Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Winter Orgy® Period 2017

My apologies for not posting sooner. WHRB (95.3.FM around Boston, on line elsewhere) is nearing the end of the second week of their Winter Orgy® Period. There's about a week left. The classical music segments remaining are as follows:

  • Today — No Strings Orgy — until 10:00 p.m.
  • Dec. 14 — No Strings Orgy — 1:00 - 10:00 p.m.
  • Dec. 15 — Milhaud Orgy — 12:00 - 10:00 p.m.
  • Dec. 16 —no official orgy. The Met opera performance of  "Norma" at 1:00 is followed by other classical music until 9:00 p.m.
  • Dec. 17 — Milhaud Orgy — 2:00 - 10:00 p.m.
  • Dec. 18 — Glenn Gould Orgy — 10:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.
  • Dec. 19 — Glenn Gould Orgy — 10:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.

That is the end of the designated Orgies, but there is lots of other interesting programming from then through Christmas. Afterwards, they return to the regular cycle: Jazz 5:00a.m. - 1:00 p.m., Classical 1:00 - 10:00 p.m., and Rock overnight on weekdays, with major Harvard sports games interrupting the schedule. The weekend schedule is a bit different. Notably, on Saturdays they carry the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts and on Sundays at 8:00 p.m. they present a recorded opera.

Their complete program guide is available on line.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

BSO/Classical New England — 2017/12/09

The BSO has given way to Holiday Pops for the rest of the year. This evening WCRB favors us with a rebroadcast/stream of the Tanglewood concert of last August 6, describes as follows in the BSO's own program detail page:
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma returns to the Shed on Sunday, August 6, with David Zinman on a program featuring two works by Schumann-the free-flowing and adventurous Cello Concerto, featuring Mr. Ma, and the elevating Symphony No. 2 in C, the longest of the composer's four symphonies. The afternoon concert opens with Mozart's Symphony No. 25, last performed by the BSO at Tanglewood in 2000.
At the advice of his doctors, Maestro Christoph von Dohnányi regrets that he cannot appear with the Boston Symphony this summer at Tanglewood. He is continuing to heal from a fall he suffered earlier this year and looks forward to leading the BSO as scheduled in November. Conductor David Zinman replaces Maestro von Dohnányi for the Sunday, August 6, program featuring Yo-Yo Ma in Schumann's Cello Concerto. The program also includes Mozart's Symphony No. 25 and Schumann's Symphony No. 2.

(Some emphasis added.)

I don't find any reviews, but it's all good music, so I'm sure it'll be worth hearing, or rehearing. So listen in on air or over the web as WCRB transmits it at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time this evening. The home page also give a plethora of additional information about programming on the station, so check it out It has been their practice to repeat the Saturday BSO program a week and two days later on Monday evening. I can't find the precise schedule for that, but you can probably hear this evening's program again on December 18, and last week's Bermel, Prokofiev, and Strauss on the 11th.

Happy listening!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

BSO — 2017/12/02

After this evening, the Boston Symphony gives way to Holiday Pops until January. In December, WCRB will give rebroadcasts of three concerts from last summer at Tanglewood and, on December 23, Christmas-themed music conducted by Seiji Ozawa. For now, I'll let the BSO's performance detail page tell us about this evening's concert, which will be under the baton of Music Director Andris Nelsons.
Greek-born violinist Leonidas Kavakos returns to Symphony Hall as soloist in Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2. Composed in the mid-1930s, the concerto is by turns beautifully lyrical and scintillatingly virtuosic, with a Spanish-flavored finale as a nod to Madrid, where the work was premiered in 1935. Opening these concerts is American composer Derek Bermel's "spectral love potion" Elixir, which combines colorfully tranquil music for strings with exuberant, Messiaen-like exclamations from wind instruments deployed throughout the auditorium. Completing the program is Richard Strauss's cinematic tone poem An Alpine Symphony, illustrating an excursion up, then down (at a faster pace!) a mountain, with a huge range of instrumental and compositional effects.
(Some emphasis added.)

You can get the usual descriptive material, including program notes, via the usual links on that page.

I wasn't there on Thursday so we have to rely on the reviews in the Globe (brief, satisfied), and Boston Musical Intelligencer (extensive, metaphor laden, grandiloquent, approving) for insights into the performances, while the orchestra's program notes tell about the music as composed.

It'll be interesting to hear what the Bermel piece actually sounds like, although the program notes suggest you really need to be in the auditorium to get the full effect. But I'm looking forward to hearing it over WCRB at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Since I'm not a great fan of Strauss, I won't mind missing the Alpine Symphony when my brother calls from Tokyo. You can also hear the"encore broadcast/stream at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, December 11. On the 4th, we get last Saturday's program of Beethoven and Bruckner.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

BSO — 2017/11/25

This week we get "the two B's:" Beethoven and Bruckner. Add piano soloist Rudolf Buchbinder, and we have "the three B's" — although not the ones people usually mean by that phrase. Here, to give greater precision, is the description from the BSO's program detail page:
BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons and eminent Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder pair up for Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, a robustly elegant work with which Beethoven made his name as a composer-performer of extraordinary abilities and personality in mid-1790s Vienna. Anton Bruckner wrote his warm, majestic Fourth Symphony in 1874, but as with many of his works he subjected it to extensive revision. Though the 1881 premiere of the second version under Hans Richter in Vienna brought one of the composer's greatest successes, a third version of the score dates from 1888.
(Some emphasis added.)

That page has the usual audio previews, program notes, and performer bios.

I didn't hear either of the previous performances, but the reviews are in. The one in the Globe is entirely favorable. The two (!) in the Boston Musical Intelligencer (the first here, and the second here) have some disappointments, but also found a lot to like. The first review has lengthy descriptions of both pieces which could take the place of the official program notes from the orchestra.

As always, the concert will be streamed and broadcast live over WCRB at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, with the usual rebroadcast/stream on Monday, December 4, also at 8. As you can see from their homepage, they offer a lot of other recorded concerts and other music-related material which may be of interest, in addition to their regular programming.

Bruckner's symphonies are on the long side, but not hard to listen to, so I think this should be an enjoyable evening.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

BSO — 2017/11/18

This week we hear BeethovenPiano Concerto No. 3 — and MahlerSymphony No. 1 — with Andris Nelsons on the podium and Martin Helmchen at the piano. The orchestra's performance detail page has the usual links to podcasts, program notes, audio previews, and performer bios. (Click on the thumbnail photos.) It also gives this description of the program:
The young, Berlin-born pianist Martin Helmchen, who made his BSO debut in 2011 at Tanglewood with Schumann's Piano Concerto and his subscription series debut in 2015 with Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor, is now featured in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3, which pays homage to Mozart and Haydn while also exhibiting Beethoven's own intense individuality. Written nearly a century later, the first of Mahler's nine symphonies employs folk-music references and a conventional four-movement form that have their foundations in Haydn's time. Its expanded scope and instrumentation are evidence of the genre's 19th-century transformation as well as Mahler's own expansion of the form.
On the advice of his doctors, conductor Christoph von Dohnányi has regrettably been forced to withdraw from the Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts in Boston November 16-18 as he continues to heal and regain his strength following a fall he suffered earlier this year. BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons will replace Maestro von Dohnányi for the program, which will include Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3, featuring Martin Helmchen, and Mahler's First Symphony.
Originally there were to be three works in addition to the Beethoven, but when Maestro von Dohnȧnyi had to cancel his appearance, they decided to perform the Mahler instead. It is more usual for the orchestra to perform the originally scheduled works under such circumstances. The Globe reviewer points out that the recent tour probably made it more difficult for Maestro Nelsons to prepare and rehearse the other works than if that had been the plan all along.

The Boston Musical Intelligencer gives us a rave review, not only praising the performances themselves, but finding depths of meaning in them. I was in the audience on Thursday — in the second balcony where I could see much of the keyboard in the Beethoven. I was amazed at how Mr. Helmchen's fingers flew over the keyboard, giving a powerful sound, while at times playing so softly that he was barely audible where I sat. Even with Symphony Hall's vaunted acoustics, I suspect that some in the rear of the auditorium must have had to take it on faith that he was playing the notes at those points. It was definitely a gripping performance. As for the Mahler — sometimes when listening to a work of that length I find myself thinking that it has gone on long enough, but this performance held my interest from beginning to end. It was never dull, and while I didn't see the layers of meaning the BMInt reviewer did, I found it all very powerful music, even the slow and quiet parts.

The reviewer in the Globe seems to have experienced Helmchen and Beethoven similarly, but was less pleased with what she heard, apparently preferring a more refined approach to the music. And in the Mahler she heard a masterful performance, but rather than dramatic meanings she saw it as Andris Nelsons finding "his happy place."

In short, I think this was an exceptional concert, well worth hearing. And hear it you can over WCRB on air and on the internet this evening at 8:00 Boston Time (EST). If you have to miss all or part of it this evening, there will be the make-up rebroadcast on Monday, November 27, also at 8:00. The WCRB page also has links to information about their other programs, including a podcast with an interview with Martin Helmchen and an preview of next summer's Tanglewood season.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

BSO/Classical New England — 2017/11/11

Today WCRB rebroadcasts the Tanglewood concert of July 28 this past summer. Here's the description from the BSO program detail page:
Charles Dutoit is joined by pianist Yefim Bronfman for Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2, one of the composer's most barnstorming, free-spirited works. The BSO opens the program with the Overture to Beethoven's The Creatures of Prometheus. Mr. Dutoit also leads the orchestra in Dvorak's New World Symphony.
(Some emphasis added.)

Check out the program detail page for the usual links as well. I don't see reviews in the Boston Globe or the Boston Musical Intelligencer (They don't cover all Tanglewood concerts.) so you don't get any pointers from the critics. You'll probably like it, though. The Brahms and Dvořák pieces are favorites, and the Beethoven overture, while not one of his most famous pieces, is typical Beethoven.

As always, you can hear it all over WCRB, beginning at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time (now Eastern Standard Time).

Saturday, November 4, 2017

BSO/Classical New England — 2017/11/04

The Boston Symphony is on tour in Japan this week, and WCRB has chosen the concert of July 23 at Tanglewood to rebroadcast at the usual time this evening. The orchestra's program detail page offers — in addition to the customary links to background information — the following synopsis:
On Sunday, July 23, BSO Assistant Conductor Ken-David Masur is joined by Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky for Prokofiev's sparkling Piano Concerto No. 3. Mr. Masur opens the afternoon program with Aaron Jay Kernis's airy and moving Musica Celestis ("Heavenly Music"), written by the Grawemeyer Award-winning composer in 2000. Closing the concert is Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2, Little Russian.
(Some emphasis added.)

More information about each piece (program notes, brief audio previews) is available at the program detail page.

Of course, when I posted about this concert beforehand, no reviews existed. But afterwards, this very descriptive, and favorable, one appeared in the Boston Musical Intelligencer. There does not seem to have been a Boston Globe review of the concert, but the BMInt one will give a very good preview, pointing out several things to look for. My recollection of the Kernis curtain raiser is that it was not hard to take.

So I recommend tuning in to WCRB at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, this evening. Also, check out their website for lots of other features about their programming.