Saturday, December 26, 2009

Beethoven/BSO, January 3, 2010; Belated Bach

     I just got the program guide for next month's offerings on WGBH and WCRB, and I see that WCRB's Sunday Concert at 3:00 p.m. Boston Time (= Eastern Standard, lol) on January 3 is a rebroadcast of one of last October's performances of Beethoven's symphonies Nos. 3 and 4. The Boston Globe critic was not thrilled; but it's Beethoven and a good orchestra, and even though the 4th is my least favorite Beethoven symphony, I liked the concert I attended. So I recommend giving a listen to the webstream via the link I posted above.

     This just in: when I tested the link above, I saw on the home page that tonight they're rebroadcasting the Beethoven 6th and 7th, under the baton of Lorin Maazel, in a performance (or composite of performances) given in late October. You can catch the stream at 8:00 p.m. EST this evening, December 26. Again, the Globe critic wasn't satisfied, but I enjoyed it.

     This is also the time for Bach's Christmas Oratorio — six cantatas for six days of the Christmas season. I'm a day late recommending that you listen to them, since the parts are designated for the first, second, and third days of Christmas (yesterday, today, and tomorrow as and where I write), for New Year's day, the following Sunday, and Epiphany (January 6 in the traditional calendar). They're worth listening to, even all at once, but probably better if you spread them out.

     Here's a video of the opening chorus of the first part , the part for the Christmas Day. And an older video (slightly out of sync) of my favorite number, the bass aria, "Grosser Herr, O starker König."  You can compare the qucker tempo and natural trumpet version with John Elliot Gardiner (same performance as the opening chorus I linked) if you want. YouTube gives a link. I actually prefer the Gardiner performance, but I wanted to give a sample of a slightly different performance style; and Fischer-Dieskau is one of the great baritones of the 20th century. I won't try to find videos of the whole thing, but I'm sure you can find most, if not all, of it if you want to. And I'm sure there are audio recordings available for downloading. I have three complete sets on vinyl discs, one led by Karl Richter, one led by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and one featuring the Regensburger Domspatzen. Any of them that you can find would be worth listening to IMO.

Monday, December 7, 2009


     Yesterday (Sunday December 6) I went to the Handel and Haydn Society's performance of Handel's "Messiah" at Symphony Hall in Boston. They performed music from Messiah as part of their first concert, on Christmas, 1815; the first complete performance of Messiah in the United States on Christmas, 1818;and they've performed the whole oratorio every year beginning in 1854. So they should be pretty good at it. And they are. They do "Historically informed perfomances," meaning that they use instruments like those of Handel's day, and a small orchestra (24 players) and chorus (30 singers).

     Unfortunately, I realized after the concert that I was approaching it more as a musical than as a religious event. Musically, it was satisfying, although the soloists didn't have much power on their low notes. But it didn't notice anything unattractive about the singing and playing.

     The program states that "The performances are being recorded for broadcast locally on 99.5 FM All Classical (a service of WGBH) on December 20 and will be featured nationally on American Public Media's Performance Today." (I don't have a link for APM, but I'm sure you can find them easily enough.) They don't say what time the 99.5 FM broadcast will be, but I'm confident it will be either 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. So if you follow the link, you should be able to hear their webstream.