Camerata Seasonal Renaissance Music: Legendary & Hot

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The Green Mountain Man

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

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

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

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

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

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Marvin’s Ninth Inning

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

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

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

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

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MIT Announces Major Gift for Music Facility

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Will Frank Gehry be invited back?

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

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

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

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Larry Phillips Remembered

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

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

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War and Dance in Brass

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Patrick Valentiino (file photo)

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

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

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Tanglewood Season Only 7+ Months Away!

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

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

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

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BoC-Berk Band Hits Silkroad for Werden Brüder

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Sandeep Das to play tabla

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

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

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

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Yes, Yes, Nonet

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Louise Farrenc by Luigi Rubio (1835)

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

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

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

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Ardent for Du Bois

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W E B Du Bois

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

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

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

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

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A Gounod Journey Through Sensual Melody

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Charles Gounod

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

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

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

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Great and Imperial Classicists Cleaned

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Robert Levin

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

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

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

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

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Cantatas of Love and War from the Sun King’s Fadeout

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Zachary Wilder, tenor

As is their wont, Les Bostonades tunes to its French Baroque channel on Friday at Gordon Chapel of Old South Church. Two cantata modern premieres are up: Gervais’s Telemaque and Renier’s L’Indifference Puni (US premiere). Zachary Wilder, onetime Boston-based tenor who has gone on to make a name for himself across Europe and more recently in Japan, returns for this performance. (Audiences will recognize Wilder from numerous Boston Early Music Festival productions.)

BMInt wanted to get the scoop and enlisted Bostonades violinist Sarah Darling to both interview and join in with Wilder.

SD: Les Bostonades has a long tradition of promoting French Baroque music in Boston. What’s the je ne sais quoi about this rep?

ZW: French Baroque music’s appeal really comes from its intense link to language, dance, and harmony, which were highly valued by these composers at the time. Even the instrumental music, with its swung rhythms, takes on the lilt of the French language. The resulting music is full of surprising jazzy harmonies and an irresistible groove. At least that’s why I love it. We spent a lot of time looking through repertoire in the archives at the Bibliothèque National de France. At the end of the day we were really looking for repertoire that is excellent and musically compelling; otherwise it’s uninteresting to bother digging it out just for the sake of a modern premiere. When we came upon the Renier and the Gervais cantatas, we were immediately struck by the skillful and exciting compositional styles. [continued…]

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Reviving a Searing Attack on Opera Seria

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Detail from Duplessis portrait of Gluck

Christoph Willibald Gluck’s name appears more frequently in musical textbooks than in concert programs today; though performances of his better-known works (Orfeo, both Iphigénies, and Alceste) do visit contemporary stages periodically, they are by no means standards of the operatic stage. Therefore, his opera Alceste, will be arriving as something of a novelty, when Edward Elwyn Jones leads the Harvard University Choir, Gran Harmonie, and local soloists Hailey Fuqua, Jonas Budris, and Sumner Thompson in a free concert version at Memorial Church on October 20th  at 7:30.  According to Jones:

Throughout his oeuvre, Gluck aimed for melody that is “noble, expressive, and natural, and declaimed exactly according to the prosody of the language.” The composer’s direct, immediate vocal style propels his dramas vividly, bringing tireless human emotions to life on the stage.

 Alceste’s notable arias are simple and direct: the regal “O Dieux! Du destin;” the authoritative “Divinités du Styx;” the exquisite “Ah, divinités implacables;” and the heartbreakingly poignant “Vis pour garder le souvenir.” But it is surely in the accompanied recits that we see Gluck’s true genius in portraying emotion: Alceste’s torn personality is progressing rapidly towards Gluck’s ultimate study of human psychology, Iphigenie en Tauride. [continued…]

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BLO Rosina Confides and Opines

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Boston Lyric Opera’s five-performance run of Rossini’s ever-popular Barber of Seville begins Friday at the Majestic Theater. David Angus will conduct stage director Rosetta Cucchi’s production designed by Julia Noulin-Mérat, costumed by Gianluca Falaschi, and lighted by DM Wood. The cast comprises Matthew Worth as Figaro, Daniela Mack as Rosina, Jesus Garcia as Almaviva, David Crawford as Basilio with Michelle Trainor, Steven Condy, Jesse Darden, Vincent Turregano in smaller roles.

BMInt writer and BLO annotator Laura Prichard tells us, “It is a veritable tour de force of vocal acrobatics, musical wit, and comedy. Beginning with a spirited overture, Rossini’s approach contrasts upbeat humor with poignant musical touches. Rossini mastered the opera buffa by peppering each act with duets and trios and capping each act’s finale with a sophisticated ensemble (à la Mozart). By utilizing the satirical opera buffa genre, Rossini could transform characters from the still-popular commedia dell’arte into scheming servants and deceptive suitors, laying bare the social injustices of their time.”

The BLO’s Rosina, mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack, acclaimed for her “caramel timbre, flickering vibrato, and crisp articulation” (Opernwelt) as she “hurls fast notes like a Teresa Berganza or a Frederica von Stade” (San Francisco Chronicle), had some interesting words for BMInt.

FLE: After nearly three weeks of rehearsing, can you relate anything surprising in the BLO staging? [continued…]

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Donald Wilkinson: The Angel Took Risks

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How, then, to say goodbye to a collaborator, colleague, and companion of 25 years, someone with whom we made music, sharing good times and bad, season after season, adding up to a full third of man’s biblical lifespan? What appropriate, meaningful words can come forth, even as we struggle with our tears and our grief, to evoke for others essence of Donnie’s kind and tender soul?

He was a man of almost angelic purity. Candid and naïve almost to a fault, held back from the start by problems of education and upbringing, he wanted, despite significant inner handicaps, to go forward towards life and to give his existence meaning. And he did indeed forge a path for himself, realizing his ambition to be a performing artist, and giving enormous pleasure and consolation to countless others via the beauty of his voice. To cite a line from the American songbook, a repertoire that Donnie treasured and recorded, he did it his way. There was a nobility to his existence, and I am humbled as I contemplate, insofar as I perceive it, the arc of his life which sadly ended yesterday.

You heard that round, warm, tender singing voice, onstage and via recording, and reveled in its author’s solid, confident musicianship, in his authentic and appealing personal presence. Did you know, however, that Don’s training was as an electrical engineer, and that he spent years working in a large corporation before deciding that music was his true calling? He told me once that his family had strongly counseled against his career change. Yet he persisted, leaving secure employment, and braving, at the start of his new professional life, genuine hardship and financial stress. He took a big risk, and he succeeded, becoming a property owner in his personal life, and a reliable and welcome part of the Boston-area musical scene. [continued…]

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Twelve Tones in Tinseltown

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Omar Ebrahim as Schoenberg as Bogart.

Arnold Schoenberg fled the darkness and despair of Hitler’s Europe for 1930s Hollywood—a bold new world of golden sunshine and camera-ready beauty. Can he find a way to reconcile reflection with action, and tradition with revolution? What meaning has art in the wake of atrocity?

These are questions composer Tod Machover tries to settle in Schoenberg in Hollywood, a Boston Lyric Opera New Works Initiative commission. But the show is not some subtle intellectual disquisition. Rather, the composer told BMInt, There’s actually a lot of action, and believe it or not, there is even some blood—read about Richard Gerstl’s relationship with Schoenberg’s first wife, Mathilde, to get an idea where that is heading. Schoenberg’s life, in addition to his music, was one of the most dramatic you could imagine. So even though our cast consists only of three singers playing Arnold Schoenberg, A Boy and A Girl, they all change all the time. And the electronic handling of the 16-piece ensemble will offer lots of layers and effects.

Running for four nights (November 14th-18th) at the Emerson Paramount Theater; tickets HERE.

BMInt spoke with Machover recently.

FLE: Now, I can’t remember whether Schoenberg was introduced to Irving Thalberg by Karl Marx or Harpo Marx [continued…]

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Gounod Grand Opera To Be Outed

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Charles Gounod

Having found long-missing original parts for Gounod’s La reine de Saba, or The Queen of Sheba, Gil Rose is now preparing to lead Odyssey Opera in a concert version on Saturday, September 22nd, at Jordan Hall, in what may be both the American premiere of Gounod’s grand opera, as well as the first complete performance since its opening night in 1862. Ticket’s HERE.

In his day, Charles Gounod, whose 200th birthday occurred on June 17th, stood among the most highly regarded of French composers. He won the Prix de Rome at 21; while studying for the next three years in the Eternal City, he found himself bored by the current repertory of Italian opera (Donizetti, Bellini, Mercadante) feeling that they lacked the vigor of Rossini, but deeply moved by the music of Palestrina in the Sistine Chapel. His profound absorption of Renaissance polyphony was not common among French composers of his day. It lent backbone to the Mass settings and other sacred works of later years. At the end of his stay in Rome, he went to Vienna, where he was quite overwhelmed by Mozart and Beethoven. On his journey home, he stopped in Leipzig, where Mendelssohn gave him a private performance of his Scottish Symphony in the Gewandhaus. All of these experiences would strike fire at various points in the future. [continued…]

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80 Years, and 45 at the Conservatory

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The genial interlocutor with the nimbus-bright silver fro who presides over First Mondays at Jordan Hall has a major birthday coming up. New England Conservatory celebrates Laurence Lesser, legendary cellist, passionate teacher, and President Emeritus, for his 80th Birthday in NEC’s season-opening orchestra concert on Wednesday, September 26th at 7:30 pm at Jordan Hall. Lesser will appear as a soloist with the NEC Philharmonia and conductor Hugh Wolff in Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo: Rhapsodie Hébraïque for Violoncello and Orchestra

NEC Interim President Thomas Novak says, “An integral part of NEC for more than four decades, Larry is one of the foremost cello pedagogues of our time, following in the footsteps of his teacher, Gregor Piatigorsky, in creating a lasting legacy of hundreds of students.

Admission is free, but subject to the Conservatory’s new policy requiring email reservations, motivated, reputable sources tell us, by the marketing department’s interest in doing targeted advertising. No immediate plan to begin charging for free concerts seems to lurk in the offing. Click for tix HERE.  

Lesser’s conversation with BMInt begins after the break. [continued…]

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Continuing To Fulfill Mrs. Gardner’s Mission

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The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s music season gets underway with back-to-back concerts of mostly site-specific repertoire this weekend. The highlight may come in a commissioned work responding to Whistler’s “Nocturne, Blue and Silver: Battersea Reach,” which hangs in the Museum’s Yellow Room. Jessica Meyer wrote Grasping for Light during her week-long residency at the Museum last March.

Other items in A Far Cry’s “Portraits,” featuring music inspired by renowned works of art, include Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and Respighi’s Botticelli Triptych, nods to the Museum’s upcoming Botticelli exhibition, which opens Feb. 2019. William Grant Still took inspiration for “Mother and Child,” part of his Suite for Violin and Piano, from Sargent Johnson’s lithograph,Mother and Child.”

In celebration of the Boston native’s centennial, violinist Tai Murray will join A Far Cry, in Bernstein’s “Agathon” from Serenade after Plato’s Symposium

 “Portraits” runs on Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m in the Museum’s Calderwood Hall. Tickets ($15 – $36) include museum admission, and may be purchased HERE or at the door. [continued…]

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BPYO Brought Mahler Back Home

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Next week the Boston Symphony may be bringing Mahler’s Third (along with Bernstein and Shostakovich) on a European tour, but the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra got the Mahler march on the BSO last June. Benjamin Zander designed his 25th youth orchestra tour in 47 years as a kind of pilgrimage through Mahler’s life, from his birthplace to his grave. No participant is likely to forget the journey through many of the cities important in Mahler’s life, performing the Ninth Symphony eight times in some of the world’s most beautiful concert halls in five countries: Berlin, Prague, Salzburg, Budapest, Pecs, as well as in Mahler’s hometown, Jihlava, and culminating in two especially inspiring concerts in the Musikverein in Vienna and at the one place where his music was well-received during his lifetime – Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw.

From the extensive accounts submitted by the the participants in their “white sheets” and blog entries, BMInt has culled a representative 2,500 words, which tell the story in terms of its culmination. For an attractively illustrated souvenir compendium of a significant portion of the inspiring comments from the participants, woven together by Zander’s explorations of the philosophy and practices that make this orchestra so remarkable,  click HERE.

Netherlands Radio’s recording [HERE] of the Concertgebouw performance of Mahler’s 9th also includes the Musikverein performances of the Butterworth Banks of Green Willow and Ravel’s La Valse, recorded by the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation. Both concerts will air in their respective countries during the upcoming season. In the final performance of Elgar’s Nimrod, Zander took a slower tempo than ever before, and with good reason, “we were not ready to say goodbye to each other or to conclude the experience of a lifetime!”

Richard Dyer, the former Chief Music Critic of the Boston Globe elaborated on the inspiring concluding concert in an excerpt from his extensive blogs. The unedited version is HERE. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but Mahler’s goal is not about perfection — it is about striving for perfection. [continued…]

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Schepkin’s Glissando Series To Debut

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Sergey Schepkin (file photo)

A new concert series celebrating Bach’s 333rd birthday launches next month at First Church Boston (66 Marlborough St.). Running on eight Sundays at 4pm, the events comprise five chamber concerts, a vocal recital with piano, and two solo piano presentations, featuring a mix of beloved and recondite works. The opener, on September 23rd, promises transcendental chamber music of Debussy plus Bach’s Musical Offering. See complete list below.

The well-regarded pianist Sergey Schepkin, once deemed something of a Bach specialist but increasingly wider-ranging, is impresario and programmer for this new offering, entitled Glissando. We had to find out more.

BMInt: How did the idea come about? Why Bach?

SS: A few years ago I entertained the idea of performing most of Bach’s keyboard works in a series of concerts, spread over one season. Ultimately I decided to launch my own series, the first season of which would celebrate Bach, but the plan kept evolving and eventually changed to something quite different, although some of the original features remained. As you know, I have been labeled “a Bach pianist,” for better or worse; yet my interests encompass all of Western classical music, and are not limited to one particular era, to one particular composer—even Bach, the greatest of them all—or to one particular genre. I perform a lot of solo repertoire, but I also love playing chamber music and accompanying singers; and so the original idea grew to include not only Bach’s keyboard works but also his chamber and vocal music, combined with other composers’ works that have connections to Bach.

[continued…]

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New York Knights Mount Sturdy Vehicle

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The innovative chamber orchestra, the Knights, will bring Leonard Bernstein’s Candide in fully staged performances to Seiji Ozawa Hall for two performance, tonight and Thursday. Tickets HERE.

Bernstein based his delightful 1956 comic operetta on Voltaire’s satirical novel, which follows the title character’s traumatic adventures in imperial Europe and semi-civilized South America. All the while, Dr. Pangloss’s mock-philosophical refrain “All’s for the best in this best of all possible worlds” rings hollow as Candide’s vain sweetheart Cunegonde and her Old Lady retainer undergo humiliating and laughable trials. Lillian Hellman wrote the original play; the song lyrics were mostly by poet Richard Wilbur and Stephen Sondheim even had a hand in it. We can all certainly remember such numbers as “Glitter and Be Gay,” “What a Day for an autodafé,” and who can resist “Make Our Garden Grow?”

Eric Jacobsen conducts a large case of vocalists, dancers, and actors, including tenor Miles Mykkanen in the title role, baritone Evan Jones as Voltaire/Dr. Pangloss/Cacambo, and soprano Sharleen Joynt as Cunegonde. Alison Moritz directs the fully staged production.

Jacobsen begins an interview with a formation story for the New York-based collective. [continued…]

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Competitors: Start Your Stops

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Bach is the greatest, even in China.

Playing to win in Boston summons scenes of Fenway Park, TD Garden, or Gillette Stadium; only on the rarest of occasions do contestants vie at Old West, the Advent, or First Lutheran Churches. Yet when the City of Champions welcomes an entirely new and weeklong event, the first Boston Bach International Organ Competition, September 2nd – 9th, spellbinding drama is ensured, and career stakes will rise high at the latter places.

This past spring, BBIOC selected 16 organists for the preliminary round of recorded auditions. Not a competition for high school or baccalaureate students, the BBIOC invites organists ages 26 to 37 who have completed all requirements for a degree in organ performance and are currently serving in a professional position in music. Of the 16, six come from the USA; three are South Koreans; two hail from the United Kingdom; and the remaining five contestants call the Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, Lithuania and Switzerland their birthplaces. Names and biographies may be found at the site linked above.

The BBIOC jury comprises seven esteemed organ pedagogues, all virtuosos:   [continued…]

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Only at the Gardner, Starting September 8th

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George Steel: Mr. Music at ISGM

George Steel, the Gardner Museum’s new Abrams curator of music, has inked a fall season featuring three orchestras, multidimensional Bach, a purpose-built opera, exciting debuts, rewarding return engagements, not to mention a season-long tribute to Leonard Bernstein. His inaugural interview with BMInt, last year, certainly scintillated [HERE]. So once again we asked him to reflect on his appealing artistic manifesto. (The complete fall-season listing is at the end.)

According to the New York Times, you have “… long been a champion of “ways to make classical music matter to new generations of listeners.” I get that fact that presenters need to replace old geezers with up-and-coming-geezers, but hasn’t that always been the case? What sorts of classical presentations appeal more to 20-somethings and terrify over-60s?

As I am getting to be a geezer myself, I am sensitive to any idea of “replacing” older audiences with younger ones. Quite the opposite. The magic of the Gardner is at its peak when it creates a “big room”—one where old and young feel equally at home; where connoisseurs and first-timers share the thrill of hearing music and seeing art with fresh ears and eyes; where unhelpful shibboleths like “high culture” and “low culture” are regularly and joyfully flouted; and where music, dance, and visual art exist in sparkling dialogue. [continued…]

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Sounds Project Oceanic Light

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Disney’s Willy will not be singing.

Boston Landmarks Orchestra joins with the New England Aquarium to turn the Hatch Shell into a seashell next Wednesday, as cetacean song and Debussy’s La Mer evoke the mysterious power and psychological depths of wind and waves. Stella Sung’s seascape discourses a watery dialogue between marine and human life, while Moby Dick rises again in the haunting music of Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Hitchcock’s most frequent musical collaborator. And what could be a more a more startling segue than from Handel’s Water Music to Bedelt’s Pirates of the Caribbean?

Rain Date: Thursday, August 16th. If it rains on August 16th as well, the concert will be held at Emmanuel Church (15 Newbury St., Boston)

My podium notes follow.

The New England Aquarium first made music with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra in the summer of 2015. A male humpback—recorded by researcher Salvatore Cerchio—performed as vocal soloist in Alan Hovhaness’s And God Created Great Whales. The collaboration was a revelation, demonstrating startling similarities between human and cetacean music making. [continued…]

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