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.

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