Best Beethoven in Town from Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra


The place to be Thursday evening, February 25, was Symphony Hall, where the Celebrity Series and the DeMoulas Foundation brought the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra to Boston. It was decidedly the best Beethoven in town. Music director Riccardo Chailly’s program was perfectly planned and musically executed.

Quicker tempos in Symphony No. 7 in A Major played a major role in lighting up the scores, most noticeably in the Presto: Assai meno presto. The up-tempo playing enhanced the heroic character of the scherzo’s trio by drawing out a joyful sound, leaving the powerful and noble lighter and more personal.

Soloist Louis Lortie made more than a few astonishing passes at Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat Major (“Emperor”). One of these was his thrilling dialogue with the orchestra in the concluding movement. I did not always understand what he was up to, but his playing was so precise and crystal-clear that I could do nothing other than defer to his interpretation.

And there were two encores! For Lortie it was the final movement of the piano sonata, “Les Adieux,” and for the orchestra it was the Overture to Prometheus, Op 43.             [Click title for full review.] [continued]


Surprisingly good Tosca from Harvard’s Lowell House Opera


Lowell House Opera presents the perennial favorite, Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, through this month and on March, 3, 5 and 6 at 8:30 p.m. Directed by Harvard junior Michael Yashinsky, who chose to set it in Rome during the rise of Fascism, and with Channing Yu leading a large orchestra, this is a fully staged and costumed production offering well-coordinated English super-titles.

The principal roles were surprisingly effective; all were strong vocally and dramatically, especially the tenor, Michael Hartman, as Cavaradossi. The mostly amateur orchestra members sounded remarkably good. My only complaint was that the tubular bells were too loud.

It was a little difficult to imagine the Roman countryside in the preparations for Act III, especially since the prop man was having trouble keeping the Viva la Morta banner up. (It was opening night, after all; or maybe it was intentional.) Eventually he threw it backstage in disgust. The Lowell House Dining Hall has no orchestral pit, so from my seat to the left in the second row, I saw most of the action through harp strings.  [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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An Evening with Thomas Zehetmair


Thomas Zehetmair, the well-known Austrian chamber musician (Zehetmair Quartet), conductor (Artistic Partner with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra from 2010/11), and one of the technically and musically most brilliant violin soloists today, was in absolute top form at his concert at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on February 22. Hence, the audience gave him a well-deserved standing ovation after his presentation of a fascinating and challenging program that included, sandwiched between Johann Sebastian Bach, two contemporary pieces by Pierre Boulez and Heinz Holliger—the latter composed only a few months ago and specifically for Zehetmair, a tireless advocate of new music.

In the light of the evening’s magisterial performance, this listener could not help but recall what the musician and critic Johann Friedrich Reichardt wrote in his 1805 review of the then freshly published first edition of Bach’s set of unaccompanied violin solos: “They may give the greatest example in any art form for a master’s ability to move with freedom and assurance, even in chains.”        [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Three Generations of Harpsichord Music in Authentic Tuning at First Church


Hendrik Broekman presented a fine harpsichord recital Sunday afternoon, February 21, at First Church Boston as part of their series, “Les Clavecinistes,” sponsored by Hubbard Harpsichords of which Broekman is technical director. He played on a copy of an anonymous French instrument of 1669 tuned in 1/5 comma meantone appropriate to three generations of 17th-century composers. This tuning gave the afternoon a certain pungency.

This program was extremely thoughtful, unusual in a harpsichord recital that avoided J. S. Bach. Broekman provided copious program notes. He has a way with words, both written and spoken extemporaneously from the stage. His whole demeanor bespeaks someone who has devoted most of his career to the harpsichord. His written tribute to Frank Hubbard (1920-1976), founder of Hubbard Harpsichords and author of Three Centuries of Harpsichord Making (1965), was extremely moving.           [Click title for full review] [continued]


Exsultemus Infuses the Leipzig Baroque with Vibrant Life


This still rather new ensemble’s astonishingly extensive 2009-2010 season— seven programs in multiple venues —presents the greater Boston public with four revealing overviews of church music from great German centers of the Baroque. These are Hamburg, Dresden, Darmstadt, and — on Sunday, February 21 — Leipzig.

The half-century of music Exsultemus elected to present begins in the relative obscurity of the second city of Sachsen some two musical generations after the death of Monteverdi. Leipzig was a prosperous princely town of regional importance, with powerful commercial aspirations and a nascent cultural life that would, by the second quarter of the 18th century, be on a par with that of Hamburg. The Stadrath, Leipzig’s town councilors, were famous throughout the many German lands of that era for their control, disapproval, and intricate meddling in artistic matters. The integration of city affairs and Protestant church authorities was so intimate that no appointment of a musician could be made on a purely æsthetic and liturgical basis, as one promising applicant, a native of Eisenach in the neighboring state of Thüringen, was to discover during a chill winter in early 1723.         [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Four Strausses Come Calling at Symphony Hall


This season’s Annual Pension Fund Concert for the BSO on February 21 paid homage to four composers named Strauss, and thankfully the programming embraced several genuine masterpieces in its broad span.  James Levine and the orchestra made a fine case for reviving a corner of the repertoire that was once very much with us, but today is much ignored—music of the light classical inclination, which for many years was the bread and butter of Arthur Fiedler’s long directorship of the Boston Pops.  Say what one might about Fiedler—he did what he did extremely well, and maintained a high standard for Boston orchestral music making for many fruitful years.  Fiedler’s many recordings attest to this, and a particular pleasure can be drawn from his idiomatic and delightful recordings of many and surprisingly varied works by Johann and Josef Strauss.   [Click title for full review] [continued]

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Schubert’s Piano Trios in Excellent Hands


Making their Celebrity Series debut as a trio on February 21, violinist Philip Setzer and cellist David Finckel of the Emerson Quartet joined forces with pianist Wu Han yesterday afternoon at 3 pm at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall in a stellar performance of piano trios by Franz Schubert.

Both the B-flat major trio, D.898, and the E-flat major trio, D.929, date from the last year of Schubert’s life (1828), with drafts for the trio in E-flat dating from November, 1827. A modern piano, with its over-strung bass strings and full tone can easily overwhelm its string partners, but the three players found a perfect equilibrium in both dynamics and timbre that allowed us to appreciate the intricate exchange of themes and motives throughout. It is the task of the performers to allow these lyrical moments their full expansion without losing a sense of forward motion. Setzer, Finckel, and Wu Han accomplished this masterfully by steadfastly maintaining Schubert’s tempi while paying loving attention to details of articulation. The delicacy of Wu Han’s staccato repeated notes (easier by far on Schubert’s piano) deserves special mention, as do the beautiful tone and phrasing of Setzer and Finckel.        [Click title for full review] [continued]

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Triple Helix Adumbrates Modernity at Wellesley


The animating spirit of the February 20 concert by the renowned piano trio Triple Helix (Lois Shapiro, piano; Rhonda Rider, cello; and on this occasion Gabriela Diaz standing in for regular violinist Bayla Keyes) at their home venue of Wellesley College, was to explore how artistic currents that grew into the modernist tendencies of 20th century music rippled through the work of composers whose esthetics were mostly shaped by earlier styles. All but one of the works performed, the Debussy cello and violin sonatas, the Janácek violin sonata and Fairy Tale for cello and piano, and the Fauré and Rebecca Clarke trios, were written during or just after World War I, and most of them directly or indirectly reflect their composers’ experiences of the Great War. The Debussy and Fauré works, written near the ends of their creators’ lives, carry additional personal freight.  [Click title for full review] [continued]

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The Claremont Trio Plays the French Triumvirate


Last September, the Claremont Trio took us to Russia in a program at the Gardner Museum that I thought engaged “the listener on a plane marked by a complete grasp of musical ideas combined with an intensely unwavering focus…” This time (Sunday, February 21), during a sold-out concert in the Tapestry Room, we were to have journeyed with the Claremont Trio to France through the music of Debussy, Fauré and Ravel, the great French triumvirate that established one continuous stream of inimitable compositions from not-so-late in the 19th century to more-than-early-on into the 20th.

This second outing raised flags, though not the ones we might have first thought of or wished for. Whereas the French triumvirate traveled with intimacy, refinement, delicacy, perfumed atmospheres, sensuousness, colorfulness, the picturesque, and, in particular, with those ecstatic bursts or élats, this young and enthusiastic trio from New York embarked on a different route. Destination France, unfortunately, was not to be.     [Click title for full review]


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Strauss of All Sorts at BSO Benefit


The all-Strauss concert presented by Boston Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, February 21 was an unexpected pleasure. While Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote, featuring cellist Lynn Harrell and violist Steven Ansell, is a big, multi-layered work, at first glance the program seemed unbalanced:  Don Quixote occupied the entire first half, while the second half consisted of an overture, a march, and various waltzes and polkas by three members of the Strauss family (no relation to Richard) who lived in the 19th century. It seemed likely that after intermission, we’d be sitting through light “pops” music, eager to get back out to the sunny Sunday afternoon we’d left

The performance of Don Quixote was tremendously engaging from beginning to end. From the moment Lynn Harrell ran out on the stage, eager to begin this orchestral opera, there was a sense of being present at a unique unfolding of this work. The music is so dense, so much is happening at once, surely you could listen again and again, and each time a different aspect of the music would be revealed. The exquisite orchestration and the sense of never knowing what might occur next (although the orchestra was quite secure!) made people in the second balcony lean forward in their seats, the better to capture each fleeting musical event. It was a kaleidoscope of sound, fascinating in itself and constantly changing.  [Click title for full review] [continued]

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Chamber Orchestra of Boston Brings Tangos to the Fore


An extraordinarily refreshing program was offered by the Chamber Orchestra of Boston under its musical director David Feltner on February 12 at the First Church. The event featured tangos and some rarely-heard compositions for string orchestra and percussion.

For the tangos, Feltner commissioned two new works in tango style from Robert Edward Smith and Thomas Oboe Lee. He also consulted with pianist Virginia Eskin, who suggested a number of repertory possibilities (including piano pieces that she played on the concert). The resulting list produced a selection of tangos by a wide variety of composers, including works for piano alternating with others for string orchestra. Two varied groups of five items each opened and closed the concert.

Feltner chose two larger works by major symphonic composers to be embedded in the middle, before and after intermission. Though Mendelssohn and Sibelius are familiar figures in our concert life, neither Mendelssohn’s youthful Sinfonia No. 11 nor Sibelius’s Rakastava (The Lovers), Opus 14, is anything like a standard repertory item. Both call for a percussionist to be added to the standard strings of the Chamber Orchestra of Boston. Feltner’s choices were canny programming, since Thomas Oboe Lee’s new work requires a percussionist. The result made for a concert full of surprises all around.     [Click title for full review] [continued]

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Pearlman Coordinates Kaleidoscopic Styles in Monteverdi’s Vespers


Martin Pearlman and the highly skilled forces of Boston Baroque gave us a splendid rendition on February 19 at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall of Claudio Monteverdi’s music for the Vespers of the Blessed Virgin. The performance was repeated February 20 at Jordan Hall and will be performed again on March 6th at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

When Monteverdi published his collection in Venice in 1610, he was forty-three years old and nearing the end of his tenure at the Gonzaga court in Mantua. The original purpose of the Vespers is not known, although it might have been sung at the inauguration of a new order of chivalry by Vincenzo Gonzaga in 1608. Most probably Monteverdi, who by this time was seeking a position elsewhere (in August 1613 he was appointed maestro di cappella at St. Mark’s, Venice), intended the collection as a portfolio with which to demonstrate his abilities as a composer of sacred music in a variety of styles.

Opulent music such as this would be suitable for any one of the great feasts of the church year dedicated to the Virgin. To complete the liturgical sequence of the vesper service, Pearlman’s performance included the plainchant antiphons for the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin (August 15th) that would have been sung before each of its five psalms and concluding Magnificat. [Click title for full review.] [continued]


Levine Exudes Warmth in All-Beethoven Program Redux


The bare trees lining the streets of Boston may have been shivering in a chill winter wind, but the calendar had flipped ahead a few pages within the capaciously cozy confines of Symphony Hall Thursday evening, February 18th. Conductor James Levine treated a sold-out audience to his realizations of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (“Pastoral”) and Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 as part of his postponed exploration of the great composer’s symphonic output. Last fall, with Levine on the disabled list, a series of guest conductors pinch-hit on the podium during the originally scheduled concert series. Thus, the intriguing aspect of this program was its performance by the BSO just 111 days earlier under the capable baton of Maestro Lorin Maazel. This gave concertgoers who attended last fall’s concert a rare and fascinating juxtaposition: identical orchestra and program under the guidance of two equally accomplished but markedly different conductors. I was fortunate enough to be one of those concertgoers; click here for my review of the Maazel rendition. [Click title for full review.]



Ebony Light and Dark at BSO Community Concert


There has not been nearly enough said about the Boston Symphony’s outreach program, funded by the Lowell Institute, that brings chamber music concert featuring BSO players into venues in the various cities and neighborhoods of eastern Massachusetts. On Valentine’s Day the seventh such performance (the fourth discrete program) in this series (ten in all) took place at Roxbury’s Twelfth Baptist Church, before a full and commendably diverse house. The performers on this occasion were clarinetist Thomas Martin and the members of the Hawthorne String Quartet, Ronan Lefkowitz (in the first piece only) and Si-Jing Huang, violins, Mark Ludwig, viola, and Sato Knudsen, cello.

The program for this brief recital (one hour, no intermission) was a bit of a moveable feast. The season flyer for the series promised works of Penderecki, Viktor Kalabis, Gideon Klein and Franz Krommer. In the event, we got three movements of Hadyn’s D minor quartet, Op. 76 No. 2, the Krommer B-flat clarinet quartet, Op. 21 No. 2, the Klein string trio, and the première of Mr. Martin’s arrangement for clarinet quartet of Gershwin’s three preludes for piano, a considerably more demotic assortment. This series has not hitherto shied away from difficult music; we hope the BSO has not despaired of finding audiences for it.            [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Baroque Light, ‘n’ Lovely


LAcadémie is a relatively new Baroque chamber group in Boston, established during the 2008-2009 season by harpsichordist and general director Leslie Kwan and tenor, conductor, and music director Michael Barrett. Their concerts this season, all in the Marsh Chapel at Boston University, are diverse but thematic, full of engaging and rarely heard music. The concert I heard on Saturday, February 13th, entitled “(S)he’s Just Not That into You: Love Songs (and More) from Seventeenth-Century England and Italy,” in spite of the ungrateful title, was a fine example of their extraordinary singing and playing, with the added fillip of delightful dramatic presentation that wove the concert into one well-proportioned tapestry.

The two-dozen vocal works were all from the Treasury of Musick (1669), three volumes compiled by John Playford containing music chiefly by Henry and William Lawes. The seven instrumental works, performed before and after each group of four songs, derived from “the first generation of published compositions from Italy for solo instrument and basso continuo,” and included sonatas and dances by Dario Castello (ca. 1590-ca. 1658), Biagio Marini (1594-1663), Andrea Falconieri (1585/6-1656)), and Giovanni Paolo Cima (ca. 1570-1622).         [Click title for full review.] [continued]


Pro Musicis’ 44th Season Continues with Unmistakable Virtuosity and Personal Quest


Pro Musicis artist Lydia Artymiw played piano music of Mozart, Schumann, Messiaen, and Kurtág at Pickman Hall at Longy School of Music Saturday, February 13. Both the older and the newer music underwent a transforming presentation, exhibiting unmistakable virtuosity and personal quest.

Artymiw, with unequivocal determination, followed her muse to extreme individualism, her fingers never failing her. Well-deserved applause goes to her for opening up to us and taking us along with her on her own musical affirmation. While her virtually flawless playing, pervading the top flight acoustics of the intimate hall in Cambridge, left me in humble admiration, I could not understand the plots, messages, and voices of the composers. All seemed to take on a single voice, far too often loud if not overpowering. [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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BSO- Best Night in 56 Years!


I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Boston Symphony Orchestra play more beautifully than they did last night, and I’ve been listening to them in concert for 56 years.

The February 11th  program was superbly challenging: Alban Berg’s Three Pieces for orchestra, op. 6; Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs; and Mahler’s Fourth Symphony.  All of these works have social, personal, and national kinships; all the composers knew each other and each other’s work, and the three works frame the most historically important years of central Europe in the past century. For this listener, Mahler’s 4th with soprano, Renee Fleming was a most incomparably rich and expressive performance.       [Click title for full review] [continued]


Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet Demonstrate Complete Mastery


There are not nearly so many woodwind quintets touring the world as there are string quartets, but one of the most highly regarded, a quintet made up of players from the Berlin Philharmonic made its Boston debut under the auspices of the Celebrity Series at Jordan Hall on February 5. The wind quintet is a very different animal from the most familiar of chamber music ensembles, the string quartet.  The latter consists of instruments that bear a close family resemblance in playing technique and sonority; the sound of a string quartet is generally homogenous for this reason, unless the players take great pains to differentiate themselves for expressive effect.  The wind quintet is almost the exact opposite.       [Click title for full review] [continued]

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Collage New Music Brings New Perspectives on America’s Pulse


Collage New Music, led by director David Hoose, presented an eclectic selection of 21st-century chamber works on Monday evening, February 8, at Pickman Hall of the Longy School of Music. Featuring four substantial pieces from four well-established contemporary composers Arlene Sierra, Sebastian Currier, Chen Yi, and Steven Mackey, the ensemble displayed a top-tier performance standard throughout the program. All but Chen Yi’s works were receiving their first Boston performance. Hoose was inclined to share with the audience an exploration of American musical identity, and after some stream-of-consciousness pondering on the subject, affirmed that it is some general sense of pulse that unites the canon of 20th and 21st century American music. All of the composers featured on the program (who, Hoose claims, identify themselves primarily as American composers) present their own distinct integration of pulse into their pieces.         [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Bring On Da Groove—Juventas Digs It


At the Middle East Upstairs in Central Square, Cambridge, for the Juventas concert on February 7, what we may be experiencing is a significant infusion of new artistic visions that will keep the classical scene alive. The program presented young composers (that’s what this group does, after all) seeking inspiration in the worlds of rock, jazz, bluegrass, and other elements of American popular music, all to be manipulated by classical procedural means. For the most part, they were not just dipping into pop as exotica or as an abstract structural element, but they were aiming to blur the distinctions between genres.

Piotr Szewczyk’s Wild West Sketch revels in its archetypal pentatonic cowboyisms and multiple other influences, including honky-tonk salon music; we think George Chadwick would have approved.  Lisa Park ripped through Szewczyk’s First Coast Groove for solo violin (Park), played in the second half, with great panache and verve.

Everything stays, um, on track, both uphill and dizzyingly downhill in Dan Ruccia’s Training Wheels for viola and cello.

The ensemble played Alexander Tovar’s Black Dog Variations crisply and with fine high spirits, under the baton of  the group’s new Associate Conductor, Lidiya Yankovskaya. Bass clarinetist Amy Advocat certainly gave the Matthew Mendez’s Riff (raff) plenty of oomph and sex appeal in her tone and opulent phrasing.

The second half continued with the one stylistic outlier of the program, Steve Wanna’s 2007 Trayectoria for the full ensemble with performances that appeared flawless and very affecting. Anthony Lanman’s Cerulean Soliloquy, for flute and piano (Jay and Carey) was very attractive indeed. For the final piece, Ms. Yankovskaya and the players kept David Beidenbender’s Stomp humming with intensity, spirit and perfect coordination.         [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Thoughtful connections in Duo Piano Concert by Goode and Biss


Two-piano concerts are an unjustly neglected genre, as Richard Goode and Jonathan Biss duly demonstrated at Jordan Hall on February 7 as part of the Celebrity Series. On stage, they made for a study in contrasts. Goode, the elder eminence, short and stout with a monkish haircut, makes small, refined movements. Biss cuts a crisp figure, long and angular and uses his body for dramatic effect, singing with his torso and exploding when big chords hit.

Their program brought together music of thoroughly canonized composers, but with enough thoughtful connections between the pieces that it hardly felt rote. Their playing of Schubert’s Allegro (D. 947) had an elasticity to match its swirling textures, but they used a dry, clear sound that sometimes seemed at odds with the music.

The phrasing of both pianists in Debussy’s arrangement for Schumann’s six Studies in a Canon Form was sublime: supplely subdivided beats that made the clockwork sing. The arrangement of Stravinsky’s Agon didn’t get the mechanical obeisance that Stravinsky’s rhythms are predicated on. The contrapuntal and rhythmic complexities of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge were tackled with clarity, never complaint, by the musicians.

En blanc et noir by Debussy piece was a fitting close, as it seemed the best suited to the pianists’ strengths. Goode and Biss brought to it the clarity, restraint, and sensuality that Debussy’s music thrives on.   [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Chameleon Ensemble Promotes Virtues of Recycling


The theme of Chameleon Ensemble’s February 6 concert at the Goethe-Institut was “for that transforming touch,” which, given the program of works by Fine, Larsen, Boulez, Sarasate and Brahms, may not have seemed entirely self-evident. Unifying themes aside, this typically eclectic outing by Chameleon, for whom illuminating eclecticism is its raison d’être, was a mostly satisfying evening.

Chameleon’s wind quintet subset, comprising Music Director and ensemble flutist Deborah Boldin, Nancy Dimock, oboe, Gary Gorczyka, clarinet, Whitacre Hill, horn, and Margaret Phillips, basson, crisply brought out the white-key dissonances in Irving Fine’s Partita for Wind Quintet, but suffered a bit from excessive democracy in its voicing. Libby Larsen is a composer more heard about than heard in these parts, so Chameleon’s performance of her Try Me, Good King: Last Words of the Wives of Henry VIII for soprano and piano was welcome in itself, and we got a dramatically powerful performance of a musically “meh” work. A very fine example of a composer reflecting a bit mellowly on earlier militancy came next: Pierre Boulez’s Dérive I for Pierrot ensemble plus vibraphone—Boldin, Gorczyka, Myer, Katherine Winterstein, violin, Rafael Popper-Keizer, cello, and Aaron Trant, vibes. The players appeared to be enjoying this piece, and the audience, perhaps to its amazement, did as well.

Chameleon’s resident quartet was joined by guest pianist Myer to test their mettle in Brahms’s Piano Quintet, op. 34, this staple of the “central” repertoire. The result of their collaboration was, in the end, highly satisfying: came the finale, and all was sublime—it brought the packed room to its feet. Now for the quibble: These excellent players of Chameleon perform together five times a year and perhaps not as a defined group on each occasion. Add the complication of an outside pianist and one can see why it took two movements for everyone to get in synch. All of them clearly get the piece and get the style (up to and including the wattle-rattling body English), but for a while they seemed to be getting it differently. We remain grateful that they did get it all together for such a rousing finish.  [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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The Salon Was Cold, but Not the Music


Musicians of the Old Post Road presented a concert, “From the Romantic Salon,” at the Harvard Epworth Church in Cambridge on February 6.  The Church’s heating system was not working, so we all sat huddled in our coats—the temperature was surely no more than 50° F (it was 21° F outside), with perceptible drafts. Nonetheless the performers, Olav Chris Henriksen, guitar, Suzanne Stumpf, flute, Sarah Darling, viola, and Daniel Ryan, cello, in spite of their red cheeks, miraculously managed to seem oblivious. The temperature was probably good for the instruments, but these weren’t just any old instruments.

The concert was built around Henriksen’s unaltered six-string guitar, ca. 1805, in the style of the Viennese school of Johann Georg Stauffer (1778-1853), comparatively small but with a rich resonance easily heard throughout the well-chosen space. Suzanne Stumpf’s wooden, multi-keyed, old system flute is also from Vienna at the same period: it has a sweet sound in its lower register, and bird-like fleetness in its upper one. Dan Ryan’s singing cello was made a century earlier (ca. 1700) in Belgium, and Sarah Darling’s viola almost two centuries later (in 1987) in Chicago by William Whedbee.

The music for the first two works was found in the Henriksen family archives, rediscovered a year ago, a collection representing guitar music played in family circles in northern Europe from 1793 to 1850. The two longer works on the program were each in five movements, an assortment of simple sonata forms and dances. Musicians of Old Post Road  do us a great service by bringing to our serious attention tasteful performances of well-chosen music from a genre that was widespread in both Europe and America before the age of the concert hall. [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Sarasa Lavishes Elegant, Loving Detail on Baroque Standards


The second of a pair of concerts Sarasa Chamber Music Ensemble gave on the last weekend in January wrapped a comfortably familiar Bach cembalo concerto in “La Primavera” and “L’Estate,” the usual first two of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, then spun “L’Autunno” and “L’Inverno” around a little tour de force by Telemann, a late-Baroque concerted miniature without continuo. The Parish Hall in Concord’s First Parish Church is intimate and flatteringly resonant.

Sarasa’s founder, cellist Timothy Merton, and harpsichordist Charles Sherman established detailed, rhythmically impeccable, and harmonically adventurous bedrock or occasional interweaving filigree above which the mercurial upper strings soared. Elizabeth Blumenstock, as her big public across the time zones knows, is a good deal more than just a very fine fiddler. She provided, in no uncertain terms, the verbal clock spring for the spring-fresh recasting of the music.

The penultimate work was a jewel. In his awesome bursts of creativity through some six decades, Georg Phillip Telemann dashed off four little concerti for four solo violins senza basso continuo. Elizabeth Blumenstock quipped that, just as the band had gotten down to rehearsing one of them in C, the notion began to dawn among the four of them that, really, the Four-Violin Concerto in D, TWV 40:202 (not reliably dated) was the winner.           [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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Full House for Kuerti and Cerovsek at Concord Chamber Music Society’s German Concert


Steven Ledbetter’s informed commentary preceded the concert by the Concord Chamber Music Society on January 31, at Concord Academy in Concord, MA. Anton Kuerti’s playing of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 26 in Eb, Op. 81a let the mechanically challenging express-speed passages serve the rhetorical sweep of the piece without once tempting listeners to be distracted by pianistic considerations. There was power aplenty, but also lyricism. It was a great pleasure, by the way, to hear this sonata on a Steinway B, not on the usual concert D, that noticeably favors transparency over massiveness.

In the Schumann Violin Sonata No. 1 in a, Op. 105 (1851), Mr. Kuerti and violinist Corey Cerovsek, who has become nearly as peripatetic and in demand, demonstrated a seamless ensemble consciousness that imbued this by turns intimate and at times briefly extrovert sonata with wonderful unity.

Instead of the promised piano quartet, Corey Cervosek and Wendy Putnam sped out, parts in hand, to laughingly explain that this wasn’t an opportunity they were going to let slip by. Off they dashed into two movements from the charming Two Violin duos from Haydn’s Sonata in B-flat, op. 99(?) Violinist Wendy Putnam, violist Steve Ansell, cellist Michael Reynolds, and pianist Anton Kuerti chose effective tempi for Goetz’s long and rewarding chamber work, his Piano Quartet in E, Op. 6.      [Click title for full review.] [continued]

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