Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Day Concerts

Classical New England will offer a couple of New Year's Day concerts.

The Vienna Philharmonic's concert* will be broadcast and streamed live at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, and retransmitted at 6:00 p.m.

Boston Baroque's concert will also be transmitted live from Sanders Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts at 3:00 p.m. "Boston time."

*For those unfamiliar with the tradition at these concerts, there are "always" encores at the end, and these always include the Blue Danube Waltz (which "always" gets a burst of applause after the first note is heard. The music stops and the conductor says, "Die Wiener Philharmoniiler und ich wünschen Ihnen …," and the orchestra shouts, "Prosit Neujahr!" "The Vienna Philharmonic and I wish you …" "Happy New Year" — literally "Cheers! New Year!" Then they play the waltz.) and the Radetzky March.

I'll be in church at 11:00, but I'm planing to listen at 3:00 and 6:00.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Winter Orgy® Period 2011 — Already in Progress

My apologies! I wasn't paying attention to WHRB, and the Orgy® Period began a couple of weeks ago. The first classical music orgy was the Percy Grainger Orgy, on December 3. Many of the orgies this year have focused on performers, rather than composers, but at this point, they are in the midst of the Franz Liszt Orgy, which will end Friday evening at 10:00.

Saturday evening there will be an Ivor Novello Orgy from 6:00 to 10:00.

The Carl Maria von Weber Orgy will be Sunday, December 18, from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Monday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.. That is the last of the classical music orgies so titled, but on Tuesday from 9:00 a.m. to midnight they will observe the Gian Carlo Menotti Centenary (with "Amahl and the Night Visitors"* reserved until December 24 at 4:30 p.m.); and Wednesday, December 20, they will observe the Nino Rota Centenary from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

All of this is available on the web at the link above.

* I believe I saw the world premiere of this one hour opera, which was a television performance in 1951. I know I saw it on TV back in the early 1950's.

Meanwhile the Boston Symphony went on tour to California for four concerts, and the Boston Pops are giving their holiday concerts for the rest of the month. You may want to check out what WCRB streams in the regular concert times. Last Saturday, they repeated a concert from earlier in the season. Also, this Sunday at 3:00 p.m. they will give a live broadcast/webstream of the Handel and Haydn's "A Bach Christmas" concert,  which will include music of other baroque composers as well. I think I'll listen to that — tearing myself away from the Weber Orgy. BSO concerts will again be streamed live beginning on January 7.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I listened to the Harbison 5th on the radio Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. It reinforced and clarified my impression from Thursday. The symphony is more like a series of "accompagnato" recitatives followed by a duet. He's gone back to Bach. The orchestra supports the declamation of the texts and adds tonal color and emphasis, but there is no memorable melody from singer or instruments. It works very well as a dramatic retelling of the legend, but calling it a symphony is an unusual use of the word.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

BSO — 2011/12/01-03 — Info and Reviews

I was in the audience for the Thursday evening performance of John Harbison's Symphony No. 5 — which could be subtitiled "Orpheus and Eurydice" but hasn't been — with Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4  and Leonore Overture No. 3 after the intermission. BTW, I had heard the world premiere of the Harbison when the BSO gave it three and a half years ago.

Here's a bit from the BSO website.
Making his BSO debut, Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek is chief conductor of the BBC Symphony and chief conductor designate of the Czech Philharmonic. The program opens with John Harbison's BSO-commissioned Symphony No. 5 (premiered in 2008) for baritone, mezzo-soprano, and orchestra, a dramatic, lyrical work setting poems inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The program's second half features American pianist Jonathan Biss in Beethoven's equally dramatic and lyrical Fourth Piano Concerto. To finish, Beethoven's powerful LeonoreOverture No. 3 offers another musical take on the transportive power of love.

That website page also has links to the program notes and an audio preview. I very much recommend the program note for the Harbison for a good explanation of the piece, including the use of three different poems to cover various facets of the legend.

Perhaps I'll revise my opinion after I hear the Harbison symphony again this evening and tomorrow afternoon, but the hearing on Thursday left me a bit disappointed. The baritone who sings the first two movements and with the mezzo soprano in the fourth had very clear enunciation, so that practically every word could be understood even without looking at the text in the program. The mezzo did almost as well in the third and fourth movements. And the texts were interesting. But the music itself was rarely engaging or even particularly expressive, to my ears. The composer was on hand, as he had been last week, to take a bow from the stage after his symphony. Then he was seated diagonally across from me in the first balcony for the second half. I couldn't help wondering if he was wondering if his symphony would be as much listened to after 200 years as Beethoven's music is today.

I want to like John Harbison's work, so I'll be hoping this symphony will impress me more on my later hearings. The poems have interesting insights into the legend, and at least the music doesn't get in the way of them; and of course Beethoven is always worth hearing. As usual, you can hear it over WCRB/WGBH/Classical New England. In addition to being able to hear the webstream, you can use this link to find a further link to a page where you can hear the composer himself talking about the symphony.

The Globe reviewer seems to have liked the Harbison better than the way the orchestra played the Beethoven.