Thursday, September 29, 2016

Opera and Chamber Music Concerts

Regular readers of my other blog know that my year can be roughly divided into two parts: 1.) running sailboat races, June-September; and 2: going to concerts, October-May. Of course that's not all I do, but those are activities which I don't engage in all year. The separation isn't absolute, especially in September. This year, for example, my last scheduled race committee duty* is Saturday, October 1, and as of this writing, I have already attended four concerts. Here I'll t6ell of the first three, and I'll blog about the BSO subscription opener in my preview of the Saturday broadcast.

Dimitrij.  On Friday, September 16, I went to Boston for Odyssey Opera's concert performance of "Dimitrij," by Antonin Dvořák It's about a man who claims to be the lost son of Tsar Ivan the Terrible. He has a polish fiancée, Marina, and Polish forces are supporting him in an attempt to gain control of Russia. The Russian people accept him, but once he is crowned as tsar, things unravel. The Russians resent the Poles. Dimitrij resists his (now) wife's plans to catholicize Russia and falls in love with Xenie, the daughter of  Boris Godunov, his predecessor as tsar. His wife, Marina, has Xenie killed and reveals that he isn't really Dimitrij. Dimitrij was murdered as a child, and the new tsar is actually Grigoriy Otrepyev. He is killed and so is she.

The opera is in Czech, and Czech opera stars were brought in to sing the leading roles. They were excellent. I found the opera very good, both musically and as a drama. The Boston Musical Intelligencer gave an extensive, and very favorable review. They had previously published a very informative preview. The Boston Globe also gave an informative and favorable review.

Boston Artists Ensemble.  The following Friday, September 23, I attended the season opener of the BAE, in Hamilton Hall, Salem. The program was a couple of trios for piano, violin, and cello, with the world premiere of a work for cello and piano between the two. The Beethoven, which began the program, and the Schumann, which followed intermission, are more to my musical taste than the Weir piece. Still, the Weir was unmemorable, rather than really unpleasant. After the concert, I asked the composer if she had specifically decided to ignore the traditional tunes for the words of the first two "chorales." She had done that, so as not simply to give variations on those tunes. I think it was a good decision. With her own music, she was able to evoke the mood she wanted form the text. In the third chorale, since Hildegard's tune is not familiar to us, she could use it for her evocation of the text.

The Boston Musical Intelligencer gave a review of the Sunday performance in Brookline. (There is a minor error. The reviewer says, "The second" when she refers to the third movement, the one based on music of Hildegard von Bingen.)

Handel and Haydn. Less than 48 hours later,o n Sunday afternoon I traipsed into Boston for a concert of music by Bach, with one item by Schütz thrown in. The full program was

  • Komm, Jesu, komm BWV 229
  • Concerto for Three Violins in D (reconstructed) BWV 1064
  • Cantata 149, Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg
  • Intermission
  • Cantata 50, Nun is das Heil und die Kraft
  • Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener SWV 432 (Schütz)
  • Magnificai in D BWV 243

It was all good, with the Cantata 50 and Magnificat being especially stirring. I like Schütz's music, but I was hoping for something a bit livelier to represent his oeuvre. The piece is calmer, to fit the mood of the text, and may have been chosen to contrast with the vigorous pieces on either side. It also had the effect of giving us two of the three canticles from the Gospel of St. Luke to end the program.

The Boston Musical Intelligencer provides an entertaining but critical review. The Boston Globe also provides a very favorable review, but I haven't been able to link the page.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

BSO — 2016/09/24

It's opening night at Symphony, and they are giving an all-Russian program — a fairly short one, maybe because there are post-concert celebrations for the musicians and audience to get to (just my guess). The orchestra's program detail page furnishes this description:
For this all-Russian program, superstar Chinese pianist Lang Lang joins Andris Nelsons and the BSO as soloist in Sergei Prokofiev's brilliant, witty Piano Concerto No. 3. The composer himself was soloist in the premiere in front of an unenthusiastic Chicago audience in 1921, but in short order this sparkling, virtuosic piece became one of the most popular of 20th-century concertos. Opening the concert is the celebratory Festive Overture of Dmitri Shostakovich, who wrote this short, exciting piece for the Bolshoi Theatre to mark the 37th anniversary of the Soviet Revolution. The great orchestral showpiece Pictures at an Exhibition-Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's solo-piano impressions of a series of paintings and illustrations-closes the program. Ravel made this famous orchestration for legendary BSO conductor Serge Koussevitzky.
Join us at 5pm for a celebratory pre-concert reception and a complimentary glass of wine or champagne.
(Some emphasis added.)

The program detail page also has links to a podcast featuring Maestro Nelsons, program notes, brief audio previews of the music, and performer bios (click on the thumbnail photo).

Since this is opening night, there are no reviews to link. I don't think I've ever heard the Shostaovich overture; I'm interested to hear it. I've probably heard the Prokofiev, but I couldn't quote any of the tunes, and I'm also looking forward to hearing it as an opportunity to get to know it (better). As for the "Pictures at an Exhibition," it must be good because so many people like it and it's so often performed. IMO, apart from "The Great Gate of Kiev," it's all quite forgettable, although it may well be very good as musical representation of the pictures in question. By the time they start playing, my brother's weekly phone call from Japan will be in progress, so I won't have to listen. Of course, it's always possible that this will be a performance for the ages, and all who hear it will count themselves among the blessed of the world. So, don't miss it.

If you can't get there, you can hear it over the radio or the internet via WCRB. Within radio range, tune in 99.5 or one of the other stations listed under the Ways to Listen tab. Outside the listening area, click the Listen Live button on the home page. The show begins at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time.

For the schedule of broadcasts/webstreams for the rest of the season, see the Upcoming BSO Broadcasts page(s).

Enjoy opening night and the rest of the season.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

BSO/Classical New England — 2016/09/17

This evening's BSO rebroadcast on WCRB is the concert of February 6, 2016, the second in their Shakespeare Festival. I p/reviewed it at the time, and don't have anything particular to add. You can hear it at 8:00 p.m. this evening, Boston Time. I'll be listening until we get my brother's weekly phone call at 9:00.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

BSO/Classical New England — 2016/09/10

This week's rebroadcast over WCRB is the concert of  January 30, 2016,  conducted by Andris Nelsons. It begins with the Overture to "Oberon," by Weber and continues with the Henze Symphony No. 8. After intermission we get Incidental Music to "A Midsummer Night's Dream," by Mendelssohn. It was part of the orchestra's "Shakespeare Festival" in honor of the fourth centenary of the playwright's death. The Weber opera takes a character from "A Midsummer Night's Dream," but has him in a different story. The symphony is inspired by certain scenes in Shakespeare's play, and the Mendelssohn is also based on the play. I wrote about the concert at the time it was performed, with links to reviews and useful background information (especially the program notes for the Henze).

I like Weber's music, and enjoyed this performance. The Henze symphony isn't beautiful, but it's not horrid, and when you read the program note, it's interesting to try to see how the music fits the things in the play that inspired it. While the use of actors to perform the scenes depicted in Mendelssohn's music didn't work IMO, the music itself is popular, and that's what you get on radio. So, I'd recommend listening on September 10 at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time.

Friday, September 2, 2016

BSO/Classical New England — 2016/09/03

To fill the empty weeks between Tanglewood and the start of the BSO's Symphony Hall season, WCRB rebroadcasts and streams concerts from the previous year. This week it's the performance of Symphony No. 9 by Mahler, with Music Director Andris Nelsons conducting. The concert was performed on April 16, and I wrote about it back then, including links to background material from the BSO and published reviews. I'm looking forward to the rebroadcast, although my brother's call from Tokyo will interrupt it.

As usual, the broadcast and webstream will be on Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. You can also get the schedule for the next two weeks of reruns as well as the upcoming season on the station's Boston Symphony page.