Daniel Stepner (violin)and Rhonda Rider (cello), plus special guest violist Gillian Ansell of New Zealand. [continued…]

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Home Team’s Next Season Announced

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Telling of his excitement at the prospects of leading 15 concerts and participating in the planning for the entirety of the 139th season [complete listing  HERE], BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons sums up his retrospective and forward-looking fifth term thus:

“The list of composers, soloists, and guest conductors for 2019–20 is so impressive and extensive that I could never acknowledge them all adequately in this short message. We are very happy with the balance we have achieved between presenting many artists in their first appearances with the BSO and honoring some of our most beloved relationships with return appearances.

“An absolute dream come true is the chance to bring my two orchestras together for joint performances as part of the Boston Symphony/Gewandhausorchester Leipzig Alliance. In addition to sharing a deep musical heritage and co-commissioning several new works that speak to the future of our field, next season both orchestras are collaborating on stage for three performances, representing an absolutely unique event in the classical music world.

“I could not be prouder of my beautiful BSO and the talented engineering team who have received four Grammys in the last four years since the start of our Shostakovich cycle on the Deutsche Grammophon label. We’re thrilled to continue that cycle in the coming season with Symphonies Nos. 2 and 12. For another season highlight, we are especially fortunate to have Jonas Kaufmann with us again, and Emily Magee in her BSO debut, for concert performances of Act III from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.” [continued…]

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H+H To Turbocharge Deities with Bliss

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Detail of Dido (Nathaniel Dace-Holland)

Handel and Haydn artistic director Harry Christophers will bring Henry Purcell’s deeply moving Dido and Aeneas to Jordan Hall on Friday March 29th at 7:30pm and Sunday March 31st at 3pm, and to the Metropolitan Museum of New York’s Temple of Dendur on Saturday March 30th.

Thanks a $45,000 NEA grant, H+H could expand this concert beyond its typical production values, allowing them to bring in Aidan Lang as director of the staging enhancements, to secure a cast of unsurpassed talent, and to bring the event to the Metropolitan Museum. “We are deeply appreciative of the turbocharge that the NEA grant gave to our production,” said H+H president and CEO David Snead.

Purcell’s only true opera and one of the earliest-known English ones, Dido and Aeneas recounts the love of the Queen of Carthage for the Trojan hero and her despair when he abandons her. Lang, who currently is general director of the Seattle Opera and future leader of the Welsh National Opera, will direct “concert staging.” Lang and Christophers have worked together over many years, with Christophers particularly recalling “an amazing Monteverdi Ulisse in the Teatro San Carlos in Lisbon, Handel’s Hercules in Buxton and numerous ‘enhanced concert experiences’ of Handel oratorio for the Covent Garden Festival in London.”

Award-winning mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley and acclaimed baritone David McFerrin will take the title roles. Gramophone Award-winning bass-baritone Matthew Brook will appear as the Sorceress/Sailor, countertenor Reginald Mobley as the Spirit, soprano Sarah Yanovitch as Belinda, soprano Sonja DuToit Tengblad as the Second Woman, soprano Margot Rood as the First Witch, and soprano Sarah Brailey as the Second Witch. [continued…]

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