May 6, 2016

in: Reviews

Transcending Boundaries: COB’s 15 Years

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Celebrating the ensemble’s 15th birthday at First Church Boston on Saturday April 30th, Chamber Orchestra Boston offered premieres of two adventurous commissions, framed by sparkling Mozart concertos performed on a period fortepiano.     [continued]

May 4, 2016

in: Reviews

H+H Delivers a Brilliant Saul

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The Handel and Haydn Society completed its Bicentennial Season with a splendid performance of Handel’s oratorio Saul at Symphony Hall on Sunday afternoon.     [continued]

May 4, 2016

in: Reviews

Re-Visualizing Goldbergs

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Robyn Bollinger, violin; Wenhong Luo, viola; and Sujin Lee, cello performed Sitkovetsky’s string trio transcription of the Goldberg Variations for Lifetime Learning of Newton Community Education.     [continued]

May 3, 2016

in: Reviews

French Connections with Kwok and Yang

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Temple Emanuel of Newton presented “A Celebration of French Composers” with Sarita Kwok, violin and Wei-Yi Yang, piano in Poulenc, Debussy, and Fauré on Sunday. There seemed to be a perhaps unconscious dream theme pervading.     [continued]

May 2, 2016

in: Reviews

Mendelssohn Beyond the Facile

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The Arneis Quartet brilliantly performed all-Mendelssohn Sunday at Emmanuel Church with violist Joan Ellersick and mezzo-soprano Pamela Dellal.     [continued]

May 2, 2016

in: Reviews

Manny’s Many Happy Returns

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Though Emmanuel Ax has performed many times for the Celebrity Series through the years, as an accompanist, a chamber musician, and as a soloist, Sunday’s sold-out Celebrity Series concert at Jordan Hall must surely mark one of his finest.     [continued]

May 2, 2016

in: Reviews

AFC’s Artful Variation on Goldberg’s

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A large crowd jockeyed for seating at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain Saturday for A Far Cry’s arrangement with guest pianist Simone Dinnerstein of J.S. Bach’s Aria with Diverse Variations, BWV 988, better known as the Goldberg Variations.     [continued]

May 1, 2016

in: Reviews

Well Balanced on the Cutting Edge

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Sound Icon’s concert at the ICA last Thursday brought together a number of cutting-edge institutions: the ICA itself, the Boston University Center for New Music, and most notably, IRCAM-Centre Pompidou.     [continued]

May 1, 2016

in: Reviews

A Mezzo’s Life and Loves

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Susan Graham and pianist Bradley Moore brought an intriguing program called “Frauenliebe und -leben: Variations” to Jordan Hall for the Celebrity Series on Friday.     [continued]

May 1, 2016

in: Reviews

Ellipsis Making Welcome Points

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Ellipsis Trio’s meaty, event-packed Beethoven, Brahms and Dvořák at Cambridge’s First Church Congregational on Thursday night brought sturdy, intelligent professionalism.     [continued]

May 1, 2016

in: Reviews

Appreciating Lifetime Learning

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Lifetime Learning’s series of Monday-morning classical music performances brought pianist Joy Cline Phinney and flutist David B. Houston on April 25th in music by Bach, Hindemith, Bloch, and Hummel for an appreciative audience.     [continued]

May 1, 2016

in: Reviews

Buoyant Ensemble Conquers Danger

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Led by Scott Metcalfe, Blue Heron offered captivatingly expressive “Songs about Hope: Esperance and Amors in 14th-century song” on Friday at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Watertown.     [continued]

April 30, 2016

in: Reviews

Lolo, Dodo, Joujou: Their Era Ends

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Lillian Groag’s considerate production of Lehár’s Merry Widow rang down a bittersweet curtain on Boston Lyric Opera’s 18 years at the Shubert Theater last night in a run that continues through next weekend.     [continued]

April 30, 2016

in: Reviews

Kearney and Gallagher Devise Multimedia Irish Ballad

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Twinsome Minds at the BU Tsai Performance Center reflected on the complex dualities and contradictions of Irish history. Dana Lyn’s haunting music carried the commemoration from an initial state of trauma through catharsis and reconciliation.     [continued]

April 28, 2016

in: Reviews

NEC Youth, Wolff Create Fantastic Magic

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NEC Philharmonia under Hugh Wolff at Symphony Hall yesterday was smashing and more.     [continued]

April 26, 2016

in: Reviews

Christie’s Flourishing Arts Charm for BEMF

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William Christie and Les Art Florissants brought “Serious Airs and Drinking Songs” to  Sanders Theater on Sunday.     [continued]

April 26, 2016

in: Reviews

Vivats for Mature New Music Ensemble

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A receptive Tsai Center audience on Friday took in Richard Pittman’s ably led Boston Musica Viva performance of “Mad Scenes” containing substantive works from composers Andy Vores, Bernard Hoffer, and Arnold Schoenberg.     [continued]

April 26, 2016

in: Reviews

BPO Wakes the Dead and Lifts the Living

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Ben Zander, a musician of famously deep passions, let a breathtaking Verdi Requiem with the Boston Philharmonic and Chorus Pro Musica at Symphony Hall on Sunday.     [continued]

April 25, 2016

in: Reviews

BSO Chamber Players Almost Cavort

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For the Boston Symphony Chamber Players’ Jordan Hall concert on Sunday, Debussy, Ibert, and Brahms replaced Spohr and Lash, while trios of Françaix and Beethoven remained as planned.    [continued]

April 23, 2016

in: Reviews

Sun King Shines on Medford

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“Music and Dance for the Sun King,” a concert of Renaissance and Baroque music, took us time-traveling last Tuesday night at the at Tuft’s Distler Auditorium. Much was engaging, beautifully played and illustrated with period dance.     [continued]

April 22, 2016

in: Reviews

BSO Balancing Acts

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The Boston Symphony’s last subscription series of the season opened Thursday night with variety, including two vocal solos featuring Kristine Opolais, two century-old and one more recent French masterpiece.     [continued]

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May 4, 2016

in: News & Features

Run Silents, Run Deep

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Emil Jannings smolders

Emil Jannings smolders

The first local theatrical showing of a digital restoration of E. A. Dupont’s silent masterwork Varieté (1926) warrants notice on this page primarily because its remarkably satisfying live accompaniment resulted from the four-month effort of students and their guru at a major Boston conservatory. One of the few examples of great art from the milieu of artistes, Varieté transcended the backstage circus genre through the genius of great actors, director and cinematographer to apotheosize the form.

Leading German actor Emil Jannings could smolder and fume like no other. His total command of face and his body allowed him to inhabit a tremendous range of roles. As the film begins, prisoner number 28 emerges from his cell in a bent stoop that is so evocative that it nearly tells the entire story. His emotional state can be read on his back.

There is an operatic quality of large gesture to silent film acting that a good score can enhance and an inappropriate score can shatter. The music should read the inner souls of the actors (comic or tragic) and support, foreshadow and respond, but never mimic. With a great marriage of music and film, the visual and sonic rhythms fit inevitably together. [continued…]

April 28, 2016

in: News & Features

Saul’s Rage and Handel’s Maggots

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Harry Christophers (H + H photo)

Harry Christophers (Stu Rosner photo)

Harry Christophers, one of today’s finest Handel interpreters, promises to deliver an emotional wallop in the master’s big and dramatic three-hour oratorio Saul. Acclaimed baritone Jonathan Best sings the title role of the Israelite king who reluctantly yields his throne to David. A triumph at its 1739 premiere, Saul receives its first-ever complete H+H performance on Friday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 3pm at Symphony Hall. Tickets here.

Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus with Frances Kelly, harp; Jonathan Best, bass-baritone (Saul); Iestyn Davies, countertenor (David); Robert Murray, tenor (Jonathan); Elizabeth Atherton, soprano (Merab); Joélle Harvey, soprano (Michal)

FLE: Handel was a creature of the opera house to begin with, yet because of changes in taste, and because of censors and religious objections, he created his English oratorio style. How different really is Handel’s oratorio from his opera?

Harry Christophers: Not very different, that’s the principal thing. Handel was an incredible businessman and, as a Brit, you know, gosh, we’re so thankful for Handel coming to our shores and doing something about our dearth of music. And as you say, the English public began to get fed up with opera and they wanted something slightly different. For him to dream up the idea of Biblical oratorio subjects is incredible, but I’m a firm believer in the fact that he never ever left being a man of opera, because what he brings to the oratorio is his incredible insight into character. [continued…]

April 27, 2016

in: News & Features

BLO’s Widowed Merriment on Era’s Cusp

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Franz-LeharThe production of Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow which runs from this Friday through Sunday, May 8th at the Shubert Theater, constitutes stage director Lillian Groag’s fourth for Boston Lyric Opera. Her Idomeneo, Agrippina, and Butterfly have all earned good reviews in these (and other) pages. Sung mainly in English, with projected (adapted) translations, the frothy operetta “draws us into the opulent Paris of the legendary Maxim’s in this first-ever BLO production. Featuring a lush design and a new book by director Lillian Groag, Widow cavorts in 1913 Paris during the last glittering gasps before the City of Light would be overshadowed by war—a party at the end of the world.” Tickets here.

BMIInt shares revelations from extensive conversations with stage director Lillian Groag and BLO general and artistic director Esther Nelson. The first 1600 words belong to Groag.

FLE: Can you talk about how you rewrote the book? You moved the time period? What else?

LG: I moved it from 1905 to 1913—under 10 years, so that I could get it close to on top of the beginning of World War I, making it closer to the end of that world, which is hinted at only ever so slightly in the original setting. I wanted the situation to be more dire: the world we speak of is about to end completely with World War I. [continued…]

April 25, 2016

in: News & Features

A Far Cry Announces Executive Direction

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Bridget Mundy to lead AFC

Bridget Mundy to lead AFC

Last Thursday found me at Back Bay’s venerable St. Botolph Club for a relaxed gala among friends and supporters of A Far Cry, where 13 Criers entertained in the cramped front parlor filled to the brim. Mozart’s B-flat Major Divertimento (K.137) opened the evening with an intimate Andante movement that settled into a surefooted Allegro second and third movement. Violinist Megumi Lewis described the second movement of Bach’s D-minor Concerto for Two Violins, which followed, as a big hug: Alex Fortes joined Lewis as soloist in a luxurious read, underscored by a stately yet sensitively transparent orchestral accompaniment. Bach led to Johann Strauss’s Fruhlingsstimmen, whose comedy was presaged by knowing smiles from the performers. Although the over-the-top melodrama received many audience chuckles, the performance never lost sight of the inherent elegance of Strauss’s waltz. The evening then moved from fin de siecle Vienna to the American West, with a soulful setting of Red River Valley, arranged by AFC bassist Karl Doty. The famous cowboy melody is initially set for a solo violin (sensitively performed by the arranger’s wife, Liesl Doty), expanding into a surprisingly moving full-orchestral treatment. [continued…]

April 23, 2016

in: News & Features

Oh No—Not Again!

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Barolomo Veneto's femal lute player (Gardner Museum)

Bartolomo Veneto  (Gardner Museum)

The Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee recently recommended slashing the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s (MCC) annual budget by 28%, from $14 million to $10 million. Every year, one or another draconian measure to cut funding comes up, and those who believe that their life is better from arts exposure have to fight for that view. The process is like an annual tooth extraction.

“We like to pride ourselves that Massachusetts is the most cultured state in the country, that the arts are a form of ‘common wealth,’ as good for business as for our own wellbeing. And yet how shockingly low we rank in our support for public higher education and arts funding,” bemoaned Lloyd Schwartz, local Pulitzer Prize-winning classical critic. “The Massachusetts Cultural Council provides crucial support both for our arts groups and for talented individual artists, and now—once again—the House Ways and Means Committee is threatening to cut a big chunk of MCC’s funding. Will we ever get our priorities right?” [continued…]

April 20, 2016

in: News & Features

300 Years Later, Ristori Restored

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Sarah Darling one of the gang of seven

Sarah Darling, one of the gang of seven

Beginning Friday at Old South Church, seven Musicians of the Old Post Road gather to revive some notes that haven’t been heard much in the last 300-odd years with the regional premiere of Nice e Tirsi, a passionate and fascinating cantata written in 1749 by the little-known Giovanni Alberto Ristori, and restored, from the manuscript, by the group.

Over the years, the physical condition of the manuscript for Nice e Tirsi at the Sachische Landesbibliothek in Dresden, Germany had deteriorated, resulting in extensive ink bleed-through. The library’s color reproduction made deciphering easier, allowing the black notes on one side of the page to distinguish themselves from the “brown” printing-through. The business of score preparation involves entering the whole work into music notation software as a first step, and then delving into specific editorial decisions. This all happens months before the first rehearsal, when the sounds themselves are still far away. Composers will recognize this process, but it’s a fascinating twist to go through it with a work that originated in an entirely different era. [continued…]

April 19, 2016

in: News & Features

Graham’s Songs of Life and Love

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Susan-GrahamOrganized as hypothetical responses by Grieg, Strauss, Fauré, Mahler, Ravel, Poulenc, and Granados to the songs in Schumann’s Frauenlibe und -Leben, mezzo Susan Graham’s April 29th recital at Jordan Hall with pianist Bradley Moore will be her fourth appearance for the Celebrity Series. “America’s favorite mezzo” (Gramophone) achieved international stardom within a few years of her professional debut. Her operatic roles span four centuries, from Monteverdi’s Poppea to Jake Heggie’s Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking), which was written for Graham, and her other repertoire is equally wide-ranging. She was last seen here with soprano Renée Fleming in February 2013.

BMInt found her engaging.

Did most women of the 1830s see themselves as subservient to men as the poet Chamiso imagined them to be, or was this an insecure man’s fantasy?

I’m sure some women did, and I’m sure society did as well. However, in Chamiso’s poems, this woman was actually a governess in the man’s house. So her “subservient” references (“I’m a lowly maid,” “I’ll serve him and curtsy to him”) are more a reflection of her job status. [continued…]

April 16, 2016

in: News & Features

Putting On Airs with Flourish, Serious and Less So

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christieHarpsichordist-conductor William Christie and his Les Arts Florissants promise virtuosic theatricality in an evening exploring the air de cour (court air), a genre of secular vocal music that delighted the elegant salons of 17th-century France. In “Serious Airs and Drinking Songs,” 10 singers and instrumentalists bring passionate performances of wistful laments and courtly songs of pleasure by Charpentier, Lambert, and others to Sanders Theater on April 24th. Details of this Boston Early Music Festival presentation are at the end.

FLE: It’s been 14 years since you’ve been in Boston, apparently—any reason you know of?

WC: Obviously, one thinks of managers who haven’t perhaps sold the programs that they needed to sell; perhaps the people in Boston aren’t interested in me. I don’t know. There are many things and many reasons, I suppose. There’s a lot of music going on in Boston.

We certainly do have an active early-music scene here. Here’s what BEMF director Kathy Fay told us. [continued…]

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