Showing posts with label Classical New England. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Classical New England. Show all posts

Friday, June 20, 2014

Boston Pops/Classical New England — 2014/06/21

WCRB will be broadcasting and streaming the "Film Night at the Pops" program which John Williams led on four evenings earlier this month. The station's BSO page has a brief description and links to other things having to do with the Boston Symphony, including the concerts available on demand. The orchestra's performance detail page offers the following description:
June 6-11 at Symphony Hall in Boston, Boston Pops Laureate Conductor John Williams returns for this signature event of the season. Hear cherished and familiar themes from such favorite movie scores as Star Wars,Jaws, and Harry Potter. Mr. Williams will salute some of his illustrious predecessors, whose work influenced him, and in turn he will also lead selections by some of today's notable film composers, many of whom have undoubtedly been influenced by him. With the incomparable Boston Pops Orchestra led by the maestro of movie music, this is a concert not to be missed!
There will be a repeat broadcast/webstream on Monday, June 30 at 8:00 p.m., and it will then be made available on demand. John Williams will also conduct the Pops in a Film Night program at Tanglewood on August 2. It may be slightly different from the one he did in Symphony Hall.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Boston Pops/Classical New England — 2014/06/07

Tonight, and again on Monday, June 16, at 8:00 p. m. on both dates, it's the (previously recorded) Arthur Fiedler Concert. The BSO's performance detail page —which also has links to some performer bios — describes it as follows:


One of Arthur Fiedler's many innovations was his strong emphasis on music of American composers. This program showcases works by such homegrown masters as Bernstein (Candide Overture), Copland ("Buckaroo Holiday" from Rodeo), and Ellington ("It Don't Mean a Thing"), plus Leroy Anderson's Piano Concerto with frequent Pops guest Michael Chertock as soloist (May 8 & 9 only.) Fiedler is credited with discovering Anderson, who created both original compositions, including "The Typewriter," and brilliant arrangements for the Pops. Rounding out the program are familiar movie themes E.T.and Harry Potter by our own John Williams, and "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Dancing Queen." On May 27, join us for the Arthur Fiedler Concert, a heartfelt tribute to the legendary conductor whose name was synonymous with the Boston Pops for nearly fifty years.
As you can see, it was given on May 27. It should be worth hearing. There doesn't seem to be a review of the concert, but here's an obituary for Richard Hayman, who did a lot of arranging for the Pops during the Fiedler era.

Listen over WCRB at 99.5 FM if you're near Boston, or catch the webstream here by clicking the Listen Live button.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Boston Pops/Classical New England — 2014/05/31

(I'm posting this way early because I'll be leaving on Thursday to go to my 50th college reunion.)

This week the Saturday evening broadcast/stream on WCRB is "The Corner of Broadway and Soul" with Billy Porter — a program which was given on May 20 and 21 and recorded for broadcast now. The WCRB page says:
Billy Porter electrified Broadway audiences last year, winning the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his performance in the hitKinky Boots. He joins Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops "at the corner of Broadway and soul!"
while the Pops program detail page says:
Billy Porter electrified Broadway audiences last year, winning the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his performance in the hit Kinky Boots. He has been described as "a force of nature"; in addition to his Broadway roles in Grease, Smokey Joe's Cafe, and Miss Saigon, he is also a recording artist, songwriter, and director. His talents lie "at the corner of Broadway and soul," and he belts a Broadway ballad as expertly as his voice soars on a rhythm-driven beat. Join the Pops for an unforgettable evening featuring Broadway's most dynamic new talent.
There will be the usual repeat, this time on Monday, June 9. Both it and the May 31 broadcast are at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time.

I can't find a review on the Boston Globe website, so you can come to it free of expectations, should you choose to listen. It could be quite enjoyable.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

BSO/Classical New England — 2014/05/10

As I've noted, the Boston Symphony's 2013-2014 season has ended. For most of this month and next, the Boston Pops will be performing in Symphony, and Classical New England/WCRB will be recording a number of their concerts to broadcast and stream. But this week and next it's time for some symphony concerts that were not broadcast earlier in the season. This week, and on Monday, May 19, it's an all-Mozart program from March 8, which was displaced by the March 6 performance of Salome. This concert features Menahem Pressler tickling the ivories, with members of the BSO. The performance detail page supplies the following:
Acclaimed for decades as a founding member of the Beaux Arts Trio, eminent pianist Menahem Pressler-who recently turned ninety in December 2013-joins members of the BSO for an intimate all-Mozart program of smaller ensemble works, including the Piano Quartet in E-flat, considered one of the composer's greatest chamber music masterpieces. The outer works on this concert-two popular serenades, multi-movement works designed as entertainment during parties-duplicate the all-Mozart program of January 14.
And as of this writing, the links to notes and audio material still seems to be available. You can also find a bit of information and links on the WCRB page devoted to the BSO. If you're not within radio range of the station, go to their website for the stream. I couldn't find a review of this concert, but here's one in the Boston Musical Intelligencer which covers and earlier performance which included the two serenades (but a different quartet with a different pianist).

Enjoy.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

BSO — 2014/04/25-26

It's last night at Symphony. Strangely, the program yesterday and today is not all the same as what they played on Tuesday and Thursday. Maybe it has to do with the upcoming tour — wanting to prepare some pieces for it. Anyway this evening, Charles Dutoit leads the orchestra in the Overture to Russlan and Ludmila by Glinka, followed by Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with Behzod Abduraimov as soloist. After the intermission, the orchestra will play the Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz. The BSO performance detail page gives the usual links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios (click on the pics). It describes this concert as follows:
Post-Concert Reception!
Join us in Higginson Hall for a free post-concert reception immediately following the performance for snacks and beverages.
To close the BSO's 2013-14 subscription season, Charles Dutoit leads another program showcasing the orchestra's stylistically wide-ranging virtuosity. These concerts open with the breathless overture to Glinka's 1842 opera Ruslan and Ludmila, followed by Rachmaninoff's ever-popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, again featuring the young Uzbek-born pianist Behzod Abduraimov. The program closes with a work central to the BSO's repertoire, Berlioz's innovative Symphonie fantastique. Berlioz's orchestral depiction of a disturbed lover dreaming of his inamorata is a seminal work of musical Romanticism.
On Thursday, I was there for a program which had the Rachmaninoff, but began with Moussorgsky's Night on Bare Mountain and ended with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. The Boston Globe's review of that program has more background than actual review, but does have a favorable impression of the soloist in the Paganini and seems content with the rest. As is often the case, the Boston Musical Intelligencer went into greater detail. The reviewer articulated my vague feelings, especially about the Moussorgsky seeming somehow tame.

As of this writing, neither the Globe nor the Intelligencer has published a review of the Glinka and the Berlioz, so you can listen to WCRB, beginning at 8:00 this evening, without having your expectations for those pieces colored by a review, but looking forward to a treat with the Paganini. If I notice reviews of this program, I'll post links either here or in a fresh post. WCRB's BSO page has a link to an interview with the young Uzbek pianist Bezhod Abduraimov. As usual, the rebraodcast of this concert will take place in nine days, on Monday, May 5.

This coming Monday will provide a rebroadcast/stream of the concert of a week ago. After a rebroadcast of last year's season finale, they'll give us the concerts of March 8 (on May 10 and 19) and March 14 (on May 17 and 26). Meanwhile, the Boston Pops will have been performing at Symphony Hall, and Saturdays and Mondays beginning after these final BSO broadcasts will give us recordings of some of those concerts until the Tanglewood season begins on July 5.

Happy listening.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

BSO — 2014/04/10-12

This week's Boston Symphony concerts and broadcast/webstream feature the BSO debut (and North American conducting debut) of François-Xavier Roth, filling in for Daniele Gatti, who has shoulder problems. Maestro Roth will conduct the originally scheduled program, described as follows on the BSO's program detail page:
The BSO presents a diverse program featuring BSO players as oboe, horn, and violin soloists in Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, one of the great works of the Baroque era. The BSO will be joined by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus for two works: Stravinsky's austerely beautiful Symphony of Psalms and Beethoven's Elegiac Song, originally for solo mixed voices and string quartet. Never previously played by the BSO, Elegiac Song will be performed here by full chorus with strings. Closing the program is Beethoven's Symphony No. 4, one of his most consistently good-natured symphonies.

Conductor Daniele Gatti-on the advice of his doctors-with deep regret cancels all his professional engagements for the next two months, including his performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, April 10-12, 2014. He will be replaced by François-Xavier Roth in his BSO debut. 
(Some emphasis supplied) See that page also for the usual links: performer info, program notes, and audio previews.

The program, unusual as it is, fits well with Maestro Roth's experience in conducting everything from baroque to contemporary music with orchestras he has founded, so even though he hadn't planned he, he was a natural to take it over unchanged.

I was there on Thursday, and I thought the Bach worked well on modern instruments. The Stravinsky piece is beyond my powers of description — I advise reading the program notes and listening with the text available if you're not already familiar with it. And I do recommend listening. It is clearly a heartfelt piece, and it seemed well performed, as far as I could tell. The Beethoven Elegiac Song is a little gem, also worth having the text available. As for the 4th Symphony, it is my least favorite among Beethoven's symphonies: while the first movement is okay and the second is gorgeous, the last two are altogether too brusque and coarse for my taste (sort of like the scherzo in the 9th). But the performance on Thursday smoothed out the last two movements enough that they actually seemed musical to me. Of course, the fast and loud ending brought the obligatory standing ovation from most of the audience.

The Boston Globe's reviewer's description of the Beethoven 4th performance suggests what there was that let me like it better than I had expected. He was non-committal about the Stravinsky, and less than thrilled with the Bach. On the other hand, the reviewer in the Boston Musical Intelligencer was happiest with the Stravinsky, liked the Elegiac Song, and found the opening and closing pieces a mixture of good and not-so-good. BTW, the review also has some good pix.

You can listen on WCRB, Classical New England, at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, this evening, and again on April 21 (thereafter streamed on demand). A schedule of their remaining BSO broadcasts/webstreams of this BSO season and links to other features (including an interview with the conductor) are on their BSO page. On Monday, April 14, the rebroadcast/stream is of last week's concert, which included the new concerto for piano and orchestra by Bernard Rands.

Enjoy.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

BSO — 2014/04/03-08

A world premiere is being given in Symphony Hall this week, The actual premiere was on Thursday, and I was there. The Saturday broadcast (and webstream) is the "broadcast premiere." It's worth listening to, IMO. First, Robert Spano leads the orchestra in two of the three Nocturnes by Debussy. Then Jonathan Biss joins them for the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra by Bernard Rands — a piece commissioned by the BSO and composed with Mr. Biss in mind. After intermission the orchestra will play Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances. Here's a link to the BSO's performance detail page, where you'll find the usual links to performer bios, podcasts, and program notes. Their description follows:
Robert Spano leads the orchestra's final world premiere of 2013-14, Bernard Rands's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, a BSO commission composed for the probing American pianist Jonathan Biss. Claude Debussy's Nuages and Fêtes are two contrasting movements from the impressionistic orchestral Nocturnes. Rachmaninoff wrote his colorful final work, Symphonic Dances, in 1940 for the Philadelphia Orchestra.
As noted above, I was there on Thursday, and as the new piece was being played, I had the thought that this was something that could well enter the standard repertory* — it is pleasant to listen to, even if not as melodious as the music of the baroque, classical, and romantic eras; it avoids the unpleasant dissonances and general incoherence (as I hear it) of many recent compositions. The Globe's reviewer liked it as well, and gives a fuller description of what it's like than I could. On the other hand, the Boston Musical Intelligencer's reviewer was disappointed in the Rands piece, as well as the first of the two Nocturnes, only waxing enthusiastic for the Rachmaninoff.

You can judge for yourself. The WCRB/Classical New England broadcast/webstream begins at 8:00 p.m., Eastern Daylight Savings Time, with a rebroadcast/stream at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, April 14. Their BSO page has links to interviews with the composer and the conductor, as well as a video of Jonathan Biss playing Schumann in the station's studio.

On Monday, April 7, the rebroadcast will be last week's program of Vaughan Williams, Prokofiev, and Rimsky-Korsakov.

*During the intermission, I encountered Robert Kirzinger, one of the program annotators for the BSO, and expressed my opinion that the Rands work could become a standard. He replied that it might be helped in that direction by the fact that it's already scheduled to be performed in three more places, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Toronto, and a third which he couldn't call to mind at the moment. Since Maestro Spano directs the Atlanta Symphony I suggested Atlanta as the third. He said that would make sense, but he didn't say that was it. Maybe Atlanta will be a fourth.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

BSO — 2014/03/27-29

This week Sir Andrew Davis conducts the BSO in Symphony No. 6 by Vaughan Williams, Piano Concerto No. 2 by Prokofiev — with Yuja Wang as soloist — and Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio espagnol to conclude the program. Go to the orchestra's performance detail page for the usual links to background info. There they also give this description of the program:
English conductor Sir Andrew Davis returns to the BSO podium with music by his great 20th-century compatriot Ralph Vaughan Williams-the dark and powerful Symphony No. 6, composed at the end of World War II. Sir Andrew and the BSO are then joined by the exciting, Beijing-born pianist Yuja Wang for Prokofiev's youthful Piano Concerto No. 2. Closing the concert is the scintillatingly orchestrated, romantic Capriccio espagnol by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
I can't offer my own comments on the performance, since it wasn't part of my subscription, and I chose to hear Trio Cleonice at the Harvard Musical Association that evening. The Globe's reviewer was generally positive, especially about the Vaughan Williams, while at the Boston Musical Intelligencer, the reviewer raved about the Prokofiev and found the Vaughan Williams less successful, particularly in the last two movements. I guess we'll need to listen and decide for ourselves about both works.

For new readers, if any, I'll note that WCRB/Classical New England broadcasts and streams the Saturday concerts live at 8:00 p.m., Eastern (Daylight) Time, and reprises them on the Monday evening nine days later, subsequently making them available for on demand listening over the web. They also provide a schedule of remaining BSO broadcasts/streams and links to background material on their own BSO page. (On Monday, March 31, the rebroadcast/stream will be of the final all-Beethoven concert, which I reported on a week ago.)

Friday, March 21, 2014

BSO — 2014/03/20-22 — Updated

(Updated to include link to the BMInt review. See second paragraph italics.)

Now we come to the wrap-up of the Beethoven mini-festival at the BSO, as they present his Leonore Overture No. 1, the Triple Concerto, and Piano Concerto No. 5, "Emperor." Christoph von Dohnányi conducts; Yefim Bronfman is the piano soloist, and Guy Braunstein and Alisa Weilerstein sit in on violin and cello, respectively, in the Triple Concerto. Go to the performance detail page for links to audio previews, an interview, program notes, and performer bios.

The Globe reviewer liked it. Boston Musical Intelligencer provided a thorough description. The reviewer was quite pleased.

Overall, I enjoyed the performance on Thursday. The overture was quite different from the other two, but very satisfying. The Triple Concerto is one I've thought highly of since I first heard it decades ago. Somehow, this performance was mildly disappointing. For one thing, the cellist's tone seemed harsh and forced. For another there were points where the orchestra and string soloists weren't playing as softly as Mr. Bronfman and made it difficult, if not impossible at points, to hear the piano. When I was a college freshman, my roommate had a record of the "Emperor" concerto with Van Cliburn. He'd play it every Sunday morning, but his record player would loop back to a point about one inch in from the edge after the first side had been played, so for hours I'd hear the last 3/4 of the first movement over and over — it was wonderful. Eventually, he'd turn the record over and I'd hear the second and third movements. Ever since, the piece has been one of my great favorites. I was not disappointed with the performance on Thursday. Van Cliburn's playing may have had a bit more fluidity, but I have no complaints with Bronfman. Again, the other players would have done well to adjust their dynamics to match his in a couple of the softer passages. Overall, though, I thought the performance deserved the standing ovation it got. In fact I'd have liked it if there had been another curtain call or two.

Be sure to listen over WCRB Classical New England. If you can't do so for the live broadcast/webstream on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Boston Time, the rebroadcast will be on Monday, March 31, also at 8:00. (On the 24th, it'll be the repeat of the program from March 15.) At some point it will also become available for on demand listening over the web. See the station's BSO page for interviews with Mr. Bronfman as well as access to the on demand concerts, among other information and links.

IMO this one is not to be missed.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

BSO — 2014/03/13-14; 15-18

There are two separate concert programs to cover in this post. The BSO is performing all five of Beethoven's piano concertos and all three of his "Leonore" overtures, plus the triple concerto in two weeks. Here's their overall description:
CHRISTOPH VON DOHNÁNYI CONDUCTS THREE
ALL-BEETHOVEN PROGRAMS MARCH 13-22

Over the course of three programs, the orchestra presents all five Beethoven piano concertos with Yefim Bronfman as soloist, along with the composer's Triple Concerto and all three Leonore overtures under the direction of Christoph von Dohnányi.
These concerts trace the evolution of Beethoven as a pianist-composer over 15 years, from the early period influenced by Mozart and Haydn to the middle, so-called "heroic" period, culminating in the Emperor Concerto in 1809. For the final program of the festival Thursday, March 20-Saturday, March 22, Mr. Bronfman will be joined by violinist  Guy Braunstein (BSO debut) and cellist  Alisa Weilerstein in Beethoven's Triple Concerto.
Program 1
Leonore Overture No. 3
Piano Concerto No. 1
Piano Concerto No. 2
TICKETS: MAR 13 8PMTICKETS: MAR 14 8PM(March 14 is an UnderScore Friday Evening)
Program 2
Leonore Overture No. 2
Piano Concerto No. 3
Piano Concerto No. 4
TICKETS: MAR 15 8PMTICKETS: MAR 18 8PM
Program 3
Leonore Overture No. 1
Triple Concerto
Piano Concerto No. 5, EmperorTICKETS: MAR 20 8PMTICKETS: MAR 21 1:30PMTICKETS: MAR 22 8PM

As indicated above, March 13 and 14 heard the first of the programs: Leonore Overture No. 3 and Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, with Yefim Bronfman as soloist and Christoph von Dohnányi at the podium. I was at the Thursday performance. The performance detail page for that program doesn't tell us any more about the concert, but it does have the usual links to program notes, audio preview material, and performer bios (click on their pictures).

My reaction was that it was a well played performance. It didn't seem to me that the performers did anything especially unusual with the music. (I've heard other pianists seem to "swing" a couple of phrases, and Mr. Bronfman didn't.) But they played it straightforwardly, with only one or two seemingly missed notes in the piano. The sound was transparent, meaning that it seemed to me that no instruments seemed to drown others out. This may be partly because of the small number of orchestra members needed in the concertos, and no doubt partly the doing of the conductor. The clarinet solo in the first concerto was particularly impressive, and it was good that the horns played softly when appropriate (often they have seemed to overpower the rest of the winds). There's an enthusiastic review in the Boston Musical Intelligencer. In the (shorter) Boston Globe review, there is less opinion, with a heavier proportion of factual description, but the opinions expressed are favorable.

Because this program isn't being given on a Saturday, it won't be broadcast just now. It has been recorded for later broadcast (date so far unannounced). I'll try to alert you when it's coming up. I think it's definitely worth hearing.


This week's broadcast and webstream is the program scheduled for today and next Tuesday, the Leonore Overture No. 2 and Piano Concertos Nos. 3 and 4. Again, check the performance detail page for links to notes, bios, and audio previews.

As usual, the Saturday concert will be broadcast and streamed virtually live over WCRB, Classical New England, which also has the schedule for the rest of the season and various links on its BSO page. I'm sure this concert will be worth hearing live this evening at 8:00 p.m., in the rebroadcast/stream on March 24 at 8:00 p.m., or on demand when it becomes available. I'll attend on Tuesday, and give my impression and links to reviews some time after that.

This Monday, March 17, the rebroadcast/stream will be of the March 6 "Salome."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

BSO — 2014/03 Hiatus/Rebroadcasts

The Boston Symphony Orchestra is not performing in Symphony Hall this week, and in the three following weeks they are presenting five different programs. This means that there will be a fair amount of juggling by WCRB/Classical New England. They'll have to do a rebroadcast tonight, and they'll do a mix of live and rebroadcasts for the next five concerts. You can read all about it on their BSO page. I'll try to summarize it here:

March 1  The concert of January 31-February 5, 2013: Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky (BSO performance detail page no longer available)

March 3 The concert of February 22, 2014 (the usual rebroadcast time): Dvořák and Beethoven


March 8 The concert of two days earlier, March 6, 2014: Strauss

March 10 The Tanglewood Concert of August 11, 2013: Beethoven (BSO performance detail page no longer available)


March 15 Live Beethoven (with usual rebroadcast March 24)

March 17 The concert of March 6 (= broadcast of March 8) — usual time


March 22 Live Beethoven (with usual rebroadcast March 31)


This means one of the next five Symphony Hall concerts of the BSO will be recorded and broadcast on the 8th, and those of the 15th and 22nd will be live as usual; but the concerts of March 8 (Mozart) and March 13-14 (Beethoven) will be recorded for broadcast sometime later (perhaps between Symphony Hall and Tanglewood seasons).

As usual, the broadcasts/webstreams all begin at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time. Daylight Saving Time (Summer Time) begins here on March 9.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

BSO — 2014/02/20-22

Manfred Honeck comes from Pittsburgh to conduct the BSO in music of Dvořák (with Anne-Sophie Mutter as soloist) and Beethoven. More specifically, the BSO performance detail page tells us:
The peerless German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter joins the BSO and Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck, music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, for two works by Dvořák: the composer's Violin Concerto, originally conceived for Brahms's friend, the great Joseph Joachim, but never performed by him; and the Romance for violin and orchestra, which began life as the slow movement of the composer's F minor string quartet. Honeck also leads Beethoven's groundbreaking Eroica Symphony, inspired by Napoleon's rise to power.
(Emphasis added.)

You can also find the usual links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios (click on the photos) on that page. There is also a wide-ranging and in-depth interview with Maestro Honeck on the Boston Musical Intelligencer's site. I definitely recommend reading it. (I've taken a bit of extra interest in Manfred Honeck because I have an internet friend in western Pennsylvania who occasionally attends Pittsburgh Symphony concerts, so I was pleased to see this interview — the more so since the BSO does not provide one with the maestro.)

I was at the Thursday performance and especially enjoyed the Beethoven: for me it was the highlight of the evening by far. There wasn't any one element in the performance that struck me as especially unusual or noteworthy, but it all seemed just right. As for the Dvořák, it was okay. Ms. Mutter's playing was spectacular, but the music itself, not so much so. The Romance wasn't very interesting. During intermission I encountered an acquaintance to whom I remarked that the first two movements of the concerto seemed quite unfamiliar, whereas I recognized the third movement instantly. She replied that this was a good insight: the first two movements are quite forgettable.

The Globe gave the performance a generally favorable review. Without the space limitations of the newspaper, the BMInt's review was much more thorough — unlike the BSO performance detail, it does not make the mistake of treating the Beethoven as an afterthought.

As usual, Classical New England will broadcast and webstream it virtually live over WCRB at 8:00 p.m., Boston time, with a rebroadcast/stream at 8:00 p.m. and Monday, March 3. I definitely recommend listening in. The station also gives a link to an interview they conducted with Maestro Honeck on their own BSO page.

(This coming Monday, Feb. 24, since they aren't allowed to retransmit last week's "West Side Story," "In an encore from the 2013 Tanglewood season, Gil Shaham is the soloist in the Violin Concerto by Jean Sibelius, and Christoph von Dohnányi conducts the Boston Symphony in Johannes Brahms's Symphony No. 2."
That concert took place on August 9, and I posted about it then, including a link to the BSO page, which may still be active.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

BSO — 2014/02/14-16

Tonight, tonight won't be just any night./
Tonight they play "West Side Story."

That's right, folks: under the baton of David Newman the orchestra will be accompanying the movie. The performance detail page, with its links to notes and spoken audio, explains further:
Experience a thrilling new presentation of this iconic film and winner of ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The Boston Symphony plays Leonard Bernstein's electrifying score live, while the newly re-mastered film is shown on large screens in high definition with the original vocals and dialogue intact.  This classic romantic tragedy, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, and with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is one of the greatest achievements in the history of movie musicals. It features Robbins' breath-taking choreography and a screenplay by Ernest Lehman based on the masterful book by Arthur Laurents.
(Emphasis added.)

One is entitled to wonder why. Not having heard the audio podcasts, I'm guessing that they thought it would fill the seats for St. Valentine's Day weekend. I truly wish them well, even though I'm not very interested. Of course listeners via radio or internet won't see the screen, but I gather we'll hear the sounds of the movie, including the singing, along with the live orchestra.

Since they did not do the show on Thursday — instead there's a Sunday matinee, so there's still time to go see it if you live around here — I can't offer an opinion as to how good it was. I can't find a review in the Globe, either, although they offered a preview, focusing mainly on Marni Nixon, whose voice was used in the movie in place of Natalie Wood.

As usual, you can hear it live over Classical New England's radio station or webstream, beginning at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time, but tonight, tonight will be the only night you can listen on the air. There will not be a rebroadcast on February 24, or any other time. I'm not sure whether it'll be available over the web on demand; I wouldn't count on it, but you can always try. Their BSO page has a link to an interview with the conductor, and the usual information about future broadcasts.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

BSO — 2014/02/06-08

Bernard Haitink is back to conduct a second week of concerts (again with no performance on the following Tuesday). Let's see what the orchestra says about it on their performance detail page.
BSO Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink is joined by revered American pianist Murray Perahia for the powerful and lyrical Piano Concerto of Robert Schumann. Schumann wrote this piece over several years. Schumann's protégé Johannes Brahms waited until his forties to complete a first symphony, but all four of his works in the genre remain central to the orchestral repertoire. In characteristic understatement, Brahms downplayed the intense, minor-mode Fourth. Opening the program is a wind ensemble re-composition, created by the American, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky of the 17th-century Englishman Henry Purcell's funeral music for Queen Mary.
(Emphasis added)
Visit that page for the usual links to various types of background material.

I was in the hall for the Thursday performance, and I found the Stucky arrangement of the Purcell delightful. I'm not so familiar with 17th Century Music that I could have been sure that it was a modern arrangement: it simply sounded like baroque music to me. The favorable reviews in the Boston Globe and in the Boston Musical Intelligencer both picked up on the line in the program note which said that in  the third episode, "Stucky uses sustaining instruments—piano and metallic pitched percussion—as well as added chromaticism and multiple tempos to “smear” the surface of the music, giving it a kind of mysterious glow." I was looking for it and didn't detect the smearing and the glow, but the reviewers found it. I guess that's why they write reviews for publication and I don't; but I can't help wondering if they'd have noticed it if the program note hadn't said it was there. At any rate, I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to listening to this evening's broadcast. Maybe I'll get the smearing and the glow, but even if not, it will be good. The Schumann was pleasant enough as well. As for the Brahms, I will have no comment, because I avoided it by leaving at intermission. I find Brahms's orchestral music unpleasant — too forced-seeming, as if the musicians are straining to push it out — and with too much dissonance. The early works don't share those qualities. Several years ago James Levine led the orchestra in a performance of Brahms' Serenade No. 2, and it was delightful. But I know most people don't find most Brahms so unpleasant, so don't let me dissuade you from listening to the second half of the concert.

As always, Classical New England is your headquarters for the broadcast and webstream over WCRB. The concert is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Boston Time. There are indications that they begin programming for the concert with preliminaries at 7:00, but the past few times I've listened, I haven't heard references to the upcoming concert in the 7-8:00 hour. They have their own BSO page, as I always note, with links to material about this concert and earlier ones and the schedule of upcoming concerts. The rebroadcast/stream will be on Feb. 17th at 8:00 p.m. EST, and it will also be available on demand, as noted in that page.

This is music I think most people will like. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

BSO — 2014/01/30–02/02

This week it's all Ravel with the BSO. On the orchestra's performance detail page, in addition to links to program notes, audio previews, and performer bios, we get the following detail about the performance:
BSO Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink leads two consecutive weeks of concerts this season, beginning with an all-Ravel program featuring the dazzling mezzo-soprano Susan Graham as soloist in the atmospheric orchestral song cycle Shéhérazade. The composer's Spanish-tinged, pictorial Alborada del graciosoopens the program, and the work Ravel considered his best, the complete "symphonie choréographique" Daphnis and Chloé, concludes it. Ravel wrote this cornerstone of musical impressionism for the famous Ballets Russes, which gave the premiere in Paris in 1912.
(Underlining added)
I'm not sure why they neglect to mention that the Tanglewood Festival Chorus sings (wordlessly) in the "Daphnis and Chloé," as always, from memory.

Thursday's concert was favorably reviewed in the Boston Musical Intelligencer and had a mixed review (okay, but they've done better) in the Boston Globe. I'm not enough of a musician, musicologist, or aficionado of these pieces to be able to offer an opinion on the niceties of the performances. I can say that I thought the prominent instrumental solos were impressive and that the Ms. Graham's singing had no apparent flaws. Unfortunately for me, though, I just don't like Ravel very much. The opening "Alborada" was boisterous and amusing in light of the inappropriateness of the style to the presumed situation in which it would be performed (as recounted in the program note). So that was enjoyable. "Shéhérazade," although beautifully sung, was nothing really impressive to my personal taste. Worst of all — and again, this is just me — I found "Daphnis and Chloé," in my grandmother's word, "boresome." By the time it was about half over, I was completely ready for it to be done. Sitting, as I was, in an aisle seat in a back row, adjacent to a door, I actually considered slipping out rather than sitting through the tedium to the end. But I was polite and stayed and stayed until it was finally over. If it appears on the program again, I'll know enough to avoid it. But you might like it. As Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said about a book whose author asked him to recommend it, "It will be greatly enjoyed by all who like this sort of thing." So give it a try. Most people like Ravel.

As usual, it will be broadcast and streamed over Classical New England/WCRB beginning at 8:00 p.m., Boston Time (= Eastern Standard), and repeated on February 10 at 8:00 p.m. On February 3, the repeat will be of last week's Wagner/Lutosławski/Shostakovich concert. Check out CNE's BSO page for the season broadcast schedule and links of various sorts.

Enjoy.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

BSO — 2014/01/23-25

This week's concert presents works by Wagner, Lutosławski, and Shostakovich. Here's what the BSO's performance detail page says about it.
For his first full BSO subscription concerts, Latvian BSO Assistant Conductor Andris Poga is joined by eminent American pianist Garrick Ohlsson for the great Polish composer Witold Lutosłaswki's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, a rhapsodic work from 1988. Its only previous performances by the BSO were led by the composer himself at Symphony Hall in October 1990. Opening the program is Wagner's boisterous overture to his early opera Rienzi, composed partly in Poga's hometown of Riga, Latvia, and premiered in 1842 in Dresden. Shostakovich's utterly characteristic final symphony, No. 15, closes the program. The Russian composer wrote this big piece in 1971.
Emphasis added.

See that page also for the usual links to background material.

I was at the Friday matinee and really enjoyed it. In the first place, the Rienzi overture is a stirring piece of music which I am always happy to hear. The BSO at one time frequently began its concerts with a "curtain raiser," often an opera overture or concert overture. Recently these brief starters for the concert have become less common, but I think they are a good way to begin. The Lutosławski concerto was performed in substitution for the originally programmed world premiere of the piano concerto by Justin Dello Joio, which the BSO  had commissioned. Apparently it wasn't completed in time to be rehearsed and presented at these concerts. The Lutosławski was not unpleasant to listen to, although it seemed kind of disjointed. After intermission, the Shostakovich symphony was quite enjoyable (with quotes from the William Tell Overture in the first movement, and the "fate" motive from Wagner's Ring Cycle in the fourth, and a wonderful conclusion featuring unusual percussion). There were numerous solos or duets from various instruments, and the composer did a good job of quieting the orchestral accompaniment so that they could be clearly heard. All seemed very ably performed. The Globe's review was largely positive.

As usual, you can listen in to the Saturday evening performance (8:00 p.m., Boston Time) on Classical New England. It will be broadcast and streamed again on February 3, again at 8:00 p.m. Also as usual, CNE's page devoted to the BSO has a link to an interview with the conductor, a schedule of the remaining BSO concerts this season (including a reminder that last week's Mozart/Bruckner concert will be rebroadcast/streamed on January 27), and various other links.

Enjoy.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

BSO — 2014/01/09-11

This week Robert Spano leads a few members of the Boston Symphony and several other ensembles in Alejandro Golijov's Pasión según San Marcos. Go to the BSO performance detail page for links to background material and an interview with the composer. They describe it as follows:
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra music director Robert Spano, whose ties to the BSO go back two decades, returns to lead a work given its United States premiere by the BSO under his direction in 2001-Osvaldo Golijov's La Pasión según San Marcos("The Passion According to St. Mark"). The Jewish, Latin American-raised Golijov was one of four composers from different religious and musical traditions asked to compose a Passion setting to mark the 250th anniversary of Bach's death and the end of the second millennium. Golijov's vibrant, immediate, pan-Latin American approach draws on multiple musical and Christian traditions in presenting this universal narrative. The BSO is joined by a cast of stylistically diverse performers central to the original creation of this remarkable piece.
I was there for the Thursday performance. I found that the loud percussion and Latin rhythms were at times a distraction from the actual meaning of the text. Others who are more accustomed to that style of music may find it easier to relate to. But there were definite moments of beauty as well, especially a couple of soprano arias: one as Jesus at the Last Supper and the other as Peter weeping over his betrayal of Jesus. Much is made of the fact that the composer is Jewish, but I saw nothing in the text or the music to give the work the character of "a Jew looks at the Passion according to Mark," except the final piece, which is a setting of an Aramaic translation of the mourner's Kaddish — which is perfectly appropriate at that point, and could even have been thought of by a Christian composer.

Anyway, it seems a straightforward, if spectacular,  presentation, in Latin American musical forms, of the St. Mark Passion. The Globe review was more factual than opinionated — certainly finding no real fault. IMO it's worth hearing. It would be very worthwhile to listen to the podcast linked on the BSO performance detail page and to read the program notes in advance. I haven't been able to locate the full text online, but if you can find it, that would also be good to have.

As usual, the performance can be heard over Classical New England, beginning at 8:00 p.m., with preliminary show at 7:00, a rebroadcast/stream on January 20 at 8:00, Boston time, and on demand availability thereafter. Check out their BSO page for a link to another interview with the composer.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Classical New England — 2014/01/04

For the last Saturday before the Boston Symphony resume their concerts, Classical New England has decided to repeat a concert from last summer's Tanglewood season, specifically, August 17, 2013. As they put it:
In an encore from the 2013 Tanglewood season, soprano Camilla Tilling joins the BSO for the Symphony No. 4 by Gustav Mahler, and Isabelle Faust is the soloist in Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5, with conductor Bernard Haitink.
(Emphasis added)

Their BSO page, in addition to the above, has their schedule for the rest of the BSO's season, including rebroadcasts, and other links. The BSO's own performance detail page has links to program notes.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Classical New England — 2013/12/28 & New Year's Day

My apologies for getting so distracted by other things that I didn't get around to posting about what was being offered last Saturday. I hope you found it on your own, if you were interested. Of course, I realize that you can listen to the broadcasts or webstreams whenever you want. I offer these posts as a way of giving a little preview and reminder which I hope will encourage you to listen, and at least help you decide whether you want to do so or not.

This week, on December 28, Classical New England is giving us a New England Conservatory performance of Britten's A Ceremony of Carols and other Christmas pieces at 7:00 p.m. At 8:00 they will offer a repeat of a concert which took place last summer* at Tanglewood: Symphony No. 3 by  Mahler under the baton of Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. Here's a bit more detail from the station's Holiday Specials page:

Saturday, Dec. 28

7pm: A Centennial Ceremony of Carols: A Benjamin Britten Holiday Celebration


We mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the renowned British composer Benjamin Britten through his Ceremony of Carols and other holiday works, as well as traditional carols arranged by Sir David Willcocks, all performed by the NEC Chamber Chorus, led by Erica Washburn.
8pm: Boston Symphony Orchestra: Sound the Posthorn!


We ring out the old year by revisiting one of the highlights of the 2013 Tanglewood season: Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, with mezzo-soprano Ann-Sophie von Otter, the PALS Children's Chorus and the women of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.
* Here's a link to what I wrote at the time. It, in turn, contains a link to the BSO's performance detail page for the concert.


You can find other programming between now and January 5 listed on the same page as the description of December 28. It also lists all the concerts and programs of the Christmas — and Hanukkah — season which are now available on line for on demand listening. There's a lot, and a good variety. Follow the link.


On New Year's Day, continuing a long-standing tradition, at 11:00 a.m. they will broadcast and stream the Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Day Concert. Music of Johann Strauss is always a large part of the program. Then at 3:00 p.m., something new this year, I think — a New Year's Day concert by Boston Baroque. Each will be repeated in the evening. Once more, a quote from their page:

Wednesday, Jan. 1

11am: New Year's Day from Vienna


Direct from the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna, it’s the most popular classical music concert in the world! Laura Carlo hosts this national broadcast, produced by WCRB, as Daniel Barenboim leads the annual celebration concert by the Vienna Philharmonic.

3pm: Boston Baroque's Gala First Day Concert


Champagne, Concertos…and Coffee! Join us for a Boston New Year’s Tradition, now shared with the nation! Martin Pearlman leads Boston Baroque, now in its 40th Anniversary Season as America’s oldest “period-instrument” orchestra in a festive All-Bach New Year’s Day concert, live from Sanders Theatre in Harvard Square.

5pm: encore of New Year's Day from Vienna

10pm: encore of Boston Baroque's Gala First Day Concert

Happy listening!

Since this is probably my last post of the year, I want to wish my readers a New Year that is happy in every possible way, as well as to express Christmas greetings, with the hope that Christmas Day was merry and that the joy of the celebration is continuing through the twelve days (and beyond if your Christmastide extends to the celebration of the Lord's Baptism or even to Candlemas). Joy to you all!