Imani Winds: Choice But Brief

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Maverick Concerts presented an uncommon talk-to-music ratio on July 18. Music Director Alexander Platt engaged in lengthy introductions, sometimes including dialogues with the players. The music, though, was mostly choice and all very well played.

Red Clay and Mississippi Delta, by Imani’s flutist Valerie Coleman, was inventive and amusing. Imani combined strength and refinement in Fine’s Partita for Wind Quintet. An odd arrangement of the Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream didn’t work very well despite the dazzling performance, but the Wind Quintet of John Harbison provided the most substantial music of the afternoon. My only complaint about this concert was its brevity.                        [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Jeremy Denk’s Superb Programming A Metaphysical Exploration

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While the Liszt “Fantasia quasi Sonata” Après une Lecture de Dante stood at the center of the program at Tannery Pond on July 3, the germ of the program was set in motion by two toccatas of J. S. Bach, Toccata in D major, BWV 912 and Toccata in F-sharp minor, BWV 910. Whatever Denk puts in a program has not just the thoughtful concatenation we associate with “curated” programming, but a metaphysical exploration of music through affinities that are basically true on a musical level. The brief and dense Ligeti Études are surprisingly accessible, as Denk plays them.        [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Musical Just-Rightness in Aston Magna’s Artemisia

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On  July 17,  Aston Magna Festival closed this summer’s season with 17th-Century Italian Art and Music: What Artemisia Heard, centered around projected works by Artemisia Gentileschi and her teacher Caravaggio, at Simon Rock College in Great Barrington. Reflecting Artemesia’s mobile life, the program was divided into five parts: Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, England, and finally, Tutta L’Italia, altogether a splendid array of multi-faceted music, ordered to provide both continuity and contrast, by first-rate musicians. There were groans from the audience at repeated close-ups of the most brutal details of three paintings on  subject “Judith Slaying Holofernes”  two by Artemesia. Looking away, however, the music was glorious.                        [Click title for full review.]

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Ravel Harp Gem Highlights Marlboro’s Concert Dedicated to Cellist Soyer

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The third concert of Marlboro Music Festival’s opening weekend, on July 18, was dedicated to the late, longtime Marlboro and Guarneri Quartet cellist David Soyer. Oddly, nothing on the program featured the cello. Haydn’s Piano Trio in C Minor, with a particularly delightful Presto Finale, was followed by Three Duets, Op. 20 by Brahms, sung gorgeously by soprano Susanna Phillips and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson, with pianist Lucia Brown.

Harmonics were stunning and tempo quite exhilarating in Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro for Harp, … with Israeli harpist Sivan Magen. Countermelodies and subsidiary melodies were hard to discern in Dvorak’s beautiful Piano Quartet in E-flat Major.          [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Passion and Precision from Brentano Quartet at Rockport

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The Rockport Chamber Music Festival program on July 15 with the Brentano Quartet consisted of two late masterworks from the First Viennese School, the Haydn Quartet in F major, op. 77 No. 2 and that Alp of technical and conceptual difficulty, Beethoven’s Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, op. 131. Between these was the New England premiere of Stephen Hartke’s Night Songs for a Desert Flower, commissioned for them by the Harvard Musical Association and Carnegie Hall. Facial expressivity, though a good thing, can be carried too far, and this may be the only real negative thing to say about Thursday’s performance.           [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Second of ACM’s BPL Noontime Courtyard Concerts Draws Motley Crowd

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American Century Music’s second concert of the Boston Public Library’s noontime “Concerts in the Courtyard Series” on July 16 began with George Antheil’s Symphony for Five Instruments. While a five-member ensemble does not a symphony make, there are symphonic gestures and a sensitivity toward texture that suggest Antheil was not completely tongue-in-cheek in his title. Elliott Carter’s Eight Etudes and A Fantasy for Woodwind Quartet was followed by Walter Piston’s Divertimento for Nine Instruments.  Capitalizing on the historic divertimento, the ensemble  delivered an exemplary performance, but as with the Antheil, really illuminated the slow movement. (The Boston Public Library houses over 2,000 items that belonged to Piston.)     [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Parkers and Wosner Play Superheated Schumann and Brahms

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The Parker Quartet, playing its Maverick Concerts debut, offered a fine performance of an unattractive Barber novelty and powerful readings of familiar Schumann and Brahms. Barber’s unfamiliar Serenade for String Quartet, Op. 1, turned out to be imitation Reger, and that composer’s music is already unattractive enough. In collaboration with pianist Shai Wosner, the Parkers played Schumann’s Piano Quartet and Brahms’s Piano Quintet with loads of fervent energy and impressive technical command. While they never lost control, the playing sometimes threatened to swamp the music and often did swamp the violist. This was an exciting concert overall, but I’m sure these musicians can do even better. [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Admirable Partners at Newport: Sitkovetsky, violin and Konstantin Lifschitz, piano

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On July 14, the estimable duo of violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky and pianist Konstantin Lifschitz performed installment number three (Sonata No. 22 in E flat Major, Sonata No. 21 in F Major, and Sonata No. 24 in E flat Major) in their five-concert survey, at this year’s Newport Music Festival, of the complete (adult) Mozart sonatas for violin and piano.

The performance was some of the finest modern-style Mozart playing that this reviewer has heard. This was not powdered-wig and wilting-phrase Mozart. It was propelled by a sense of architecture which carried each movement through a single unbroken line.  Both players exhibited exemplary articulation, perhaps in part to compensate for the reverberation. [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Mahler and the Transition to 20th Century Music at Tanglewood

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The Tanglewood Festival’s official opening weekend beginning July 9 offered a “Prelude Concert” by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus which dug heartily into the dense chromaticisms of five delicious, harmonically complex a cappella works by Debussy, Ravel, and Poulenc (supported by a fine contrabassist, Thomas Van Dyck). Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas paid most attention to superstructure of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C Minor with soloists mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe Blythe and soprano Layla Claire; the end result was gratifying indeed. A thoughtfully conceived Monday concert propelled the perspective forward with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra and Conducting Fellows.   [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Monadnock’s Haydn, Wagner, Brahms Not Entirely What You’d Expect

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The 1775 Jaffrey Center Meetinghouse in New Hampshire provided the setting for Monadnock Music’s July 11 presentation of three quintets. Each item, in its way, was a little bit odd.

The performance of Salomon’s reduction for flute quintet of Haydn’s Symphony No. 100 in G was delightful, graceful, forceful, and elegant as the situations required. Melinda Wagner’s Pan Journal for harp and string quartet is a perfectly solid, if not magisterial, work, that keeps ears and brains of listeners engaged. What failed in the Brahms Piano Quintet, almost utterly in the first movement, less so in the last two, was a unified ensemble.          [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Making ‘Big Daddy’ proud

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Due to a family  emergency, the scheduled BMInt staff reviewer was unable to cover the concert reviewed below. The following review has been re-published here with permission from The Newport Daily News.

“All in the Family” was to have been a celebration of the 80th birthday of the Newport Music Festival’s longtime artistic director, but as family friend and principal violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky told the audience at The Breakers on Saturday night, life has a way of taking unexpected turns. Mark P. Malkovich III died at age 79 in a car accident in May in his home state of Minnesota, where he was helping to move his older sister’s belongings. His absence loomed large at The Breakers, both during the pre-concert gala and the concert itself.   [Click title for full review] [continued]

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Technique to Burn from Hamelin at Rockport

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Sunday, July 11, at Rockport Music, pianist Marc-André Hamelin opened with a stunning performance of Berg’s Piano Sonata, op. 1. Clearly aware of the long shape of Franz Liszt’s Piano Sonata in b minor, Hamelin provided quiet momentum through many pauses, elaborate recitativos, changes in color, density, form, and sounds, to create a meaningful whole, not an easy accomplishment even beyond technical difficulties. Debussy’s Preludes themselves provided a precursor to well-chosen selections from Hamelin’s own Twelve Études in All the Minor Keys, all huge technical hurdles simply because Hamelin is capable of them. Hamelin has technique to burn, always in the service of a deep musical instinct.           [Click title for full review.]

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BSO Under Frühbeck Presents Beethoven, Mozart-Strauss Programs

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Maestro Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos offered an all-Beethoven feast at Tanglewood on July 9 followed by a Sunday matinee, July 10, of Mozart and Richard Strauss. Beethoven’s all-too-infrequently performed “King Stephen” Overture presented a good counterbalance in programming to the tried-and-true Fifth Symphony. Gerhard Oppitz’s performance of the Piano Concerto No. 3 was operatic and virtuosic, if at times a bit heavy in some faster passagework.

On Sunday, Frühbeck saw to it that quartet and string orchestra danced together in Mozart’s Serenade No. 6. Pinchas Zukerman played Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 with virtuosic gentility. Malcolm Lowe’s eloquent phrasing and mezzavoce sonorities Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben resonated.             [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Traditional They Ain’t: Imani Winds at Rockport

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Imani Winds played a lively and cheerful yet consistently challenging contemporary program to a full house on June 27 at Rockport. Flautist Valerie Coleman’s Red Clay: Mississippi Delta is crisply ornamented, demanding much from bassoonist Monica Ellis and trumpet-like calls from clarinetist Mariam Adam, with finger-snaps for all. Arturo Marquez whisked a fluid continuum of summer and river in Danza de Mediodia. Five Poems of Karel Husa portrayed stark, quixotic imaginings of bird-life from ‘unwritten’ poems. Imani negotiated thorny disputations and easy agreements in the Elliott Carter spiffy Woodwind Quintet with well-oiled familiarity and tight dynamic shading. Miguel del Águila’s Woodwind Quintet #2 transported the audience in space and time over half a fleeting hour.            [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Unanimity in Action: A Hot String Quartet

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The Shanghai Quartet braved sauna-like conditions at the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock to deliver extremely well-played versions of music by Bridge, Schumann, and Dvorák to a large audience. I found the Quartet’s playing excellent and well-balanced. Novelletten of Frank Bridge was very easy listening. In the Schumann String Quartet, Op. 41, No. 1, the Shanhgai was sometimes a trifle polite, especially in the opening movement, which seems to invite more fervency. However, in Dvorák’s Quartet in F, Op. 96, the rough, woody sound of the opening viola solo served notice that the Quartet was willing to dispense with its sweet tone when necessary.     [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Torrent of Music and Thought from Levin and Chang on the West Coast

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Cambridge-based pianists and teachers Robert Levin and Ya-Fei Chuang were guests this past week at the Oregon Bach Festival.  Levin produced a torrent of music and thought. His Hinckle Lecture on June 30 was a typically brilliant Levin tour de force on Bach and religion. That evening, he substituted for the ailing Jeffrey Kahane to accompany baritone Thomas Quasthoff in the Schubert Die Schöne Müllerin.

In their July 1 concert, the close ensemble work of Levin and Chuang was particularly noticeable in Brahms’s Sonata in F Minor for two pianos, Op. 34b. Chuang’s delicacy of phrasing and dynamics differs from Levin’s more passionate, forthright statements, but the contrast worked; phrases were not simply repeated, but re-expressed.                [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Rite, Ritual, and Romantic Struggle: Music and Dance Open Jacob’s Pillow, Tanglewood Festivals

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Riveting performances by the State Ballet of Georgia on June 25 and the Mark Morris Dance Group on June 28 kicked off the dance and music seasons of Jacob’s Pillow and Tanglewood, respectively. Both companies are justifiably renowned for bringing music front and center in their dances and showed keen awareness of composers’ intentions, especially when sharing the stage with brilliant young piano and string players.

The Ted Shawn Theatre was compromised by ceiling fans and air conditioning machinery, and an over-amplified out-of-tune instrument in the Bizet sounded more like a neglected fortepiano or barrelhouse upright. Mark Morris’s “The Muir,” beautifully danced and sung, was an exercise in frustration; it was impossible to discern a single syllable of the English lyrics.   [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Full House for Tokyo Quartet Opens Maverick Season

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A full house greeted the opening of the Maverick Concerts season on Sunday, June 27, with the Tokyo String Quartet. While all of the performances were splendid, Haydn and Bartók made the strongest impressions; I don’t recall ever hearing a Haydn Quartet performance with more presence from the cello, those inventive bass lines adding greatly to the expressive texture of the music. The appropriate transformation gave us a very different-sounding ensemble in Bartók’s Quartet No. 4. In comparison, most of the Schumann Quartet seemed merely pretty.            [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Biava Bids Farewell with Refreshingly Unusual Program

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The Biava String Quartet gave its last performance on June 25 in at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival with a refreshingly unusual program. The Quartet’s level playing was too rich and weighty for Darius Milhaud’s String Quartet No. 7, Op. 87 but served the other two works to great effect. Song of the Silkie by Elena Ruehr creates a half-moonlit-shanty effect that the Quartet vividly brought to life. Baritone Stephen Salters delivered the lines with an achingly evocative mournfulness. The lightheartedness and downright fun of the String Quartet in D by Arnold Schoenberg, written when he was a student, radiated throughout the Biava Quartet’s performance.          [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Mostly (not quite “Completely”) Mozart at Aston Magna

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Splendid period instrument performers from the Aston Magna Festival turned their attention to Mozart on June 25 with fine results. The program included two novelties, an anonymous arrangement of the famous Sinfonia concertante, K. 364, for string sextet; and a movement for basset clarinet and strings, completed from a Mozart fragment by Robert Levin. Balance and expressive qualities were ideal for Mozart.            [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Music at Eden’s Edge Offers Missed Opportunity, Lemonade on a Summer’s Day

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Music at Eden’s Edge Music Director and violinist Maria Benotti inaugurated its 29th season with a program of chamber music including flute and bassoon. The June 22 program in Danvers will repeat on June 26 at the Gloucester Art Association. Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras series with flutist Orlando Cela and bassoonist Neil Fairbairn was possibly the best we’ve heard. The playing by Cela, Ms. Benotti on violin and Mark Berger in Reger’s Serenade op. 27 was bright and friendly, lemonade on a summer day. Structures, commissioned from John H. Wallace, struck us as a missed opportunity, a pretty sterile exercise in academic hermeticism.            [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Attractive Intricacies from China’s Two Classic Instruments

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Yun Thwaits and Hongwei Gao played a remarkable duet, Deep Night, adapted from Beijing Opera, on pipa and erhu at a noon concert in King’s Chapel on June 22. In the capable hands of Gao, the erhu, or Chinese violin, delivered melodic twists as idiomatically as did the pipa, or Chinese lute, in Thwaits’ hands. At times, both punctuated the often rapidly moving phrases in somewhat synchronized fashion, but more often each brought his and her own instrument’s voice into a heterophony full of attractive intricacies. Unwanted listening guidance came from recorded accompaniments to Gao’s three solos, one being Yesterday Once More. Yes, the Carpenter’s hit pop song.    [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Robison with Lubambo, Baptista Go Brazilian at Tannery Pond

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Music that is somehow outside the accepted parameters of classical music appears at the Tannery Pond Concerts once or twice every season. Now, for Tannery’s 20th anniversary, Artistic Director Christian Steiner asked flutist Paula Robison and her colleagues, Romero Lubambo and Cyro Baptista, to return after a 10-year absence to play the Brazilian music which has attracted a warmly enthusiastic following. The concert was Saturday, June 19.

The music itself is irresistible, but what made it unique was the combination of these three highly virtuosic players and the particular mutual understanding and interplay they’ve developed over years of happy musicmaking.             [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Fauré, Arensky and Brahms Honor Deveau Sr. at Rockport

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On Father’s Day, June 20, the program dedicated in memory of Rockport Music Artistic Director David Deveau’s father consisted of late-19th-century works played by a variety of musicians, most of them known to and admired by the late Deveau Sr. Duo pianists Leslie Amper and Randall Hodgkinson performed Gabriel Fauré’s Dolly Suite for piano four hands; violinist Andrés Cárdenes and cellist Anne Martinson Williams joined Deveau for Anton Arensky’s Piano Trio in D minor; and Cárdenes and Williams teamed with violinist Joana Genova and violists Katherine Murdock and Ariel Rudiakov in the Brahms String Quintet No. 2, the finale of which was duly given the full-court press, to immoderate audience approbation.           [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Gorgeous Playing from Levinson, Transporting Reconstruction, at Chopin Symposium

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Several remarkable lectures and concerts on June 19 and 20 at Rivers School in Weston were part of the Chopin Symposium, the brainchild of pianist Roberto Poli. Friday night’s concert featured Boston-based pianist Max Levinson, whose program this reviewer would have walked 10 miles to hear. The most beautiful moments came in his encore, Schumann’s Träumerei, a few moments of quiet loveliness after an evening of spectacular fireworks.

Sunday night’s concert was an attempt to reconstruct the last concert Chopin played at Pleyel Salon in 1848. The co-star of the evening was a 1845 Pleyel piano borrowed from the Frederick Collection. I was transported, if not back to 1848, then to a place where it’s just a privilege to be in the audience.            [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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