Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Radio/Webstream

December 24 at 10:00 a.m. Boston Time ( = 3:00 p.m. England Time) WCRB will give a live broadcast/stream of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College Cambridge. So if you have no other source for it, you can listen there.

And then in the evening, at 8:00 Boston time, they'll present the Handel & Haydn's performance of Messiah, recorded earlier this month in Symphony Hall.

Finally, Bach's Christmas Oratorio will be broadcast/streamed in a recording by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Ricardo Chailly. It seems it will be done in three installments: Friday at 3:00 p.m.; Saturday at 10:00 a.m.; and Sunday at 10:00 a.m.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Orgy Period — December, 2010

I've been figuratively asleep at the proverbial switch. WHRB's (not to be confused with WCRB) current Winter Orgy® Period is in full swing (or full classical at the moment). Right now (Tuesday afternoon) they are in the midst of the Robert Schumann Orgy®, in observance of the 200th anniversary year of his birth. With breaks from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., this orgy continues until 10:00 p.m., Thursday, December 16. On Sunday afternoon, the Leonard Bernstein Orgy begins. Later there will be the Alban Berg Orgy.

We've already missed the William Schuman Centenary Orgy (not to be confused with Robert Schumann), the Warhorse Orgy, the Baroque Violin Orgy, and the Impressionist Music Orgy.

If you're at all interested, you can get the (sorta) complete program guide at — also the site to visit for the webstreams. You'll note that regular programming also includes Metropolitan Opera broadcasts (including Don Carlo, one of my favorites) this Saturday, their own Historic Performances program, Sunday Night at the Opera, and various specials and concert rebroadcasts from San Francisco and the Royal Concertgebouw once the orgy period and Harvard hockey games are out of the way.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Boston Pops; Handel and Haydn Messiah

The Boston Symphony is on hiatus through the end of December. In its place, the Boston Pops are giving their annual Holiday Pops concerts daily through December 26, except on Christmas day itself. WCRB has announced that they will broadcast and stream this Saturday's concert, which begins at 7:30. As usual, there will be a lead-in show starting at 7:00. I don't see anything official about the remaining Saturdays of December or about January 1, but I would not be surprised if December 11 and 18 also included those evenings' Pops concerts. (The BSO will return to Symphony Hall on January 6, with a broadcast on Saturday, January 8.)

Every December, the Handel and Haydn Society performs Handel's "Messiah." This year's performances took place last weekend, under the baton of their still-new music director, Harry Christophers, and WCRB will broadcast and stream this year's version twice: Sunday December 19, at 2:00 p.m. (good for listeners in Europe, for whom this will be Sunday evening), and Friday, December 24, at 8:00 p.m. (which translates to sometime during Christmas day for Antipodean and Asian listeners). The performances were well received by the Boston Globe's critic.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

BSO — 2010/12/2-4

I was in Symphony Hall again on Thursday for this weekend's program, described as follows on the BSO website.
James Levine leads the BSO and Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider in Mozart’s elegant Violin Concerto No. 3, one of the five concertos for the instrument Mozart wrote in his late teens. Also on the program is Schumann’s Symphony No. 2. Which he wrote in 1845 following a bout with debilitating depression, but the work is ultimately affirmative in character. Continuing another cycle, John Harbison’s Symphony No. 2 is the third of the six Harbison symphonies to be performed by the BSO this season and next. Written in 1987, its four movements are titled evocatively “Dawn,” “Daylight,” “Dusk,” and “Darkness.” 
I thought it was all worth hearing. While the Harbison 2nd Symphony isn't quite as accessible to me as the 1st, I'm looking forward to hearing it again in this evening's broadcast.

If you're thinking of listening, once more I recommend going to the BSO page that links preview material, and if you've got the time for it, there will probably be some good preview features both on the Mozart and the Harbison during WCRB's "pre-game show" at 7:00, Boston Time.

The Boston Globe review also contains the reviewer's description of the Harbison symphony, along with his review of the performances.

Friday, December 3, 2010

BSO — Rehearing

I did get a ticket to last Tuesday's repeat performance of the Schumann and Harbison symphonies,* and I'm glad I was able to do so.

I enjoyed the Schumann "Rhenish" Symphony even more than on Friday. The brass section had a prominent part in the symphony, and they were in top form — as good as in last season's Beethoven 6th Symphony.

But it was even more worthwhile for the replay of John Harbison's First Symphony. On Friday, I was especially impressed by the verve and dynamic rhythms of the fourth movement. But on Tuesday, I became aware of the musical beauties of the first three movements — I noticed things that I hadn't in my first hearing of the work, and they greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the piece.

Having a chance to hear a new piece of music several times in a short period is certainly a great help to appreciation. In its early years, when programs weren't set long in advance, the BSO sometimes would play a new piece a second time shortly after the first performance. It's unfortunate that they no longer do that. Maybe when composers get commissions, they should stipulate a level of repetition.

*On both occasions, the concert concluded with the Prelude and Liebestod from "Tristan und Isoolde," and on both occasions I left before it was played. While I enjoy a fair amount of Wagner's music, I find "Tristan" tedious, and I did not want to spoil the experience of Schumann and Harbison by sitting through the opera excerpts.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

BSO — 2010/11/26-30: Review and /Comments

The Boston Globe reviewer liked the Harbison Symphony (and the Wagner), but thought the Schumann performance was sub-par. I found the Harbison "interesting," with the last movement really enjoyable.

If you're going to listen, maybe the ideal would be to listen without any previews, but record the performance as it's happening. Then go to all the info on the BSO website, and after that, play the recording with the program notes in front of you.

But if you can't do that, then I strongly recommend reading and listening to what the website provides. I don't know what will be on WCRB in the hour before the concert and during the intermission, but there will probably be more good stuff about the Harbison symphony during one or the other or both.

I want to hear it again, so I'm seriously considering getting a ticket for next Tuesday's performance.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

BSO — 2010/11/26-30

When I learned that the BSO is having a mini Schumann festival and putting on all six Harbison symphonies over this season and the next, I "had" to get a ticket for tomorrow's matinee, described as follows by the BSO website (
In celebration of Robert Schumann's bicentennial, the BSO performs the composer's four symphonies in a three-week span, continuing this week with James Levine leading the Symphony No. 3, Rhenish, which was inspired by the composer's environs in Northern Germany and the Rhine River. Maestro Levine also continues the BSO's two-season cycle of complete John Harbisonsymphonies.
This week's Harbison is Symphony No. 1, and the concert concludes with the Prelude and Love-death from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. The show isn't being given on Thursday evening because it's Thanksgiving. And I'm glad the Wagner comes at the end, because I'll bee able to hear what I want and leave early. I like a fair amount of Wagner, but Tristan und Isolde has never appealed to me.

Various background info is available on the page from which I copied the quote above.

And as always, the concert is streamed over WCRB — — at 8:00 p.m. "Boston Time" with pre-game show at 7:00.

Friday, November 19, 2010

BSO — 2010/11/18-20

As the BSO website tells us, this week it's all Schumann.
The BSO celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great German composer Robert Schumann with three concerts encompassing all four of the composer’s symphonies. In the first of these programs, Kurt Masur leads the First and Fourth symphonies as part of an all-Schumann program also featuring the Piano Concerto, with the esteemed Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire as soloist. The Symphony No. 1 is a work of energy and lyricism written in 1841. The Fourth Symphony was actually the second such work Schumann completed, in 1841, but he withdrew it for revision, introducing the final version only in 1851.
(Emphasis added)
Various preview materials — program notes, interviews, audio materials — are available at this page of the website:

I was there on Thursday evening and, while nothing really excited me in the performances, it was a pleasant evening with good music. Schumann has good musical ideas, IMO, and he handles them concisely. The Boston Globe reviewer also thought it was good.
It will be streamed beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, with preconcert show at 7:00 over WCRB —

BTW this evening I'm heading in to Boston for a New England Conservatory student production of "The Magic Flute." I love the music, and it will be good to see and hear the opera.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

BSO — 2010/11/11-13

This week it's a sandwich of two Mozart piano concertos between two Haydn symphonies — delightful listening. I was there on Thursday evening and greatly enjoyed it.

The BSO website summarizes it as follows:

German conductor/pianist Christian Zacharias, a distinguished performer of the Classical repertoire, conducts the BSO for the first time in this Haydn/Mozart program. As was the practice in Mozart’s time, Zacharias performs the solo parts of these two Vienna-era piano concertos while leading the orchestra from the keyboard. He also conducts the orchestra from the podium in two late Haydn symphonies. No. 80 in D minor (1784) represents a transitional style between the earlier, simpler symphonies and the later ones, represented here by No. 95 in A major.
The BSO website — — also gives access to the program notes and audio preview material.

The Globe reviewer liked it, especially the Mozart.

Pregame show at 7:00, concert at 8:00, Eastern Standard Time, on WCRB, 99.5 FM, or on the web at [url][/url]

Note 2010-11-14: My apologies to anyone who tried to use the url for WCRB yesterday. I was going from memory and put a dot between the 9 and the 5; but there isn't one in the actual url. I've edited it now, so it should work (12 hours too late for this week's concert).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

BSO — 2010/11/04-09

Here's the description from the BSO website.

Spanish conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos returns to lead music from the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. Sung in Catalan, Atlàntida (“Atlantis”), an epic of the lost continent and its rediscovery by Columbus, was Falla’s magnum opus, begun in 1927 and left incomplete at his death in 1946. The Spanish composer Ernesto Halffter completed a version that was premiered in 1976. Maestro Frühbeck has devised a 35-minute vocal-orchestral suite almost solely from Falla’s original music from the Prologue and Parts I and III, with focus on the significant episodes for chorus. The second half of the program is the great Symphony No. 2 of Johannes Brahms.

I'll be going tonight and you can listen, as usual, on Saturday.

I'll try to remember to add a link for the Globe's review and maybe post some comments of my own.

Note 2010/11/06 If you decide to listen to the Falla, you'll probably want to check for a text from the BOS or WCRB website.

BTW, I did get a ticket for the Tuesday evening performance of the Doctor Atomic Symphony, and I found it worth listening to, especially the third part. It would be nice to have another chance to hear it. I'd be happy if they replaced either the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde on November 26 or Till Eulenspiegel on January 13 with a reprise of Dr. Atomic while it's still fresh in the players' memories. Talk about a "surprise symphony" for the audience! LOL

Saturday, October 30, 2010

BSO — 2010/10/28-30, 11/2

This weekend's BSO concert is described as follows on their website.

American conductor David Robertson returns to the BSO podium and is joined by the remarkable English pianist Nicolas Hodges in his BSO debut. Hodges has previously performed at Tanglewood in recital and with the TMC Orchestra; here he is soloist with the BSO in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Robertson also leads a work dedicated to the conductor himself—the American composer John Adams’s Doctor Atomic Symphony, which is drawn from the composer’s 2005 opera about the building of the first atom bomb. Brahms’s dramatic Tragic Overture begins the program, and Bartók’sMiraculous Mandarin ballet suite closes it.

It's not part of my subscription series, so I haven't heard it. I'll be listening on WCRB, and I'm glad the new piece, the Doctor Atomic Symphony, comes before intermission, because that means I'll be able to hear it before my brother calls from Japan.

The Boston Globe's reviewer liked the symphony, but found the playing in the other three pieces not up to BSO standards.

I'm thinking of getting a ticket for Tuesday night.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

BSO — 2010/10/21-26; Fidelio

This week's BSO program includes Samuel Barber's Overture to The School for Scandal, Beethoven's Violin Concerto, and, after intermission, Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony. Here's what the BSO website says about it.

"Opening the program is Samuel Barber's Overture to The School for Scandal, which the American composer wrote in 1931 when he was just 21 years old and a student at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. His first work for full orchestra, the overture was premiered by The Philadelphia Orchestra and did much to advance Barber's reputation. Barber wrote the piece in tribute to Richard Sheridan's play of the same name.

Beethoven wrote his only violin concerto in 1806 for the great Viennese violinist, Franz Clement, who was music director of Vienna's Theater an der Wien. Written around the same time as the composer's Fifth Symphony, the Violin Concerto demonstrates Beethoven's relaxed, lyrical side, in contrast with his “heroic” style. The concerto requires a virtuosity rooted not in fireworks and bravado but in songful expression.

Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, like the two symphonies that surround it in number, is one of the Russian composer's most frequently performed pieces due to its immediately gripping and viscerally exciting nature. Based around a single theme that starts the first movement and appears in each of the four, the symphony has a clear sense of continuity and structure. Tchaikovsky's piece is a journey of thematic evolution as a single idea is put through an elaborate series of transformations from a forbidding opening to a wildly triumphant finale."

I had a ticket for the Thursday performance, but then a meeting of the Task Force Against Discrimination was scheduled for that evening, so I exchanged the ticket for Friday afternoon. I thought the conductor conducted well, and the others played well. So I recommend listening on WCRB. The pre-concert features beginning at 7:00 often include interesting interviews, as well as recordings of music by one or more of the evening's composers — music other than what is about to be played in the concert.

The Boston Globe reviewer gave the Thursday performance faint praise.

Friday evening I attended a performance of Beethoven's Fidelio. It was well played and sung, but the director had the idea of making the oppressive force that was persecuting Florestan, the Inquisition. So Pizzaro was dressed like a cardinal, as were several supers and the First Prisoner. That was bad enough, but for the final scene, Fernando was a bishop, and the main action of the scene was the burning of Don Pizzaro (which isn't in the scenario) while everybody is praising Leonore. And there was other foolishness, like having Marzelline take off her outer garments and pose for a portrait in her underwear in the opening scene. But when it was possible to focus on the music and the actual story, it was very enjoyable. Here's an article from the Globe that explains what the director was thinking of.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BSO — 2010/10/14-16

On Saturday, October 16, at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, you can hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra over WCRB radio or webstream in the program which the BSO website describes as follows.

"Performances of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 continue James Levine and the BSO's Mahler anniversary season. Mahler composed the instrumental Fifth in the summers of 1901 and 1902, and is famous for its beautiful Adagietto movement. Levine and the orchestra also begin a cycle of symphonies, continuing this season and next, by the eminent American composer John Harbison. Two of Harbison's five symphonies were commissioned by the BSO, and his Sixth, another BSO commission, will be premiered next season. The Third, from 1991, is a vigorous five-movement work with Italianate sensibilities, including a musical allusion to a Genoese carillon.  "

The "pregame show" from "the Fenway Park of Music" with announcer Ron Della Chiesa begins at 7:00.

I'm planning to be there for the performance on Thursday, and if I get a chance I'll add a link to the review in the Boston Globe and maybe some comments of my own.

As noted in the website quote, the BSO is observing Mahler's 150th anniversary with performances of several of his symphonies and are, with this concert, beginning a two-year cycle of all of Harbison's symphonies, culminating next season with the world premiere of his 6th. When I went through the calendar to make sure I'd hear all of this season's Harbison, I found that one of the symphonies is not in my subscription. And I also discovered that it is paired with a Schumann symphony, and they're giving all four Schumann symphonies in a three week span. I have tickets for the other concerts in the Schumann series; but the Schumann/Harbison is in Thanksgiving week, so it won't be given Thursday evening. I'll "have to" get a ticket for the Friday afternoon show.

First, here's a link to the review in today's Boston Globe. I like what the reviewer said about the Harbison symphony. It was definitely "modern," but musical and approachable. The composer was present at the pre-concert talk, and he said some interesting things. One thing that helped to enable him to write a symphony was realizing that Haydn was able to write so many (each different and worthwhile in Harbison's opinion) because he didn't treat them as monumental statements of cosmic significance. Each was composed for a specific time and circumstance. In saying this, of course, he distanced himself from Mahler. Not only do Harbison's symphonies not attempt the creation of a world, as Mahler intended in his, but Harbison has drastically cut back on length — the third takes less than 25 minutes — and he writes in a different musical idiom.

As for the Mahler, I began to find it tedious about halfway through. There was altogether too much of it for me, at least last evening. Harbison's symphony, like Mahler's, was in five movements. Each movement had a different mood, and Harbison was able to do justice to them in under 5 minutes per movement. But Mahler went on and on and on.

So my recommendation is that you listen to as much of the pre-concert show as you can, because they may have some features previewing the Harbison. Then listen to Harbison's symphony, which is played first. If you have nothing better to do, you can stick around for the Mahler if you want to. But for once I won't be sorry that my brother will be making his weekly call from Tokyo about the time the Mahler begins.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

BSO — 2010/10/07-09, 12

Here's the BSO's description from their website for the first subscription series of this seasons concerts.

Levine Conducts Mahler
October 7-9 & 12 

Performance Dates: 
Thursday, October 7, 2010 8:00PM
Friday, October 8, 2010 1:30PM
Saturday, October 9, 2010 8:00PM
Tuesday, October 12, 2010 8:00PM
MAHLER Symphony No.2, Resurrection

Featured Artists:
James Levine, conductor
Layla Claire, soprano
Karen Cargill, mezzo-soprano

Mahler's Symphony No. 2, cast in five movements, is a monumental work that addresses equally weighty subjects: life, suffering, death, and the uncertainty of what comes after. Like Beethoven before him, Mahler uses sung text in his symphony to directly explore some of these ideas. Completed in 1894, the Symphony No. 2 is the first of three consecutive symphonies to contain vocal elements with text taken from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth's Magic Horn), a collection of German folk poems that was a popular source of inspiration for musicians and artists throughout the 19th century. In the case of the Resurrection Symphony, Mahler bases the fourth movement, a brief, spellbinding number for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, on a poem called "Urlicht" ("Primeval Light"), which tells of a child's soul longing to escape earthly pain.

The fifth and final movement—at more than 30 minutes, the longest of the five—is an emotionally thrilling tour de force, both apocalyptic and serene. Finally calling upon the chorus, the finale is based on an amalgamated text, partially taken from Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock's "Resurrection Ode" and partially Mahler's own, and provides an earth-shaking conclusion to the symphony as well as a window into the composer's personal spiritual convictions. Explaining the events depicted in the final glorious moments, Mahler wrote, "Rise again, yes, rise again thou wilt ... Lo and behold: There is no judgment, no sinners, no just men, no great and no small; there is no punishment and no reward. A feeling of overwhelming love fills us with blissful knowledge and illuminates our existence."

The Thursday concert is part of my season's subscriptions, and the Saturday performance will be streamed, as usual, by WCRB.

BTW I'm sorry I forgot to alert you to the opening night concert on October 2. It was all Wagner, with orchestral pieces alternating with solos sung by Bryn Terfel. It was good. If we're lucky, WCRB will re-broadcast it in their Sunday afternoon symphony slot.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Alexander's Feast

     I'm jumping the gun on the concert season a bit. Our last sailboat race isn't until tomorrow, and my first BSO concert isn't until October 7; but I'm going in to Boston this evening, to a performance of "Alexander's Feast" by Emmanuel Music. The piece is a setting by Handel of an ode for St. Cecelia's day by John Dryden. Here are a couple of videos. One is my favorite aria (for bass). The other gives a chorus and soprano aria (beginning at about 2:30). You can find more videos from the ones I have linked. The wiki article has an outline of the numbers in the work gives links for the text.

     I have a recording from the 1960's on Vanguard's "Bach Guild" label, which I've very much enjoyed. It has Alfred Deller conducting the musical forces. (In that recording, they pronounce the bard's name as tye moe´ thee us, and hearing "tim owe´thee us" takes some getting used to. Also Maurice Bevan pronounced "rear" to rhyme with "hair," which I think is a traditional pronunciation, as in "rarin' to go.")

     Anyway, I think it's a fine work, and I'm looking forward to hearing it from a group whose Bach cantata recordings I've sometimes heard on the radio, but whose concerts I've never attended. I think if you don't already know "Alexander's Feast," you'll like it if you listen to it. I hope the videos have whetted your appetite.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tanglewood August 27-29, 2010

I'm sorry I missed posting info about last weekend's concerts, but I was in the midst of running sailboat races from Tuesday through Saturday, and just too busy. Anyway, here's what the BSO website says about this weekend.

"Final Weekend at Tanglewood 

David Zinman and The Planets 
Friday, August 27, 8:30PM
The BSO's final weekend at Tanglewood this season gets underway Friday, August 27, at 8:30 p.m in the Shed as David Zinman (TMC Fellow 1958) joins the orchestra for a performance of The Planets, Holst's vivid, ever-exciting musical journey through the solar system. Opening the program is Poulenc's Gloria—which was commissioned in honor of Serge Koussevitzky and premiered by the BSO in 1961—with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, John Oliver, conductor, and soprano soloist Isabel Bayrakdarian.

Brahms and Dvořák 
Saturday, August 28, 8:30PM
Celebrated American pianist Emanuel Ax, who made his BSO debut at Tanglewood on August 6, 1978, joins the BSO and conductor David Zinman in the Shed at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 28, to perform as soloist in Brahms's mercurial Piano Concerto No. 2. Joining the concerto and concluding the program is one of the most well known symphonic works ever written: the New World Symphony by Dvořák, who was a frequent correspondent and friend of Brahms's.

Bach and Beethoven 
Sunday, August 29, 2:30PM
At 2:30 p.m in the Shed on Sunday, August 29, the Tanglewood season comes to an end as always with Beethoven's immortal Symphony No. 9, this year conducted by the distinguished German maestro Kurt Masur, who has been an influential figure in the classical music world for more than half a century. The BSO is joined by vocal soloists soprano Nicole Cabell, mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson, tenor Garrett Sorenson, and bass-baritone John Relyea, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, which opens the program with Bach's Jesu, meine Freude."

Same drill as always: you can hear Ron Della Chiesa's "pre-game show" 1/2 hour before each concert time, the intermission features, and the concerts over WCRB's webstream.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tanglewood August 13-15, 2010

Same drill as in past weeks as far as concert and broadcast/streaming times.

"Caminos Del Inka: A Musical Journey 
Friday, August 13, 8:30PM

At 8:30 p.m. in the Shed, Miguel Harth-Bedoya leads a musical journey through the ancient Inca empire with specially created videography by the renowned Peruvian photographer Fabiana Van Lente. The breathtaking images of Machu Picchu, floating island villages, and the expanses of the Peruvian plains are matched to stirring and evocative music, from the time of the Conquistadores to the sounds of the first new classical voices of 21st-century Latin America. BSO principal flutist Elizabeth Rowe and young American cellist Alisa Weilerstein join the BSO and Maestro Harth-Bedoya for the program, which includes Gabriela Lena Frank's Illapa, for flute and orchestra; Osvaldo Golijov's Mariel, for cello and orchestra; and music by Robles, Compañón, Luzuriaga, Leng, and López.

Film Night at Tanglewood 
Saturday, August 14, 8:30PM

One of the season's most popular traditions, the annual Film Night concert is a celebration of music from the movies. In his 30th summer at Tanglewood, John Williams presents a memorable evening that recreates some of the great musical moments in Hollywood history. This special Boston Pops program will honor the work of director Steven Spielberg. Mr. Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra are joined at 8:30 p.m. in the Shed by host Robert Osborne and the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Young Artists Chorus.

American Masterpieces With Robert Spano And Jean-Yves Thibaudet 
Sunday, August 15, 2:30PM

Robert Spano takes the podium in the Shed for the BSO's 2:30 p.m. matinee performance, which showcases two American masterpieces by George Gershwin: the Piano Concerto, for which eminent French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet is soloist, and An American in Paris. The concert also includes Gunther Schuller's Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee and Leonard Bernstein's Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs, for clarinet and jazz ensemble, featuring BSO principal clarinetist Thomas Martin."

I'll miss Friday and Saturday nights because it's my 50th high school reunion this weekend. Fortunately the programs those evenings don't have anything on my "must hear" list. But I hope those who do get a chance to listen in will enjoy it all.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Tanglewood August 6-8, 2010

Here's how they describe this week's program, available as always over WCRB's stream at, with pre-game show a half hour before the scheduled concert time.

"Mendelssohn, Mozart and Tchaikovsky 
Friday, August 6, 8:30PM

Christoph von Dohnányi conducts the BSO in Mendelssohn's Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, one of the composer's three overtures inspired by the ocean, as well as Tchaikovsky's anguished Symphony No. 6, Pathétique. Between those two works on the program is Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 14, featuring one of the great Mozart interpreters, Richard Goode. 

Wagner, Sibelius, Copland and Stravinsky 
Saturday, August 7, 8:30PM

For the featured work in an ambitious and highly diverse 8:30 p.m. concert in the Shed, BSO assistant conductor Shi-Yeon Sung is joined by celebrated American virtuoso Hilary Hahn for Sibelius's ever-popular Violin Concerto. Filling the program with contrasting works from various time periods and stylistic schools, Maestro Sung also leads the orchestra in Copland's incidental music Quiet City, the Prelude to Act III of Wagner's Lohengrin, and Stravinsky's scintillating Firebird Suite (1919). 

Beethoven and Dvořák 
Sunday, August 8, 2:30PM

Maestro Dohnányi returns to the Shed for the BSO's 2:30 p.m. matinee performance, which examines one masterpiece on either side of the interval. To begin the concert, the young German violinist Arabella Steinbacher is the soloist for Beethoven's beloved Violin Concerto, the towering composer's only work in the genre.Following the concerto, the orchestra plays Dvořák’s bucolic and invigorating Symphony No. 8."

BTW, I found out a few years ago the the "Calm Sea" referred to in the title of the Mendelssohn piece was not a good thing back in his day, when ships were powered by sail. Calm seas meant little or no wind, which meant little or no progress toward the destination. The worst possible thing was to be becalmed.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Tanglewood July 30-August 1, 2010

Here's how the BSO Tanglewood website describes this weekend's offerings. Ron Della Chiesa has the "pre-game show" beginning 1/2 hour before each scheduled concert time. All is available at

"All-Russian Program with Charles Dutoit 
Friday, July 30, 8:30PM

At 8:30 p.m. in the Shed, the Boston Symphony Orchestra is joined by longtime BSO guest conductor and 1959 TMC Fellow Charles Dutoit as well as Russian pianist Kirill Gerstein for a program of Russian concert favorites. Tchaikovsky's ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 1—which showcases the skills of Mr. Gerstein, the recent winner of the Gilmore Artist Award—shares the first half of the concert with the overture to Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmila. After intermission, Maestro Dutoit and the BSO perform a suite from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.

Berg, Strauss, & Mahler Program 
Saturday, July 31, 8:30PM

The BSO welcomes conductor Juanjo Mena at 8:30 p.m. in the Shed for a program of Berg's ambitious Three Pieces for Orchestra, Strauss's autumnal Four Last Songs with soprano Hei-Kyung Hong, and Mahler's Symphony No. 4, the most delicate of his nine completed works in the form. Maestro Mena is Principal Guest Conductor of Norway's Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Chief Guest Conductor at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, and was recently appointed Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, succeeding Gianandrea Noseda in September 2011. He makes his BSO debut with this program.

Yo-Yo Ma Returns to Tanglewood 
Sunday, August 1, 2:30PM

Universally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma returns to Tanglewood and shares the stage with the BSO at 2:30 p.m. in the Shed for a performance of Elgar's tragic, ultra-Romantic Cello Concerto in a performance led once again by Maestro Dutoit. Also on the program are Sibelius's folk-inspired, nationalistic Karelia Suite and Mussorgsky's dazzling orchestral showpiece Pictures at an Exhibition, as orchestrated by Ravel."


Friday, July 23, 2010

Tanglewood July 23-25, 2010

Here's what the BSO says on their Tanglewood page.

"Mozart, Brahms and Strauss!

Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio
Friday, July 23, 8:30PM

Canadian Opera Company Music Director Johannes Debus joins the BSO to conduct a concert performance of Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio, featuring Tanglewood Music Center Vocal Fellows and a professional cast that includes sopranos Lisette Oropesa and Ashley Emerson, tenors Eric Cutler and Anthony Stevenson, and bass Morris Robinson. Acclaimed Boston actor Will LeBow will narrate. Though Mozart's opera, written in the style of the Singspiel, uses spoken dialogue rather than recitative to develop the plot, it also contains some of the composer's most brilliant and challenging sung numbers, full of coloratura passages and other vocal fireworks.

All-Brahms Program
Saturday, July 24, 8:30PM

Guest conductor Herbert Blomstedt takes to the Tanglewood podium at 8:30 p.m. in the Shed, leading an all-Brahms program that features the composer's Symphony No. 2 and the Piano Concerto No. 1, with soloist Gilles Vonsattel. The Piano Concerto No. 1, completed in 1858, was originally composed in 1854 as a sonata for two pianos and nearly became his first symphony before going through a number of revisions and finally arriving at its present state. Conversely, Brahms rapidly wrote his Symphony No. 2 in a single summer in 1877.
Regrettably, Peter Serkin is ill and has been forced to withdraw from this Saturday's performance of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1. We are delighted that the young Swiss-American pianist, Gilles Vonsattel, will be replacing him.

All-Strauss Program
Sunday, July 25, 2:30PM

Houston Symphony Music Director Hans Graf will lead the BSO in a showcase of waltzes and polkas in the great Viennese tradition by Johann Strauss II in a matinee program anchored by a performance of Don Quixote by Richard Strauss featuring cellist Lynn Harrell and BSO principal violist Steven Ansell as soloists. The music of Johann Strauss II was ubiquitous in Vienna for the majority of the 19th century and has never lost its popularity with the concertgoing masses. Richard Strauss, no relation, was an entirely different kind of composer, and his tone poem Don Quixote provides some heft among the Waltz King's effervescent dances."

Enjoy the stream on WCRB!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tanglewood July 16-18, 2010

Here's a cut and paste from the BSO's website. The concerts will be broadcast and streamed over WCRB as usual, with "pregame shows" 1/2 hour before concert time. As was the case last Friday, Maestro Tilson Thomas is replacing James Levine in this Friday and Saturday's performances.

Stravinsky & Mozart 
Friday, July 16, 8:30PM

San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, John Oliver, conductor, reprise one of the highlights of last fall’s Symphony Hall subscription series, the pairing of Mozart's beloved Requiem with Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, written to celebrate the BSO's 50th anniversary, Friday, July 16, at 8:30 p.m.

Mahler Symphony No. 3 
Saturday, July 17, 8:30PM

Maestro Tilson Thomas leads the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in its first Shed performance of the season, joined by the Women of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the American Boychoir, Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, music director, and mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill. In addition to the massive forces required, Mahler's Symphony No. 3 stretches to approximately 100 minutes, making it the longest piece in the standard orchestral repertoire. 

Boston Pops Orchestra with Special Guest Arlo Guthrie and Alec Baldwin 
Sunday, July 18, 2:30PM

Currently in its 125th anniversary season, the Boston Pops and conductor Keith Lockhart, along with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, John Oliver, conductor, welcome renowned folk musician Arlo Guthrie and Emmy Award-winning actor Alec Baldwin. Alec Baldwin joins the orchestra and chorus to narrate "The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers", by composer Peter Boyer and Tony Award-winning lyricist Lynn Ahrens. This new multi-media work, commissioned for the Pops, combines quotes from speeches by the Kennedy brothers with original text and video, accompanied by a dramatic orchestral score. Arlo Guthrie will join the Pops for a set that includes favorites like "This Land Is Your Land," "Coming into L.A.," and "City of New Orleans." 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tanglewood July 9-11, 2010 — Amazing Video

The weekend starts this evening with Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection," conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas (who was an assistant conductor of the BSO way back when). James Levine would have conducted if he hadn't been recuperation from back surgery. The performance will also include Layla Claire, soprano, Stephanie Blythe, mezzo-soprano, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

Saturday evening brings an all-Beethoven program with Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducting the King Stephen Overture, Piano Concerto No. 3, with Gerhard Oppitz, piano, and Symphony No. 5.

On Sunday afternoon Maestro Frühbeck returns to lead the orchestra in Mozart's Serenade No. 6 in D, K.239, "Serenata notturna," and Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, with Pinchas Zukerman as soloist, and Ein Heldenleben, by Richard Strauss.

BTW, a note on the BSO Tanglewood schedule page indicates that WAMC will broadcast/stream the Sunday concert. Dunno about the others.

Finally, check out this video. The note seems to be wrong about the singer's age. Elsewhere, I find he was born in 1992 and this performance was in 1995. Also the source says his voice changed a few months later. Apparently this is an aria that the No. 1 treble of the choir often sings at these family concerts. But, corrections to background info aside, I think he does a sensational job.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tanglewood 2010 Season — July 9 - August 29

The Boston Symphony Tanglewood concerts this summer will all be broadcast on WCRB. Broadcasts will begin at 8:00 p.m. on the Friday and Saturday evenings and at 2:00 Sunday afternoons with a "pregame show." The concerts themselves begin one half hour later. The broadcasts are also to be streamed. (Click "Listen Live" near the upper right of the page.) Times are US Eastern Time.

I'll try to remember to let you know each week what is coming up, but of course you can always just tune in and find out. I'm not sure about WAMC, which also transmitted the concerts last summer. If I find out, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Orgy Period — May 2010

Sorry for the late notice, but Orgy Period® is underway until the end of May at WHRB. There is a pretty good amount of rock in this one; but as I type this they are in the midst of the Gustav Mahler Orgy, playing his Fifth Symphony.

Go to to download a pdf schedule and to listen to the webstream.

Friday, April 30, 2010

BSO — 2010/04/29-05/01

The final week of concerts for this season has Bernard Haitink on the podium. Before intermission he leads the orchestra in two works by Beethoven, Leonore Overture No.2, and Piano Concerto No. 4 with Emanuel Ax as soloist. After intermission they perform Bela Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra.

I was at the Thursday evening performance, and enjoyed it all, although I'm still not completely comfortable with Bartók.

The Leonore Overture No. 2 has a lot in common with the more familiar No.3, but there is also enough that is different about it to make it interesting in its own right.

Emanuel Ax has an fascinating habit of making several approaches to the keyboard, time permitting, before he actually plays. This concerto starts with a piano solo, and it was startling when he brought his hands to the keyboard, then withdrew them, and repeated the action two more times before he actually began to play. It looked almost as if he had lost his nerve. And at other points when he was preparing to enter while the orchestra was playing, he did the same sort of thing: Hands to keyboard, back, to keyboard, back, to keyboard and resume playing. I don't mean that he ever missed an entry, just that he had an unusual preparation.

The Bartók concerto is special to the BSO, since it was commissioned by our Music Director in 1943, Serge Koussevitsky, through his foundation, to be premiered by the BSO. At the time Bartók was ill and impoverished, and the commission was intended both to help him financially and to lift his spirits, as well as to get a good piece. And the BSO did in fact give the premiere in December 1944.

The reviewer for the Boston Musical Intelligencer liked it. The review in the Boston Globe was mixed.

I recommend listening to the WCRB broadcast or webstream at on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time (with pregame show at 7:00) if you can.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

BSO — 2010/04/24

This week's concert is Richard Strauss' Suite from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 2, with BSO principal horn James Sommerville as soloist, and Mozart's "Haffner" Symphony.

Here's the Globe's review. And here's the Boston Musical Intelligencer's.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

BSO — 2010/04/13-17: P/review

There is already a review of this week's BSO concerts, because it was given for the first time on Tuesday, rather than today (Thursday).

Here's a link to the review, which appeared in an online journal called the Boston Musical Intelligencer. The review gives all the details. Additionally, it is so enthusiastic that I'm especially looking forward to hearing the performance this evening.

Be sure to be at your computer to listen to the stream from WCRB on Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m., "Boston Time" (=EDT).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

BSO — 2010/04/08-10: P/review

Sorry for the late notice. I thought I had already mentioned this one.

First the big news: Maestro Levine had to cancel his appearances at the past two weeks' concerts as well as this week's. The BSO got a young conductor named Jayce Ogren to take the Lieberson premiere. He substituted Sibelius' "Finlandia" and "Valse Triste" for the Debussy "Jeux" which was to have opened the program. It turns out the BSO has not performed these pieces for a long time, and it was good to hear the. He seemed to me to do a competent job all around. Then for Elijah, they were fortunate to get Rafeal Frühbeck de Burgos as conductor. The oratorio is a favorite of his and he conducts it fairly regularly, so it was in good hands. Since it was Holy Week, I didn't get to it, but the reviews were favorable.

This week we have another world premiere: "Double Concerto for Violin, Violoncello, and Orchestra" by John Harbison. The conductor this week is Carlos Kalmar, a Uruguayan born conductor of Austrian parentage (the name looks Hungarian), who is currently the music director of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago. I was at the first performance, on Thursday, and enjoyed the new piece. It was commissioned for the BSO by the Friends of Dresden Music Foundation to honor violinist Roman Totenberg, who will be 100 years old next January 1. Mr. Totenberg was born in Poland but has long made his home and taught in the Boston area. The Friends had in mind a piece for his former student Mira Wang, whom he helped come from China to the US, and her husband, the cellist Jan Vogler, who for a time was principal cellist of the Dresden Staatskapelle. James Levine suggested John Harbison as the composer. Harbison, knowing that the "creators" of the solo parts are husband and wife, decided to write it as a dialogue between the spouses, with "misunderstandings" along the way, but eventual agreement, and then a bit more conversation.

As I said, I enjoyed it, and you can too, since it will get its broadcast premiere this evening at 8:00 (Boston time) on WCRB. It will be first on the program. After intermission that will play Mahler's Symphony No. 7.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

BSO — 2010/03/19-20: Review — 2010/03/25-27; -04/1-3: Preview

Listen if you can to this evening's (Boston Time) BSO concert on WCRB. It starts at 8:00 with Mendelssohn's Overture and Incidental Music to "A Midsummer Night's Dream." After intermission, they perform Rossini's "Stabat Mater." Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos is the conductor. In the Rossini the singers are soprano Albina Shagimuratova, mezzo-soprano Alice Coote, tenor Eric Cutler, and bass Alfred Walker, along with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. The women of the chorus and the female soloists also sing in the Mendelssohn.

I was there on Friday, and I found the Mendelssohn given a light and lively performance, befitting the subject matter. It only got really loud during the Wedding March. In the Rossini, louder volumes prevailed for the most part, as is appropriate with such an emotional text. The tenor's voice seemed a little thin and the mezzo did not always project well, but it was a satisfying performance overall, and well worth hearing, in my opinion.

Here's the Boston Globe' review of the Thursday evening performance.

Now for the "Preview" part.

Next week, Music Director James Levine is scheduled to be on the podium for Debussy's "Jeux — Poème Dansé," the world premiere of Lieberson's "Songs of Love and Sorrow" to texts by Pablo Neruda, and, after the intermission, Schubert's Symphony in C, D.944, "The Great." Bass-baritone Gerald Finley will sing the Lieberson songs with the Orchestra.

The BSO program notes tell us that Lieberson's "Songs" "originated as a response to [his wife, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's] death from cancer in 2006 — the year after she performed his "Neruda Songs" with the BSO. The "Neruda Songs" had been a co-commission of the BSO; and the new "Songs of Love and Sorrow" are a BSO commission.

Then on April 1-3, they will perform Mendelssohn's oratorio "Elijah" with Christine Brewer, Stephanie Blythe, Aleksandrs Antonenko, and Shenyang.

I expect to be at the concert on March 25, which will include the actual world premiere of the Lieberson piece. You can hear the broadcast premiere on the 27th. "Elijah" was also part of my subscription series, and I really like it and wish I could be there. But it's during Holy Week (also Passover), and I'll be in church rather than Symphony Hall. So I exchanged my ticket for one to the March 19 Mendelssohn/Rossini concert

Monday, March 8, 2010

Leonard Warren †March 4, 1960

The post-Met program on WHRB reminded me that last Thursday, March 4, was the 50th anniversary of the death of the American baritone Leonard Warren. He collapsed and died of a heart attack on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House during a performance of "La Forza del Destino" just after completing the aria "Urna Fatale." He was my favorite baritone, and I was in my senior year of high school when he died. I remember when I woke up — I think it was a Saturday morning — my mother told me, "Bad news: Leonard Warren died." I could hardly believe it.

Here are some recordings to bring back memories if you're my age, and to give you some idea of his artistry if you're too young to remember him.

Here he is in an aria from Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera."

And here he is with two of my other favorite singers, Jussi Bjoerling and Zinka Milanov in the first act trio from "Il Trovatore."

Those are studio recordings. Here is a live performance from the Met seven years before he died, in which he sings that last aria. I believe he collapsed at about the point of the first applause.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Gunther Schuller

On Wednesday evening, Gunther Schuller and the Borromeo String Quartet teamed up for a lecture/concert at the Harvard Musical Association. The quartet had played a piece by Schuller in December, and he suggested that he could come and explain it to us. The offer was accepted.

The proceedings began with the composer pointing out various instances of contrast and of near-repetition in the piece, with the help of the relevant parts of the score projected on a screen for the audience to follow as the quartet played the passages he had spoken about. He also pointed out a section where he had quoted Mozart and another where he had quoted Beethoven, both at the request of people involved with presenting the piece, and both somewhat disguised so the audience might not recognize it. He also demonstrated the 12-tone row he had used in this piece and many others.

After his illustrated lecture, the quartet played the piece straight through. It certainly sounded musical, rather than a jumble of unrelated sounds. Afterwards I said to Mr. Schuller that it was a very good evening, but it would not help with the works of Elliott Carter (in which I have not been able to detect anything musical except pitch — no rhythm, no harmony, no repetition or near-repetition or development of themes) and he said that if Carter came and gave a similar lecture I would understand that piece just as well.

Friday, February 19, 2010

BSO — 2010/02/18: Review — 2010/02/20: Preview

I was at the BSO concert Thursday evening. It was magnificent. They played Beethoven's 6th Symphony, "Pastorale" before the intermission, and the 7th to conclude the evening under the baton of Music Director James Levine. Unfortunately the Globe didn't review it, so here are some of my thoughts.

The 7th Symphony got the standing O at the end of the evening because it has a vigorous finale, and it was well-played indeed. But in my opinion the 6th was even better. A calm (except for the dance and thunderstorm) and limpid presentation of some of Beethoven's most beautiful music that let every detail emerge. The tempi and volume levels were perfect for the situations Beethoven mentions for each movement — no artificial accelerations or increases in volume to try to add interest or the conductor's "signature" to the beauty the composer wrote. The audience was clearly enthralled, because there was none of the usual coughing that accompanies slow and quiet music in Symphony Hall! All such audience noise was held for the pauses between movements.

The winds played flawlessly in the 6th — not even a single false note from the brass. They all deserved bows, but Maestro Levine chose not to single out any players or sections after the 6th. In the 7th, the winds were spectacular once more, including some nifty work in the lowest horn register by fourth horn player Jason Snider. This time the winds got the bows they deserved for the whole evening.

Bravo, Maestro Levine! Bravi, BSO!

Thursday's concert is not being repeated. On Saturday they will do Beethoven's Fourth and Third Symphonies. The concert will be broadcast at the usual time over WCRB. IMO the 4th is overrated, but given how well Levine handled the 6th and 7th, it should be worth listening to.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

BSO — 2010/01/09, 16, 23

With the changes in ownership (WGBH bought WCRB and shifted its classical programming to the already all-classical WCRB), WGBH has dropped its broadcasts of Friday afternoon BSO concerts. This means the only broadcast and webstream is on WCRB. Since I'm going to be off the internet for a bit, I thought I'd give you a heads up on today and the next two Saturdays.

Today, January 9 (already the 10th in England and points east) they are giving a concert of Haydn's Symphony No. 98 and Cello Concerto No. 1, with famed virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma as soloist. After intermission they will play C.P.E. Bach's Symphony in G, which they never played before this week, and Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony in b minor. Conductor is early music specialist Ton Koopman. Reviews were favorable, and I very much enjoyed the performance I attended on Thursday evening. The concert is scheduled for 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time. At 7:00 Ron Della Chiesa begins his "pregame show," which normally includes interviews by his producer with performers as well as other features. You can get the stream through the website at It has become unusual for symphony orchestras to perform Haydn since the rise of the early music, "historically informed" movement, but the BSO gives a fine performance.

On January 16, Sir Colin Davis, whose history of guest appearances with the BSO goes way back, will conduct Mozart's Symphony No. 38, "Prague," and Elgar's Violin Concerto with Nikolaj Znaider as soloist.

And on January 23, Sir Colin returns to conduct James MacMillan's "St. John Passion" in the American premiere series of the work which the BSO co-commissioned in honor of Sir Colin's 80th birthday and which had its world premiere under Sir Colin in London in 2008. Baritone Christopher Maltman will sing the part of Jesus, as he did at the world premiere. The Tanglewood Festival Chorus will also sing. James and Bob and I are planning to attend the Thursday performance, which will actually be the American premiere.