Locke’s List for 2023: Notable Operatic Recordings Plus

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This past year has seen an outpouring of fascinating and important recordings of operatic and other vocal works. I have been fortunate to receive copies of many of them for review in this and several other venues (notably in American Record Guide and at the Boston-based arts magazine The Arts Fuse). I’m happy, once again, to be presenting here at the Boston Musical Intelligencer my personal selection of some of the most notable and engaging of the lot.

Baroque era: I was delighted to get to know John Frederick Lampe’s The Dragon of Wantley (1737), in a highly accomplished and spirited recording. The work feels a bit like a successor to The Beggar’s Opera, not least in its pointed satire of social norms. (The work was just performed by the Boston Early Music Festival, though with a different cast and orchestra; the Boston Globe called the result “spellbinding.” Virtual tickets to watch the videorecording are available through December 23, 2023.)

A recording of a serious English opera of the period, Matthew Locke’s Psyche, was musically marvelous but utterly undone for me by the mispronunciations of the libretto by the all-Francophone cast. No such problems occurred with Jean-Marie Leclair’s Scylla et Glaucus, gorgeously performed and exquisitely pronounced. The work has the further advantage of reminding us that Leclair, though long known primarily for his violin works, was a fine all-around composer. Much the same can be said of Marin Marais’s Ariane et Bacchus, since that composer, too, is normally known for his instrumental music (and/or as the character played by Gérard Depardieu in the beloved film Tous les matins du monde). [continued]

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Schumann Got It Right the First Time

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I wrote earlier in these pages about Schumann’s Fourth Symphony, which before it was revised had a successful but heavily criticized premiere. The original version has now been recorded and published, and can be appraised alongside the revised version, which has been performed exclusively for 182 years. I now move on to extend my remarks after Jeremy Denk’s fine recital on December 9th.

Critical opinion has never weighed in very much about the various revisions to Schumann’s major compositions for piano, and this is as regrettable as it is incomprehensible. I think especially of the Davidsbündlertänze,, op. 6; Symphonic Etudes in the form of Variations, op. 13; Kreisleriana, op. 16; and most recently the three-movement-long Phantasie, op. 17. All of these have been available in many publications for a hundred years or more. On my own shelves are the Kalmus reprint of the Breitkopf edition in seven volumes of Schumann’s “Complete Works for solo piano…edited according to manuscripts and from her personal recollections by Clara Schumann,” a “second edition,” which has become standard for more than a century and includes the texts of the first editions of Schumann’s lifetime in ossias and smaller type. The Symphonic Etudes on my mother’s piano were a Schirmer edition by Max Vogrich; five extra variations, excluded by Schumann from the initial edition but published separately after his death, were added in this printing as an Appendix. [continued]

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The Last Transcendentalist

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Bill Faucett’s delightful, sober, and beautifully researched “John Sullivan Dwight: The Life and Writings of Boston’s Musical Transcendentalist” has the merit of a good portrait. The subject comes vividly to life through careful contextualization but is not reduced to context or explained by context. The more we gaze, the more we are struck by the sitter’s personal idiosyncrasy and free agency. Take, for example, the portrait of the composer Christoph Willibald Gluck by Duplessis, painted in Paris in 1775, a copy of which hung in Dwight’s living room in the late years of his life. Gluck is firmly located in time and space by his clothes and harpsichord, but he gazes freely upward to heaven in a moment of timeless inspiration. Gluck’s soul seems to transcend circumstances, irreducibly personal and noumenal. Faucett does something analogous with John Sullivan Dwight. He provides abundant details that anchor Dwight solidly in his generation and in XIXth -century Boston, but he emphasizes the transcendent spirit that inspired him to act and the moral sense that guided him.

Like Duplessis with Gluck, Faucett coaxes Dwight to reveal himself. Consequently, we have a rich, full-bodied human story that grabs our attention without dulling our interest. Dwight’s very real importance as a key player in shaping the culture of classical music in Boston for a brief but decisive time frames Faucett’s narrative, but never overshadows the deeper story of a fellow human being grappling with life and death, beauty and meaning, passion and finitude. Mon semblable, mon frère – not in turpitude and guilt, as Baudelaire meant it, where we find a sort of perverse safety, but in spiritual yearning and idealism, where we are vertiginously exposed, vulnerable. “I simply preached the faith that was in me” Dwight declared. Faucett paints Dwight for us as uniquely combining self-drive and modesty — driven equally by his uncompromising love of music and distaste for all that dazzles without enlightening. The fact that so few of us know his name and must discover his ideas from scratch is subtly part and parcel of who he was. [continued]

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David Del Tredici, 1937-2023

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A uniquely gifted American composer, David Del Tredici left us some remarkably rich music. “An experimentalist who leaned into New Romanticism,” an NY Times sidebar reads, referring to the frank and unabashed tonal lyricism of several of his works inspired by Lewis Carroll. He was the first West Coast composer I ever knew in person, a California native who had started out as a concert pianist. [continued]

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Saxophone Highlights Next BSO Concerts

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Adolphus Sax

In the usually very popular post-thanksgiving subscriptions concerts (Friday afternoon and Saturday night), an instrument more associated with big bands takes pride of place on the Symphony Hall stage as BSO Assistant Conductor Earl Lee leads the sultry, atmospheric 1949 Saxophone Concerto by French composer Henri Tomasi; as soloist Steven Banks makes his BSO debut. The show opens with a very French symphonic poem, César Franck’s Le Chasseur maudit — “The Cursed Hunter” —based on a ballad about a man who commits the grave sin of hunting on the Sabbath and is doomed to be chased eternally by demons. The closer, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, opens with the famous “fate” motif, before composer’s great gift for beautiful melody sweetens it. Tickets HERE. Our brief discussion with Earl Lee follows.

FLE: Franck’s Le Chasseur maudit (Accursed Huntsman) surprisingly isn’t actually a BSO rarity. Starting with Gericke in 1901, it was done every ten years or so up through Monteux in 1920. Since then it’s been revived every 20-30 years or so. What accounts for its minor durability among the Franck symphonic poems? [continued]

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In Memory: John Heiss

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Words cannot do justice to the long-time NEC composer-flautist-teacher-conductor-theorist-historian who died last July. The breadth of his experience and career far outweighs what I can put into words, even as someone who had the luxury of being so closely involved in his orbit. It is fitting, then, that New England Conservatory will be hosting a memorial concert for him on October 23rd, 2023, what would have been his 85th birthday, at 4 PM in Jordan Hall. Among the speeches, many of his works will be performed, including the poignant Serenade for flute and harp that he composed after the death of his beloved wife Arlene and several songs from his cycle Five Songs from James Joyce for mezzo-soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano (of which I will be conducting). His other composer interests, Ives, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky will be well-represented, too, along with other pieces of note that Mr. Heiss commented on at length at different times. This event promises to be NEC’s proper moving tribute to one of the most important and highly regarded professors to have ever graced the hall of Jordan Hall building. I am forever grateful, John Heiss. Know that, wherever you are. [continued]

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Will You Be There?

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Early American music has been a part of The Boston Camerata’s repertoire since the beginning of its recording history. It is with a vivid interest and joy that we have, over the years, included our own North American musical heritage in our concerts and recordings. A recent Harmonia Mundi recording, Free America! Songs of Resistance and Rebellion, appeared in 2019. We’ll Be There, their newest Americana program, featuring Black- and White- American spirituals from 1800-1900, comes to Trinity Church in Copley Square on October 21st at 5:00 and to the Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury on October 22nd at 4:00. Information and tickets HERE.

We’ll Be There moves chronologically and focuses most intensely on the African American presence in the repertoire. The rewards of such work are great, but the challenges are mighty. Because of terrible social inequities and injustices, early written musical sources of Black songs, prior to the choir arrangements of the late 19th century, are far too few. Thus the few precious written songbooks, as well as the collaborative memory and ongoing oral tradition of the Black community provided sources of some of the deepest regenerative forces in American musical life.  A program essay follows. [continued]

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Since 1815 Handel Has Delivered for H+H

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Jonathan Cohen launches his first season as Handel and Haydn Artistic Director with Handel’s epic Israel in Egypt at Symphony Hall on October 6th and 8th Tickets HERE. We asked Cohen some questions such as “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

JC: The opening night of the season is a very special one for me as it is my first concert in my new capacity as Artistic Director of H+H. I chose this wonderful piece for several reasons; first the music is extraordinary, monumental Handel with double chorus and a colourful orchestral tapestry; second, we get to showcase our extraordinary home talent and can celebrate the wonderful strengths of the musicians and singers of H+H; third, Israel in Egypt (and Messiah) was highly likely heard in London by Haydn and served (in my opinion) as Haydn’s inspiration for his choral compositions, especially The Creation. Israel in Egypt is therefore a symbolic piece in the connection between Handel and Haydn. [continued]

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Gravity Waves and Curveballs: Sherman Remembered

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Gravity abhors straight lines
Gravity abhors straight lines

We reprint our well-remembered 2016 feature and interview with Russell Sherman. He died last night at 93.

Russell Sherman’s eagerly awaited annual faculty recital on April 3rd at Jordan Hall will feature works long connected with him: Schoenberg’s Three Pieces for Piano, Op. 11, Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano  No. 21 in C Major, Op. 53 “Waldstein”, Debussy’s Préludes, Book 2, and  Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes (12) for Piano, S 139, No. 2 in A Minor: Molto vivace, No. 9 in A-flat Major “Ricordanza”, No. 10 in F Minor: Allegro agitato molto. He tells us he plays them differently each time. He can also imitate other famous pianists. He has lots to say in a free-form interview which follows the break. Youngish concertgoers and musicians who are not yet old will find it very difficult to imagine either the sea change that took place in the classical music environment in mid-1960s Boston, or the elevation of informed discourses thereon. The reason was the arrivals of accomplished musicologist Michael Steinberg at the Globe, then the working hornist, educator, and composer Gunther Schuller, who, as NEC president, engaged the serious piano prodigy (and Edward Steuermann student) Russell Sherman. Along with Brendel, Rosen, Kovacevich and a few others, Sherman opened our ears, hearts, and minds to fresh hearings of familiar classics, as well as to much new music. Soon after Sherman arrived, Steinberg wrote of his performance of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5: [continued]

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Russell Sherman: 1930 – 2023

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Russell Sherman died last night at 93. He was the piano guru of the Boston area for over 55 years, having arrived during that revolutionary decade which saw the comings of Gunther Schuller, Michael Steinberg, Victor Rosenbaum, Thomas Dunn, and others. Sherman’s playing at the time — he had been a prodigy long before, and had read literary criticism as a Columbia student age 15 — was grounded in strong, fearless, colorful technique and interpretation alike, his rangy imagination informed by great score fealty. Please also read our reprint of a fascinating interview with Russell Sherman from 2016 HERE.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Sherman became labeled a thinking man’s pianist, although never showing the sometime gray fussiness of Alfred Brendel or the sometime colorless drabness of Charles Rosen, his similar contemporaries. (I once arranged for the latter and Sherman to have dinner, after which Rosen opined, typically, “He is an extremely interesting pianist and musician not of the top tier.” To which Michael Steinberg retorted, “Ha, exactly as is Charles. Well, to have been a fly on that wall.”) [continued]

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Monkey, A Kung Fu Puppet Parable Previewed

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“The family friendly transmedia opera combining Bunraku puppetry, computer generated images, and live opera. MONKEY is based on the Chinese quest saga, “Journey to the West,” rewritten to reflect contemporary issues from the multicultural mosaic of American life. Besides the two fundamental operatic elements of text and music, the three main characters — Monkey, Pig (Zhu), and Sandwoman (Sha) — are life sized Bunraku puppets. MONKEY delves into the world of computer generated technology through the use of CGI environs and avatars. Live singers on stage will be the voices of the puppets and avatars.” Continues tonight and tomorrow afternoon at the Emerson Paramount Center. Kathy Wittman’s rehearsal pictures appear below the break.  Tickets HERE. Our review is HERE. [continued]

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Just Arrived on the Shelves

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“Robert Craft: The Complete Columbia Album Collection,” a handsomely produced set of 44 CDs issued by Sony Classical, includes a 123-page accompanying booklet beginning with my six-page essay, “A Tireless Worker for the Music of Our Time,” along with photographs and a comprehensive listing of performers and recording data. You can get the whole thing HERE for $5.45 per disc.

Much of this set brings back to an eager audience a recorded legacy of historic importance. It reissues on remastered CDs what many of us have still treasured in our collections of vinyl LPs for many decades, beginning with the pathbreaking four-LP set of the complete works of Anton Webern, opp. 1-31. Many of these pieces were known for years, but previously unrecorded, and in some cases unpublished in score. The legend is that all of Webern’s works for orchestra, from the Passacaglia, op. 1, through the Six Pieces, op. 6, to the final Cantatas opp. 29 and 31, were recorded in just two hours of leftover time from Stravinsky recording sessions. Webern’s many songs (opp. 3, 4, 8, 12-19, 23, and 25) were divvied up by sopranos Grace-Lynne Martin and Marni Nixon* (suppressed as and later famous as the singing voices of Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood, Jeanne Crain and Marilyn Monroe), whose pitch accuracy Craft once described as “better than violin.” Another essential part of the Webern legend is that Craft’s four-LP set was the best-selling multiple-disc classical album ever, though it hardly seemed credible even in the early 1960s, when I heard the story from Milton Babbitt. [continued]

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Business Mentality in the Arts? Unkind Cuts?

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From many sources we learn that Brandeis University proposes to place its PhD programs in composition and musicology on hiatus “until financial conditions improve,” according to Assistant Professor Emily Frey Giansiracusa’s account in Slipped Disc of Provost Carol Fierke’s pronouncement. Current candidates will be able to complete their work, and no faculty will be let go. Will the University’s bottom line take the slightest notice of this? Will the Lydian Quartet be shrunk to a trio? Is this what the President Liebowitz called “a lean into science”? Will science studies actually benefit? Our correspondents think not. Is this the beginning of an assault on the Arts?

The directors of beloved institutions don’t always make the best decisions. Community hue and cry did not save Boston’s magnificent Opera House from Northeastern University’s wrecking ball, though powerful artistic opinion-makers managed to reverse Emerson College’s intention to morph Clarence Blackall’s stunning and historic Colonial Theater into a college dining hall. In 2009, when Brandeis University president Jehuda Reinharz promulgated plans to close the school’s Rose Museum of Arts and plunder its collection, it took a successful lawsuit to prevent that philistinism. One has to wonder why the arts are the first to be cut and the last to be restored these days. It was not so at the formation of Brandeis. The founders would be very displeased by the announced plans to demolish the Musicology and Composition PhD programs there. Perhaps this is not an impending catastrophe on the level of the aforementioned episodes; the number of injured individuals is small, and at least 50 universities offer similar programs, nevertheless, this proposal indicates diminishing valuation for the liberal arts, and bureaucratic management of cultural institutions. Many aggrieved parties have weighed in; BMInt has not received an official response from the office of provost Carol Fierke or the office of the president. [continued]

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Machover’s VALIS This Way Comes

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Tod Machover’s first opera, VALIS, garnered rave reviews at its 1987 Paris Premiere. The CD — still available on Bridge Records — earned a  “Best of the Year” from The New York Times. Thirty years later, a brand-new Jay Scheib production, starring Davóne Tines and Anaïs Reno, debuts at the MIT Theater Arts Performance Space (345 Vassar Street, Cambridge) on September 8th and 9th at 7:30 pm and on the 10th, at 3:00 pm. MIT Theater Arts Performance Space, 345 Vassar Street,  Free tickets are  HERE. For more on the production click HERE.

“Based on the novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick, VALIS is perhaps even more relevant today—in a world coming to grips with “deep fakes” and the rapid development of AI technology—than when it was first presented. It tells the story of Horselover Fat—the author’s alter ego—who has a devastating-yet-enlightening “pink light” experience. Fat explores the blurred boundaries between reality and AI technology and considers the possibility of hope in a world where all knowledge is available but little of it is verifiable.” The soprano from 1987, our own Anne Azéma, joined me in interviewing Tod Machover.

Lee Eiseman: Tod, did you write the part of Sophia for our Anne Azéma? [continued]

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BPYO Toured to South Africa? Tell us More

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The impressive and impressionable players of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (BPYO) became enraptured by the South African people and their country over an extraordinary six-concert tour in mid June; South Africans responded in kind to these remarkable young musicians. Pretoria, Cape Town, and Makhanda witnessed Beethoven 5th and Ein Heldenleben; Mahler’s Second Symphony came to Johannesburg, Soweto, and Cape Town, where BPYO shared the stage with Gauteng Choristers, directed by Sidwell Mhlongo; soprano Andiswa Makana, and mezzo-soprano Bongiwe Nakani Mcetywa—South African musicians singing Mahler for the first time. The SA Daily Maverick recounted:

On his first trip to South Africa years ago, Zander fell in love with the country, the people and the way everybody seemed absorbed and fascinated by South Africa. “Every conversation, it seemed, was about the country, its future, its problems and the solutions.” Zander met Nelson Mandela on that trip. He said to him: “It is a great honour to meet you, for you are the first leader of Symphonia.” “Oh?” said Mandela. “What is that?” Zander explained: “Sym-phonia: Sounding together. You didn’t lead one party against another. You listened to all the voices and conducted the whole ‘orchestra’.”

Madiba beamed from ear to ear. “I like that.”

On that occasion  Zander promised Mandela that one day he would bring his youth orchestra to South Africa. He wanted them to experience the country and mould their lives around Mandela’s vision.

Twenty-five years later it happened. [continued]

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Music Remembers Wartime Trauma

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Yet it is not only we who remember music. Music also remembers us.

For myriad reasons, Jeremy Eichler’s Time’s Echo: The Second World War, the Holocaust, and The Music of Remembrance makes for an unusually important and continuously compelling read. His dual passions as music critic and cultural historian fuse to offer extraordinary ways of reconsidering and hearing four of the 20th century’s most significant musical works: Eichler places these works Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen, Arnold Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar), and Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem and their composers within a richly detailed historical and cultural context. “Witness to history and a carrier of memory … they stood at four different windows overlooking the same catastrophe. Each responded to the rupture through intensely charged memorials in sound.”

Even those who feel conversant with the biographies of these composers will learn much from the extravagance of historical detail surrounding their lives and music, their friends, their countries, their times and their religious and political choices. A huge swath of European, Russian, and American luminaries made indelible appearances and alliances. Little seems to end well for most of these walk-ons—particularly writers and librettists—who paid a huge price for describing the “murderous contradictions” of their worlds. [continued]

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Landmark Journeys: Dances from Beethoven to Gottschalk

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Christopher Wilkins (file photo)

BMInt shares with pleasure Landmarks Orchestra’s “podium note” from Artistic Director Christopher Wilkins for the Dance Night beginning on Wednesday night at 7:00 in the Hatch Shell.

On any given night, you’re likely to see young dancers at Landmarks concerts moving to the music. They’ll dance wherever the spirit moves them: on the lawn, along the walkways, or in front of the stage. Their motion becomes more directed when they enter the Maestro Zone, where tonight they will receive conducting lessons from Sheila del Bosque, multi-award-wining flutist, composer, and conductor. Originally from Cuba, she recently graduated from the Berklee College of Music, with a dual degree in Performance and Film Scoring, and a minor in Orchestral Conducting.

Dance Night has become an annual Landmarks tradition. It amplifies the natural move-to-the-music inclinations of our audience. But it also provides an opportunity to showcase the depth of talent that runs through Boston’s diverse cultural communities. In recent seasons, dance collaborations have represented traditions from Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela, West Africa, Ireland, Armenia, Syria, and Korea.

Hector Berlioz stitched his Roman Carnival Overture together using two themes composed in 1837 for Benvenuto Cellini. In his Mémoirs, he wrote about the disastrous premiere of that opera: “I had been greatly struck by certain episodes in the life of Benvenuto Cellini. I had the misfortune to believe they would make an interesting and dramatic subject for an opera.” The overture’s opening flourish contains the seeds of the work’s second main theme, which arrives later with the carnival music. The first theme—introduced by the English horn—comes from a love duet between the opera’s artist-protagonist Benvenuto Cellini and the woman he loves, Teresa. Violas repeat the tune, then the full orchestra, with invigorating accompaniment in the trumpets and percussion. A sweetly sung cadence in the strings runs into a swirling gust, stirred up by woodwinds and percussion. Suddenly, we’re swept off our feet and into an Italian street scene—already in progress—amid the exuberant chaos of a Roman carnival. [continued]

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Hearing Atonality, or Not Quite

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Most of the music we know is full of tonality, which we experience and understand without being fully capable of defining in words what “tonality” is — what we mean by it. We can even usually find the tonic, by listening and looking at the score, though from time to time perhaps we aren’t certain about what it is or where it is. And we also recognize that there are times when the tonality is temporarily suspended, as in all those passages with multiple successions of diminished-seventh chords in Chopin, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky (not to forget Bach and Mozart), or those rapid modulations with each new tonic coming from the dominant of the previous key (same composers just mentioned, among others) — in one door and out another, so to speak.

Come to the end of the 19th century, and with the chromatic Germans and the modal French, and our perception of “tonality” is stretched to wider-than-ever limits. There’s that wonderfully crazy passage in Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel (1895), where the wildest murky assortment of chords goes on for several bars, with no possibility of finding a tonic, before being wrenched into a climactic D major six-four (you know where I mean, just before the death-roll snare drums). And there’s Debussy’s Nuages (1899), in which the tonic triad is B diminished (B> D> F>), and at the very end the palpable tonic is represented by just a single pitch. But we unmistakably recognize these well-unified works as tonal music, i.e., full of tonality, whatever else there may be in the equation. [continued]

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Paganini Laureate Returns to NEC

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by Annie Kim

Violinist Inmo Yang will return to NEC Williams Hall where he appeared a year ago in a recital celebrated on these pages with much enthusiasm. “Yang made the [music] come alive by varying the colors on his soulful Guadagnini, he also demonstrated remarkable expressiveness and control of his bow made by Boston-area McArthur Genius Grant winner Benoit Roland. [He] left us with a stage picture of handsomely distilled and gorgeous inflected romance.” Information on the August 6th at 3:00pm sonata recital with pianist Yun Janice Lu, tickets and details can be found at the Korean Cultural Society of Boston.

Proceeding in reverse chronological order of composition, the recital begins with two sonatas written within the contexts of World War I. The Debussy Violin Sonata, though but 13-minutes in length, foregrounds Debussy’s signature use of wide-ranging timbres and harmonic colors combined with his motive-driven, fragmented, late compositional style. The violin sonata was part of what Debussy envisioned to be a set of six sonatas, but this remains the third and final work of the unfinished cycle. [continued]

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A Full, Round Tone: Schubert’s Trombones

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The trombone (Italian, “big trumpet”) is well known as a band instrument (e.g., 76 of them in The Music Man) or part of a jazz combo (Jack Teagarden and friends), and, since Wagner, as a regular member of the symphony orchestra, normally in groups of three. Before Wagner trombones were only occasionally used in symphonies, appearing suddenly and spectacularly (alto, tenor and bass) in the finale of Beethoven’s Fifth. Prior to that splendid moment, trombones were used as choral doublers (including in several Bach cantatas and regularly in contrapuntal sections of the Viennese classical Mass), or less often, as a coloristic group in opera — think of the graveyard scene in Don Giovanni or even all the way back to Monteverdi’s Orfeo, when the trombones were sackbuts. Beethoven, apart from one or two instances, seems to have been reluctant to use the trombone as a solo instrument, or in a non-doubling choir of three; by the time of the Fifth Symphony (1808), he was already quite deaf, and may have only guessed at the trombone’s coloristic utility, although one day in 1812 he did write three Equale for a quartet of trombones (WoO 30). [continued]

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Worthy Summer Series Takes Off

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The Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts will soon be mounting another exuberant summer concert series. From August 10th to August 26th, 27 distinguished violinists, violists, cellists, pianists, and various chamber configurations across at last a couple of generations will excite the intimate Williams Hall at a time when little else is going on musically in the City. Also, Channing Yu’s Mercury Orchestra will showcase the winner of the related 2023 Fou Ts’ong International Concerto Competition at the orchestra’s Jordan Hall Concert on August 26th. The calendar can be found HERE. Founding President Catherine Chan is “so proud of all the artists presented” and wishes “these magnificent artists to be heard more on the world stage.”

Since 1989, the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts has been promoting Asian musicians and the Eastern musical heritage through performing arts and has presented over 151 concerts in Boston’s Symphony Hall, Jordan Hall, Harvard’s Sanders Theater, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Calderwood Hall, and New York’s Carnegie Hall featuring renowned Asian musicians like Yo-Yo Ma, Fou Ts’ong, Tan Dun, Hung-Kuan Chen, Bion Tsang, Nai-Yuan Hu, Dang Thai-Son, The Shanghai Quartet, Ning An, and Haochen Zhang… to critical acclaim. For 28 years, the FCPA had also hosted its Annual Music Festival at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, attracting students from all over the world and had included students like Lang Lang, George Li, Yeol Eun Son, Eric Lu and Kate Liu. The summer series at NEC also welcomes artists from the west. [continued]

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Erin Morley’s Master Class

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Witnessing a master class, in which a distinguished musical artist works closely with several advanced young musicians, giving them suggestions for improvement and ripening insights into the work at hand, is almost always a satisfying experience in several ways. For one thing, of course, it gives an audience an early look at the quality of musicians who are close to entering the ranks of professional singing or playing, allowing us to take note of performers we want to watch out for in the future. But another interesting element of master classes is the opportunity to get a close look at the teacher, someone who has already reached a high point in the musical world, gaining the opportunity to learn from his or her approach to the younger artist a precise look at just what the teacher-coach considers most significant in the art.

On Wednesday, July 12th, the coloratura soprano Erin Morley offered just such an experience to five singers who are attending the Tanglewood Music Center’s vocal program this summer. Though she is a world-famous coloratura, Morley did not limit the class to singers who would offer arias she herself might sing. Rather she worked with five singers in varied vocal ranges, singing arias that she would never undertake herself. She spent roughly a half hour with each one, taking a range of different approaches. She clearly had the measure of each aria and the operatic scene in which it occurred. [continued]

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Jane Eaglen: Miss Isolde Talks Shop

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“Miss Isolde,” thus the legendary Sir Reginald Goodall addressed the young Jane Eaglen 37 years ago at the first rehearsal of the “Liebestod” from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde for one of the very last concerts he would conduct. During our recent lunch, “Miss Isolde” (Eaglen) said that Sir Reginald never called singers by their proper names, instead using the names of the characters they were studying, rehearsing or performing.

“That is way too loud. Look at the score; there are only two ff’s, Wagner never asks for more than that.” Eaglen still has vivid memories of that rehearsal and that concert ― among other things Prince Charles and Princess Diana were in the audience and she got to meet them. The ovations were tremendous and Sir Reginald was reluctant to reappear. “No Miss Isolde,” he said, “it’s all for you.”

It was a decade before Eaglen was ready to sing her first complete performance of Tristan, but she was mindful of Goodall’s advice then and in the subsequent years when she was one of the world’s major Wagner singers. One of the remarkable things about her during her prime years was that she always sang within her voice, unlike others who were pushing far beyond their instruments. Now that she is training young singers, she is bringing her extensive knowledge of Wagner to new generations. [continued]

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Who’s on Second at Boston Baroque?

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In anticipation of its 50th season, Boston Baroque has announced the appointment of Filippo Ciabatti as the ensemble’s first assistant conductor. The Director of Orchestral and Choral Programs at the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College as well as the Artistic Director of the Upper Valley Baroque Ensemble, Ciabatti won the 2020 American Prize in Conducting (college/university division). He trained in Italy and at the University of Illinois Urbana / Champaign, and he has also conducted opera companies and orchestras in South America and Europe. BMInt’s interviewer Mark Dirksen Zoomed with Ciabatti and Boston Baroques’ leader Martin Pearlman about what’s ahead for Boston Baroque.  

MD: Filippo, I know you’ve been on the East Coast for several years now directing the orchestra and choirs at the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College, but it will be great to have you in Boston on a regular basis. Tell us a bit about your upbringing in Florence and training in Italy.

FC: I was born in Florence where I actually am in this moment. I began my career studying piano when I was young and then began to conduct choirs as well. Most importantly, I always loved playing for singers and also found it was a fabulous experience as a conductor for what you learn about listening and about being flexible.

The music scene in Florence was very vibrant. The Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini had a wonderful early music program led by Alfonso Fedi, an organist and harpsichordist who was a student of Gustave Leonhardt and I had a chance to observe and study there. My own teacher Fabio Lombardo has an early music ensemble in Florence called L’Homme Armé and that was one of my first experiences as well.

Great name!

Yes, exactly. Then there was an opportunity for me to move to the United States to further my studies and that brought me then to the University of Illinois where continued my studies in conducting and from there started my American life and career.

Indeed. Martin, how did you how did you get connected with Filippo? Where did you hear about him? [continued]

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Kelley Tells a Tale

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The Aston Magna Music Festival celebrates its 50th season this summer, running every weekend from June 22nd  to July 22nd. Opening night will be at Slosberg Music Center at Brandeis University. Our earlier feature with a Dan Stepner interview is HERE. Tickets can be found HERE.

The festival’s opening weekend revives last year’s well-received program, The Devil’s in the Tales, pairing Scarlatti’s Humanità e Lucifero with Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat. The Intelligencer recently spoke to renowned tenor Frank Kelley, who both stage directs and plays the narrator in L’Histoire du soldat and plays the devil in Humanità e Lucifero.

MW: How similar will this year’s production be to last year’s?

FK: It’s a remount of last year’s production! We would love for more people to have a chance to see it. It is an appropriately minimalist production, which I feel is in the spirit of how Stravinsky and Ramuz wanted it to be. I was looking recently at some historic pictures of the first performance, and uncannily, the stage is set up exactly the way that I had the stage set up in the production! Yes—it’s exactly how I saw it.

In addition to stage directing, you also play the narrator in L’Histoire du soldat. What’s it been like being your own director and reprising the role? [continued]

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