Grand Launch of Emmanuel Music, New Leader at Helm

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When an organization so intimately associated with its director takes on the task on continuing under different leadership, it is tricky business. The death almost three years ago of Craig Smith, Emmanuel Music’s founder and charismatic leader for 37 years, left this organization with one tough act to follow.

After considerable thought, Emmanuel took a valid approach — appointing as the new artistic director someone who has been affiliated with the organization for a number of years. Ryan Turner has been a tenor with the choir since 1997, often as soloist, and since 2006 has been a guest conductor for a repertoire that has included Bach, Palestrina, Primosch, Schein and Schütz.

Another way to proceed under new direction is to inaugurate new ideas. [continued…]

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Fenwick Smith to Augment Performances of Feldman Oeuvre

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Morton Feldman (1926-1987) was one of those seminal, preternaturally original figures in music, like Ives or Cage, whose personal muse came from another galaxy and whose output, so unlike anything around him, became in retrospect the progenitor of a more widespread — though never mainstream  —aesthetic. You could think of Feldman as a proto-minimalist, although    [continued]

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Azéma Accorded High French Honor for Role in Arts

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The Laureate

L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres is not limited to citizens who respect French “civil law” and are over 30; the prestigious organization, established in 1957 and confirmed as part of the Ordre national du Merité by President Charles de Gaulle in 1963, occasionally presents awards to “foreign luminaries.” One of the principal distinctions of France, it is awarded to up to 200 persons a year.

Anne Azéma, the blond-tressed Artistic Director of Boston Camerata, was just designated one of those luminaries, a Chevalier (“Knight”), a “distinction qui rend hommage à vôtre parcours remarquable.” [continued…]

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BMInt Regrets Error in BSO Review

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Much as we enjoy the extensive musical analysis in reviews by Eli Newberger, who has covered so many Tanglewood concerts this season, we have heard from multiple sources that some assumptions were unsupported by facts on the matter of the orchestra’s reactions to Guest Conductor Susanna Mälkki on August 21.   [click title for complete statement]    [continued]

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WordSong Experience: New Music in Refreshing Way

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As I emerged from the elevator on the 8th floor of an elegant office building in Boston’s financial district last winter and found myself in the boardroom of a law firm, I realized that I was not seeing only lawyers. A mix of young professionals, some retirees, and a handful of high school students made up an assembling audience of about 50. Up front were a marimba, cello, and two music stands. I took a seat and began reading In Just–, a poem by e.e. cummings. So began this performance of an interesting collaboration between music and poetry — WordSong.

Composer Howard Frazin starts every WordSong forum by reminiscing about childhood trips to the Art Institute of Chicago, where he remembers entering the Monet gallery in the Impressionist wing and experiencing what he now calls, “The Implicit Conversation.” In this gallery hung seven of Monet’s Haystacks, silently arranged by the curator, and the young Frazin discovered many things about light, color, and shape from interacting with these variations on a theme. Seeing a grouping of paintings on one subject is a unique curatorial gambit that encourages viewers to make comparisons and develop a relationship to the subject itself, in all its incarnations. [continued…]

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Critiquing the Critic: The Don Rosenberg Ordeal

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Let us agree, for the moment, that music criticism (and arts criticism, in general) is, in itself, an art. Certainly it takes a measure of creativity to mold “It stinks….” into:

While we are enjoying the delight of so much science and melody, and eagerly anticipating its continuance, on a sudden, like the fleeting pleasures of life, or the spirited young adventurer, who would fly from ease and comfort at home to the inhospitable shores of New Zealand or Lake Ontario, we are snatched away from such eloquent music, to crude, wild and extraneous harmonies…

This review of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony appeared in 1825, the year after the symphony was completed, in the London Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review; the review is also discussed in Nicolas Slonimsky’s Lexicon of Musical Invective.

While we might chuckle at the historic evaluation of a Beethovenian masterpiece as “crude,” there is certainly no question that the reviewer is engaging in the act of music criticism. The critique is an expression of his opinion — in the above example we learn, in addition to Beethoven’s Ninth, the writer is also not disposed toward the shores of New Zealand.

All this is my opening salvo to, what I hope, is a springboard for further discussion and dialogue surrounding the Donald Rosenberg case. [continued…]

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Harbison Adds Musings on Tanglewood’s Upcoming Contemporary Music Festival

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In conversation with BMInt, Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival co-curator John Harbison observed that although a 70th anniversary is not one normally associated with major celebratory events, the idea of having a season that highlights the work of past program directors, faculty, and Fellows had been percolating with Tanglewood management for a while, for a variety of reasons. One was to have a handle by which to extend the TCMF theme through the entire Tanglewood season. There are, he noted, at least as many concerts featuring works by TMC alumni, in the large sense, as there are on the TCMF program itself. This enables Tanglewood to hew more closely, as Harbison put it, to the animating spirit of Serge Koussevitzky of “keeping people in touch with music as it is being written.” [continued…]

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BCMS Hamel Summer Series at the Arsenal Center for the Arts

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Boston-area concert-goers may not be aware of another local venue on the concert scene: the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown is yet another location for organizations having to vacate temporarily Pickman Hall at Longy School while it undergoes renovations. Boston Chamber Music Society is holding its 2010 Hamel Summer Series there, in the Charles Mosesian Theater, at 8 pm on each of four Saturdays in August. The series focuses on the music of Chopin and Schumann to commemorate the bicentennial of their births. [continued…]

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Portland, Maine for Sounds, Sights, and Other Sensual Pleasures

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Fiddleheads from PCMF brochure
Fiddleheads from PCMF brochure

It’s difficult not to love every bit of the Maine coastline, but Portland holds a special niche. Recently named the number one place in the country to raise children and in the top 10 “perfect places to live in America,” the city experienced a rejuvenation of its downtown waterfront area, with its superb but previously neglected brick mercantile buildings, in the late 1970s. Twenty years later, a summer classical performance series appeared. The Old Port waterfront restaurants, once limited, are now plentiful and in many cases, superb. In toto, it is a delightful place to spend a summer weekend.

The Portland Chamber Music Festival was founded in 1994 by its Executive Director and Artistic-Co director Jennifer Elowitch and Artistic Co-Director Dena Levine. Elowitch, who taught at New England Conservatory Preparatory School (and is still officially still on the faculty) has lived in Maine, her home state, since 2004. But she continues to be involved with the classical music scene in Boston; she is assistant principal second violin with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra and often subs for the BSO, serves as a faculty member at Longy School of Music and at the Composers’ Conference at Wellesley, and plays with numerous other chamber music groups. [continued…]

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At 70, Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival Goes Historical

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As summer music festivals go, the Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival is doubly unique (so to speak). Not only is it a festival within a festival, housed within the larger framework of the BSO-dominated Tanglewood season and the other chamber and orchestral programs of the Tanglewood Music Center, but it is the only summer festival to be devoted to music of the present. To this one may add another distinguishing feature, its association with a summer school of music for the elite among orchestral and chamber musicians and conductors. (It shares this attribute with Marlboro and to an extent Kneisel Hall and the Heifetz Center, but dwarfs these in scope). And this year, the TCMF, in celebration of its 70th season, is embarking on something that for it, is novel: the programming, curated by the all-star trio of composers Gunther Schuller, John Harbison, and Oliver Knussen, will be almost entirely devoted to an historical retrospective of music composed by the program directors, faculty and Fellows of the TMC over its entire lifetime so far, ranging from founding program director Aaron Copland and other 1940s-era faculty stars like Samuel Barber, Paul Hindemith and Leonard Bernstein, to 21st-century Fellows like Scotland’s Helen Grime. [continued…]

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Journeys from Judaism and Persecution in Mendelssohn and Mahler

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Gustav Mahler, born into a Jewish family, converted to Roman Catholicism in 1896 in order to preserve his career as a conductor, at a time when anti-Semitism became the norm of Germanic cultural identity and law. (1)

Felix Mendelssohn’s father Abraham, son of the Enlightment philosopher and Jewish sage, Moses Mendelssohn, converted to Lutheranism and added the hyphenation of Bartholdy, the name of a piece of land purchased by his brother-in-law to buffer his Jewish surname.  He angrily rebuked his son for calling himself “Felix Mendelssohn” in concert programs in the 1820s:

A name is like a garment; it has to be appropriate for the time, the use, and the rank, if it is not to become a hindrance and a laughing-stock. … There can no more be a Christian Mendelssohn than there can be a Jewish Confucius.  If Mendelssohn is your name, you are ipso facto a Jew.

[continued…]

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Classical Violinist/Fiddler to Play at Cape Cod Festival Concert

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Those of us who frequent Cape Cod have long been grateful for the presence of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, which brings first-class artists to our summer haunts. Currently under the artistic leadership of pianist Jon Nakamatsu and clarinetist Jon Manasse, this organization appears to be flourishing. Among the concerts this summer is one in Provincetown on Monday, August 9, 2010, (and again on Thursday, August, 12 at the Dennis Union Church) by the Fry Street String Quartet. I am looking forward to this concert not just for the program (see below) but also because I have heard this young quartet mature and gel over the past several years into a distinct musical presence.

The group was organized in Chicago where the address of their first practice venue gave the quartet its name; since 2002 they have been in residence at the Caine School for the Arts at Utah State University in Logan. However, they have local roots, and even roots in the Cape. First violinist William Fedkenheuer is familiar to Bostonians from his tenure as second violin with the Borromeo Quartet, and the Fry Street Quartet has over the past two years made pilgrimages to Wellfleet on the Cape to have coaching with celebrated cellist Bernard Greenhouse. I spoke with Fedkenheuer, a native of Calgary and a former Canadian fiddling champion, about the upcoming concert.

Boston Musical Intelligencer: You were a fiddling champion in Canada; how does that relate to your career as a classical musician?

William Fedkenheuer: I began the violin at age four and was not as excited about the instrument as most loving parents would hope! However, I had a very special teacher who started me on fiddle tunes, and this turned into one of the greatest gifts I’ve received as a violinist. I loved fiddling, and so a deal was struck that I could fiddle as long as I wanted, but the classical building and technical exercises had to be completed first. [continued…]

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What should we expect from Summer Festivals?

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A lot has been said in this rag about the superlative qualities of Rockport Music’s new Shalin Liu Center. But how does it compare with what we expect from a summer music venue? For those of us not attending the likes of the Salzburg Festival in our mothball-infused finery, summer festivals mean mosquitoes, moths, straight    [continued]

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Three More Summer Festivals

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Charlemont Federated Church
Charlemont Federated Church

Tanglewood and the Newport Music Festival are well known; Mohawk Trails Concerts is new to us. Tanglewood, founded in 1940, and Newport, founded in 1968, offer many concerts, not only in the evenings, but throughout the day, with a variety of times, programs, and venues.  Mohawk Trails Concerts, located in Charlemont, MA, offers a far smaller series but very high-quality, unusual programming. All three venues lend themselves to a one-day trip — albeit some of them for those hardy enough to drive back to the Hub “after hours.” [continued…]

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Two in Two: Summer Concerts in Maine and New Hampshire

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Now that summer is officially underway, four more summer music festivals are starting their seasons — two in Maine and two in New Hampshire. All commence on July 1. A number feature performers not heard often, if at all, in Boston, but these festivals also provide opportunities for summer outings to areas filled with treasures that are beyond the Basin. In this installment, BMInt brings to your attention summer concerts from the Bowdoin Music Festival in Brunswick, Maine; the Bay Chamber in mid-coast Maine; the Heifitz Institute in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire; and Monadnock Music in the Monadnock Region of southern New Hampshire. [continued…]

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Thanks for What? Musing on Praise and Blame

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Every so often, a performer or composer expresses gratitude for a good review or indignance at a bad one. Max Reger’s famous response to a bad review, expressed in a letter to the reviewer, was: “I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. Soon it will be behind me.” We can sympathize with the wounded pride of anyone who has just been publicly impaled in print, and just as easily we can vicariously bask in the warmth of high praise. As a composer, I, like Richard Nixon, prefer winning to losing the critics’ votes. But is it right to give thanks or to spray acid? Is it right for a reviewer to accept thanks — in which case, wouldn’t he or she have to bathe in the acid? [continued…]

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Summer Delights Begin in Western Mass, Eastern New York, and Coastal Maine

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The end of June brings on three summer music Festivals: the Kneisel in coastal Maine, Tanglewood in the Berkshires, and Maverick in nearby eastern New York State. Our esteemed publisher, F. Lee Eiseman, assisted by this editor, recruited reviewers from these respective neighborhoods to complement our own fine roster. BMInt urges our readers to find any excuse to make their way to these festivals; each offers at least one or two irresistible concerts. [continued…]

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The Amazing Sound in Rockport

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Gorgeous Shalin Liu Performance Center Reveals That Dry & Exciting Tops  Muddy & Reverberant for Chamber Music

For the concert by the Parthenia Consort of viols with guest tenor and actor at the new Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport on June 13, I chose a seat in row M, just three rows from the back of the stalls, because I wanted to hear the clarity of the sound in an average seat, not a seat reserved for critics. The verdict: Larry Kirkegaard deserves high praise for his work in this hall. It is not easy to create a shoebox hall of this size where the music can be heard clearly in a large majority of seats. [continued…]

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Chopin Symposium Features Historic Re-enactment, Newly-Recovered Piece

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For years, pianist and pedagogue Roberto Poli has found himself intrigued by — if not obsessed with — the music of Frederic Chopin and is now five CDs into his recording project of all of this composer’s music for piano. Poli’s fascination with Chopin, many pianists’ favorite composer for their instrument, has recently resulted in two symposia, a two-day event last June and a much more involved Chopin Symposium this June 18-20 at the Rivers School Conservatory in Weston, Massachusetts where he teaches and co-chairs the piano department (with Angel Ramon Rivera).

This weekend-long event, like its predecessor which drew about 300 people, was to be scheduled every other year, but because 2010 was the bicentenary of Chopin’s birth, he forged ahead and asked a stellar cast — music historians and scholars, pianists and highly regarded local piano pedagogues and performers, to help celebrate the composer again this June. [continued…]

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Moving About in their Respective Areas: Aston Magna and Music at Eden’s Edge

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BMInt is offering a series of notices on the summer concert series and festivals in attractive sites that we believe will be of interest to our readers. The concert schedules are listed in our Upcoming Events. In the interview below we present Music at Eden’s Edge, which starts its season on June 13 in various locations in the North Shore of Massachusetts, and Aston Magna, which starts on July 18 at two locations, the Berkshires and the Hudson River Valley.

Aston Magna presents each of its four concerts at Bard College in Annandale-on-the-Hudson, NY, and then at Simon’s Rock College in Great Barrington, MA. (However, the first two also can be heard a day earlier (June 17, June 24) at Brandeis University in Waltham.)

Music at Eden’s Edge, under Artistic Director Maria Benotti, plays three performances of each of its four concerts at various historic buildings on the North Shore: Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church in Danvers, Community House of Hamilton and Wenham in Hamilton, North Shore Arts Association in Gloucester, Peabody Institute Library, Willowdale Estate in Bradley Palmer State Park in Topsfield, and one at the private home of John Archer, in Danvers. The performances on Tuesday afternoons at the Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church in Danvers, the Senior/Family Series, are free. [continued…]

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Newport Music Festival Loses Charismatic Artistic Director in Automobile Accident

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BMInt is saddened to report the death of Mark P. Malkovich III, founder and long-time artistic director of the Newport Music Festival in an automobile accident last Saturday in Minnesota. Dr. Malkovich’s son, Mark Malkovich IV, assures the festival’s fans that the 42nd season will go on as scheduled from July 9 through July 25, including the special concert and Champagne reception on July 10 for what would have been Dr. Malkovich’s 80th birthday.    [continued]

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Rockport Music Starts Season in New Hall on June 10th

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BMInt is offering a series of notices on the summer concert series and festivals in attractive sites that we believe will be of interest to our readers. The concert schedules are listed in our Calendar of Events. In the interview below Rockport Music Artistic Director David Deveau responds to some questions from BMInt staff.

Michael Lutch photo
Michael Lutch photo

We’re all very excited about the opening of the Shalin Liu Performance Center. This must have been a stretch financially for a entity like RCMF. Tell us how you did it.
Of course, this enormous project presented a major challenge to Rockport Music. We changed the organization’s name from Rockport Chamber Music Festival to Rockport Music in 2009 to encompass our status as a year-round presenting organization, whose signature offering remains the Rockport Chamber Music Festival. It is now spread over six weeks in June and July, with 20 programs.

The original budget for the center was considerably less, but after some fairly predictable litigation resulted in very high legal expenses, our overall costs rose to $20 million. To date we have raised over $16.4 million and have secured interim financing to complete the construction without delay. Much of the money has been raised from individual and family foundations, with some support from corporate and business sources. Needless to say, when we began the campaign, the economy was in a far different state than it is now. But we have great confidence that, as people experience the sound and beauty of the space, the campaign will be completed in due course.

The exterior architecture seems extremely sensitive to its 19th– century context. Did you have a lot of meetings with historical associations and commissions? [continued…]

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Tannery Pond Concerts Commence on May 29

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<p>The Tannery (Leslie Techoltz photo)</p>
The Tannery (Leslie Teicholtz photo)

BMInt is offering a series of notices on the summer concert series and festivals in attractive sites that we believe will be of interest to our readers. The concert schedules are listed in our Calendar of Events.

Twenty years ago, Tannery Pond Concerts in New Lebanon, New York, had its inaugural season in the beautiful wooden post-and-beam 19th-century Shaker building that once was a tannery. The concert series has been there ever since.

Tannery Pond Concerts presents a season of six to seven chamber concerts between May and October on the grounds of the former Mount Lebanon Shaker community and Darrow School in New Lebanon, NY, just over the border from Pittsfield, MA. Concert-goers to Tanglewood could easily include a side trip to Tannery Pond. [continued…]

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WGBH Audience Plummets

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UPDATE: A knowledgeable source in the broadcast industry recently forwarded detailed rating data which should help BMInt readers understand how classical listeners are reacting to the WGBH changes. The anomalous gain the in the March WGBH’s ratings referred to in the article below was apparently due to listeners’ deserting WBUR during its fund-raising period and    [continued]

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