March 31, 2015

in: Reviews

Virtuoso Partners: Batiashvili and Lewis

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Violinist Lisa Batiashvili and pianist Paul Lewis filled a Sunday afternoon with bravura for the Celebrity Series at Jordan Hall. She’s very special and he’s the cat’s meow.     [continued]

March 31, 2015

in: Reviews

Intense DSCH + Tchaikovsky @ ISG

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The Borromeo String Quartet’s second pairing of Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky works came Sunday at Calderwood Hall in a remarkably compact program that disclosed concentrated, vital playing from one of the world’s best ensembles.     [continued]

March 30, 2015

in: Reviews

Musical Responses to Tragedy

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With what Artistic Director Deborah Boldin titled “called back,” Chameleon Arts Ensemble continued its fine tradition of adventurous programming on Saturday at First Church in Boston. The five works arising from loss and death knocked the wind out of us at the end.     [continued]

March 30, 2015

in: Reviews

Strong Passion Via Mark and King’s Chapel

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Sunday afternoon, King’s Chapel offered one of the more than a half dozen reconstructions of The Passion According to St. Mark based on the surviving libretto of Bach’s librettist Picander. In these more cynical times, Bach and St. Mark through Hellman and King’s Chapel surely, lovingly, heightened our sense of purpose.     [continued]

March 29, 2015

in: Reviews

YFC Delights Romantic Fans

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In a concert Saturday night at Jordan Hall sponsored by the Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts, pianist Ya-Fei Chuang created, as the French would say, Chopin’s 24 Preludes Op. 28, the Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor and Ravel’s La Valse, beautifully emphasizing the dialog between darkness and light.   [continued]

March 28, 2015

in: Reviews

Handel, Haydn, Bach, Matthew

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For the H+H Bicentennial approaching Eastertide, the 200-year-old organization offered an enrapturing Bach’s St Matthew Passion at Symphony Hall last night, with a second performance coming Sunday at 3:00.     [continued]

March 28, 2015

in: Reviews

Handel and Humanity in BOC’s Rinaldo

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In collaboration with New Vintage Baroque, the Boston Opera Collective opened Rinaldo, in the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology on Thursday evening. Performances will continue throughout the weekend with two alternating casts.     [continued]

March 27, 2015

in: Reviews

Hammer Strokes and Organ Peals

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Andris Nelsons led the BSO masterfully Thursday in a demanding program consisting of the first performance of Gandolfi’s Ascending Light, a distinguished addition to the rarefied genre of the organ concerto, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 6.     [continued]

March 27, 2015

in: Reviews

BoCo Revives The Rake’s Progress

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Boston Conservatory’s production of Stravinsky’s last operatic exercise in neoclassicism worth taking in if you have a chance. The Rake’s Progress plays at the BoCo Theater through Sunday.     [continued]

March 27, 2015

in: Reviews

No Way To Feel Antsy at Phoenix Debut

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Phoenix, the stylish new young chamber orchestra, ignited at Club Oberon on Tuesday. A good portion of the evening was devoted to mingling, getting drinks, and hanging out; the musical content was presented in five sets.     [continued]

March 26, 2015

in: Reviews

Sherman Dramatizes Beethoven in Monodrama

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The venerated Russell Sherman played Beethoven to a Jordan Hall filled with his devotees last night. The mystical pianist eschewed his well-known penchant for lingering or hesitating mid-phrase for a sometimes surprising directness.     [continued]

March 26, 2015

in: Reviews

Great Music in Spades, Iffy Story

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Lowell House Opera’s Queen of Spades made much of Tchaikovsky’s superb music on Wednesday night. The staging decisions dealing with the composer’s rambling narrative, though, did not turn it into a coherent story. Playing through April 4th.    [continued]

March 24, 2015

in: Reviews

Stave Sessions Bend Genres

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The Boston debut of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider came Friday as one of five “Stave Sessions” which have extended the regular fare of Celebrity Series programs. From what I saw and heard, the concept should be adjudged a huge success.     [continued]

March 24, 2015

in: Reviews

Beethoven’s Chorale Tribute to God

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Back Bay Chorale’s well-balanced and thoughtful performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis  at Sanders  Theater on Saturday was a gift; even with sizable forces it elucidated the work’s intricacies.     [continued]

March 23, 2015

in: Reviews

. . . Trio’s Engagement and Apologias

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The Ellipsis Trio’s broad repertoire includes an ongoing focus on Americana. On a program at Killian Hall Saturday that also offered a premier by Igor Iwanek, the threesome’s spoken and written apologias belied their technical prowess and sympathetic emotional engagement with Arthur Foote and Ives.    [continued]

March 23, 2015

in: Reviews

Another Blue Heron Triumph: Ockeghem, Part II

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Saturday’s “Ockeghem @600” outing at First Church, Cambridge was devoted to composers, dubbed by NES professor Sean Gallagher, the Ockeghem Five. Blue Heron’s nine singers performed with exemplary polish.   [continued]

March 22, 2015

in: Reviews

Emmanuel’s Fervent Passion

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Emmanuel Music’s wide mood swings in Bach’s St. John Passion took a toll on storytelling Saturday night, but the highly extroverted performance was certainly rewarded with an ovation.    [continued]

March 21, 2015

in: Reviews

New Symphonists at Old Church

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Symphony Nova engaged in 90 uninterrupted minutes of “Soulful Searching” in a darkened Gordon Chapel Friday. Their goal is nothing less than to “reinvigorate the classical music scene through a transformative process.”   [continued]

March 20, 2015

in: Reviews

Valedictory Mozart Under Dohnányi

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BSO played Mozart’s last three symphonies Thursday under Dohnányi with impeccable taste—perfect for everyone who likes such a thing.     [continued]

March 20, 2015

in: Reviews

Cheeky Teeth at Stave Sessions

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The virtuosic, genre-bending vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth played gleaming, glass-encased cafetorium in the fourth concert in the Celebrity Series of Boston’s essential new festival, Stave Sessions.    [continued]

March 19, 2015

in: Reviews

Sacred Bach by Musica Sacra

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Saturday night’s performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor by Musica Sacra at First Congregational Church in Cambridge set a very high standard. They did this monumental work justice, and then some.     [continued]

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April 1, 2015

in: News & Features

Street Antiphons Commissioned by Club

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-quill-pen-As part of its Sanders Theater program (complete information below) on Sunday, April 19th, Boston Chamber Music Society will be premiering Street Antiphons by Pierre Jalbert, the second new score from the BCMS Commissioning Club in as many seasons. BCMS succeeded through the unconventional approach of asking many small contributors to pledge $300 over three years. Pierre Jalbert, who was selected by the BCMS Member Musicians, is the recipient of many awards and honors, most recently from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Stoeger Award, given “in recognition of significant contributions to the chamber music repertory.” 

He is, as well, a recipient of the Rome Prize and a 2010 award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Jalbert has written for the Borromeo, Chiara and Emerson quartets, Music from Copland House, and the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music. BCMS pianist Mihae Lee has spoken of how impressed she was, on hearing the premiere of his Piano Quartet in 2013 in Tucson with “his understanding of instruments, particularly…the variety of sounds he produced with different instruments; the brilliant rhythmic energy that keeps the listener on the edge; his refined craftsmanship; and the dramatic landscape one feels listening to the composition.”  [continued…]

March 30, 2015

in: News & Features

Ronald Knudsen, BSO Violinist, Local Conductor

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Ronald-KnudsenAfter a rich life and career filled with music, Ronald Knudsen died peacefully at home this week, age 83. Known chiefly as a BSO violinist, also conductor and educator, he devoted himself to bringing classical music of all kinds to the widest possible audience. Born in Nebraska and raised in Minnesota, he studied at the MacPhail School of Music in Minneapolis and the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Following Peabody, he was a Tanglewood Music Center Fellow, where he served as both concertmaster and soloist.

Before coming to Boston, in 1965, to join the Boston Symphony violin section, Knudsen was a member of the Baltimore and Detroit Symphony Orchestras. In Boston he was active in many activities of the classical community. He was the original violinist in the contemporary group Collage, and in 1971 helped found the Curtisville Consortium, a chamber music ensemble of BSO players and friends performing each summer in the Berkshires. Knudsen also was a soloist with the Pops, Brockton Symphony, Newton Symphony and Worcester Orchestras.

In August 2013 he retired from the BSO, after 48 years of service. [continued…]

March 26, 2015

in: News & Features

H+H Exhibits its Wares on Anniversary Day

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h-and-h-carouche001It’s in the air of Boston these days: the arts are finally achieving the prominence they deserve in civic life. This is particularly well exemplified by the appointment of Julie Burros to a cabinet level position in the Mayor’s office and a strong commitment to the arts by Mayor Walsh. But it turns out that recognition of the value of the arts to the community has long been in the minds of proper Bostonians. On Tuesday we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Handel & Haydn Society on the exact date. On March 24, 1815, six worthy Bostonian gentlemen met at the home of composer, educator, publisher and oboist Gottlieb Graupner to form what has become the oldest continuously operating arts organization in the country [unless one accepts the precedence of the 229-year-old Stoughton Chorale Society]. At the time of its founding, H+H was essentially a contemporary music ensemble of chorus and orchestra;  Haydn was only five years dead, and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was nine years off. Over the course of time, this organization has presented the US premieres of Handel’s Messiah (1818), Haydn’s The Creation (1819), Verdi’s Requiem (1878), and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (1879). Additionally, they have performed at the state memorial services for Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (1826), Abraham Lincoln (1865), and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1945). They have been on the cutting edge of the musical life of this country, and instead of resting on their lacy haunches, they remain one of the most vital and progressive of the many arts organizations in Boston. Their community outreach and education program is very strong, and their financial picture very solid, as evidenced by the remarks at the event. They have reached $10 million of a $12 million capital campaign to ensure continuing vibrancy. [continued…]

March 25, 2015

in: News & Features

Composer Michael Gandolfi Talks With BMInt

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Decorated organ pipe mouth from Boston Music Hall

Decorated organ pipe mouth from Boston Music Hall

On Symphony Hall’s first opening night, October 15th, 1900, the brand new Hutchings organ gave stately support to Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. Since then the hall’s instrument has been used for many first performances, and apropos of firsts, the BSO’s Robert Kirzinger and Brian Bell told BMInt that the concept of formal commissions from the BSO began 84 years ago with the ensemble’s 50th anniversary. Nevertheless, both before that time and afterwards, BSO music Director Serge Koussevitzky willed numerous composers (sometimes without remuneration) to write works for the orchestra. One of the first such was Copland’s Symphony for Organ and Orchestra; the first performance of the work was in New York, but Nadia Boulanger famously played the subsequent performances with the BSO in 1925. Another example of a commission that included an incidental BSO premiere with organ, was Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge’s for Harvard’s Germanic Museum (now the Busch-Reisinger) of Walther Piston’s Prelude and Allegro for organ and strings. Its broadcast premiere took place with E. Power Biggs on the CBS radio network with strings from the BSO. The Symphony Hall live premiere took place shortly thereafter in October, 1943. [continued…]

March 25, 2015

in: News & Features

Concert Hall Organs: Some Thoughts

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ago-sealwBMInt asked organ historian Jonathan Ambrosino to contribute a discussion of the BSO organ and concert hall brethren as part of our our coverage of the upcoming premiere of Michael Gandolfi’s Concerto for Organ and Orchestra “Ascending Light,” commissioned by Gomidas Organ Fund in memory of long-time BSO organist Berj Zamkochian and in commemoration of the 100th anniversary the Armenian genocide. French organist Olivier Latry will preside at the organ, and Andris Nelsons will conduct.

The existence of pipe organs in concert halls has a history roughly parallel to that of full orchestras themselves in concert halls. Noisy England led the way, with the famous 1834 organ in Birmingham Town Hall, built by William Hill. In this organ was introduced the Tuba Mirabilis, a solo trumpet stop louder and darker than its smaller brethren, which blended into the ensemble. This large organ, with its imposing façade and grand sound, established a trend that would persist for a century particularly throughout the English-speaking world. Boston was hardly immune, and in 1857 commissioned a large concert organ from E.F. Walcker in Germany for its Music Hall. The instrument finally arrived in 1863 (after running an ineffective Confederate blockade of the Boston Harbor), and was installed within an American-designed and -built case of preposterous opulence, the whole endeavor splashed across the press nationwide. [See interesting writeup here] [continued…]

March 20, 2015

in: Reviews

Collaborative Finds Handel’s Essentials

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bewigged-handelwRather like a ship in a bottle, Handel’s elaborate 1711 opera Rinaldo will gleam within a miniature architectural tribute to Symphony Hall thanks to the singer-run Boston Opera Collaborative. Beginning March 26th, the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology’s 160 seats will resound with sorcery, warriors, sirens and furies

Respectfully shorn of excrescences and longueurs, the production will convey Handel’s pleasures in “a fully staged, costumed and choreographed production, though there is no scenery in the traditional sense. We are using a forest of coat-racks in various ways. The costumes are gorgeous—rich in color and imagination—a suggestion of antiquity melded with Alexander McQueen-type high fashion,” according to co-artistic directors Patricia-Maria Weinmann and Greg Smucker.

“We’ve taken the most compelling parts of the narrative to distill the three-hour story into a compact 90 minutes. Some arias have been cut but all the characters have at least two arias (Rinaldo and Arminda more). There are also two duets in this opera, which is a bit unusual for Handel. [continued…]

March 18, 2015

in: News & Features

6 Days and Counting to Phoenix Ignition

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Concert or barbecue?

Concert or barbecue?

The birth of an ensemble is hardly rare in this cultural mecca, but it’s not every week, or every year even, that we get to be present for the birth of a new orchestra. Apparently, we’re all invited to get to know the 30 musicians of Phoenix Orchestra in a social setting of 120 seats—mostly at tables with tinkling glasses—“and experience the launch of a new kind of concert! There’ll be fantastic music, great drinks, and lots of chances to meet the players behind the stands.” Conductor/President Matthew Szymanski has fashioned an ensemble of post-conservatory freelancers (10 of whom come from the late lamented Discovery Ensemble) who will debut with serious repertoire and low-set hurdles at Club Oberon on March 24th. Our questions for Matt elicited some flavor of this new endeavor.

LE: Phoenix proposes to “attract an audience by offering something new and exciting and embrace its members by providing an open, welcoming atmosphere as well as exceptional music.” We need specifics.

MS: We try not to boil ourselves down to a list, but since you asked…. It’s hard to overstate how important the attitude and personality of every musician involved are to making this work. Every person in the orchestra was handpicked as both a person and a musical talent. [continued…]

March 17, 2015

in: News & Features

Take a Chance on Mark!

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Nicholas Church, Leipzig

Nicholas Church, Leipzig

This March has truly been a Bach spectacular in Boston. Starting with Boston Baroque’s St. John Passion in late February and  Musica Sacra’s B Minor Mass last weekend, the exposure will continue with  all-day birthday celebrations on March 21st at First Lutheran Church, with St. John again at Emmanuel Music, and the Handel & Haydn Society’s St. Matthew Passion on the 27th; the spectacle concludes at King’s Chapel with a rarely performed Bach work readers probably have not heard before.

Though musical settings of the Passion story were quite common in the Baroque era, only Bach’s two towering masterpieces are often performed today. Where Bach only occasionally interjected contemporary words into the gospel text for arias and choruses, other composers such as Handel and Telemann used the famous text of Hamburg poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes who wrote a libretto where the entire story was told in his own words. [continued…]

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