July 13, 2018

in: Reviews

Four Strings Sound Six Suites

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Cellist Colin Carr delivered Bach’s six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello in a marathon extravaganza Thursday at Shalin Liu, showing the amazing range that can be accomplished with that one instrument.    [continued]

July 12, 2018

in: Reviews

Time, Lost and Found with Jeremy Denk

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In his customary déshabillé outfit, Jeremy Denk made time stand still at Ozawa Hall last night.    [continued]

July 12, 2018

in: Reviews

Kickoff Belies Yellow Barn Gravitas

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Last weekend saw Vermont’s Yellow Barn open its 49th season, deftly serving up everything from wry and poetic steam to wayfaring and antifa. Tomorrow’s concert includes a tribute to the late Oliver Knussen.    [continued]

July 9, 2018

in: Reviews

Nelsons Powers Shostakovich

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Brahms’s massive First Piano Concerto with Rudolph Buchbinder and Shostakovich’s massively controversial Fifth Symphony at the Shed followed a very pleasant concert by Tanglewood fellows earlier Sunday in Ozawa Hall.    [continued]

July 9, 2018

in: Reviews

Quartets Old & New Plus Cautionary Songs

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Friday’s performance by the Rolston String Quartet and bass-baritone Davóne Tines gave a fine example of Rockport Music’s stimulating programming under Barry Shiffman.    [continued]

July 9, 2018

in: Reviews

Sonic Silver Screen and Other Impressions

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Genre-bending bass-baritone Davóne Tines joined the ARC Ensemble Sunday afternoon in Shalin Liu Performance Center for things French and Spanish.    [continued]

July 9, 2018

in: Reviews

On the Town Hits the Tops in the Shed

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Song and dance from 74 years ago made a triumphant second installment in the Bernstein centennial out in Lenox Saturday evening.    [continued]

July 9, 2018

in: Reviews

Tanglewood Celebrates Recovering Superstar

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Many in Friday’s the large and ebullient crowd had come to celebrate the return of the 36-year-old superstar pianist Lang Lang, who has been recovering for much of the past year from an overuse injury to his left hand. Cheer him they did.    [continued]

July 9, 2018

in: Reviews

Escher On the Mark at the Maverick

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Maverick Concerts classical season in Woodstock is off to an excellent start, as the Escher String Quartet, quickly having become a favorite ensemble at Maverick, scored again with a varied and engrossing program demonstrating their stylistic range on Sunday.    [continued]

July 7, 2018

in: Reviews

Steamy Yet Spellbinding—Buchbinder at Ozawa Hall

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With the great Austrian pianist, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players provided unmitigated relief from a New England heat wave Thursday at Ozawa Hall, despite the no-see-ums.    [continued]

July 6, 2018

in: Reviews

Report From the Other Cambridge

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Your far-flung reporter dilates on the opening night of the Cambridge Summer Music Festival. This year’s (the 40th) runs from July 5 – 21.    [continued]

July 2, 2018

in: Reviews

Firepower and Artistry Well Joined

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After soloing three times to tremendous effect, South Korean pianist Yekwon Sunwoo quinteted brilliantly with the Brentano String Quartet Friday at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival.    [continued]

July 2, 2018

in: Reviews

Sohn Scales Mountain of Gold

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Shalin Liu Performance Center gleamed in darkness Sunday afternoon thanks to Bach’s encyclopædic variations journey.    [continued]

July 2, 2018

in: Reviews

Carrying Brio From Copenhagen

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Lemonade and “Big Ass” fans made the Maverick hospitable to Trio con Brio Copenhagen in Sunday’s blistering classical opener.    [continued]

July 1, 2018

in: Reviews

Familiar and Inventive

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The Brentano String Quartet’s Saturday concert with soprano Dawn Upshaw featured one of the summer’s most inventive programs at Rockport.    [continued]

June 30, 2018

in: Reviews

Outside, Rain and Fog—Inside, Elegance and Warmth

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Canadian violinist James Ehnes and American pianist Andrew Armstrong offered splendid takes on four of Beethoven’s violin-piano sonatas Thursday before a packed and attentive crowd at the Shalin Liu Performance Center.    [continued]

June 25, 2018

in: Reviews

Schenkman Registers on Streicher

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Seattle-based keyboardist Byron Schenkman traveled to the Second Church in Newton on Saturday night for a recital on a Streicher piano from the last half of the 19th century.    [continued]

June 25, 2018

in: Reviews

The Attacc of Shostakovich, Pärt, and Reich

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Pianist Stephen Prutsman and violinist Danny Koo joined the Attacca Quartet for 20th-century music meditating on nothing less than human history’s cyclical upheavals, as Rockport Music continued Week 2 of r:EVOLUTION.    [continued]

June 24, 2018

in: Reviews

Bach in the Mix Gives Mixed Results

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Pianist Stephen Prutsman interspersed Bach with music ranging from Rameau to traditional music from Rwanda. What would emerge from Friday night’s rapid-fire eclecticism at Shalin Liu?    [continued]

June 24, 2018

in: Reviews

Solstice and Sehnsucht

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On the longest day of the year, Rockport Chamber Music offered Brahms’s beloved Horn Trio, alto/viola songs, and the third violin sonata.    [continued]

June 21, 2018

in: Reviews

The Inmates Run the Institute

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If the three concerts I attended at NEC this week are any indications, SICPP is a treasure of uncommon interest, a gift to the Boston musical community by the redoubtable, courageous and fascinating Stephen Drury.    [continued]

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July 13, 2018

in: News & Features

Pompous, Celestial, Celebratory, and Free

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The Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s 12th season of free concerts on the Esplanade wakens the Hatch Shell Wednesday at 7:00, during what is also the 90th summer that Bostonians have gathered on the Esplanade to hear live orchestral music since 1929, when Arthur Fiedler began the tradition. Landmarks’ music director Christopher Wilkins opens with suitably ceremonial Edwardian pomp in a program that concludes with a celebration of our best possible solar system.

In the centenary year of Holst’s The Planets, the Orchestra welcomes the St. Paul’s Girls’ School Choir, whose predecessors had originally provided the mysterious offstage wordless chorale sounds in the finale. Holst’s masterpiece explores the [supposed] astrological influence of the planets on human personality and behavior. Young musicians of ZUMIX perform an original work echoing Holst’s fascination with the human psyche. Other music inspired by the heavens includes Debussy’s bewitching Clair de lune

Rain Date: Thursday, July 19. If it rains on July 19 as well, the concert will be held at First Church Cambridge.

Wilkins’s program notes tell us:

Edward Elgar dedicated each of the five original Pomp and Circumstance marches to musical friends. The first—and best known of the five—was dedicated to Alfred Rodewald and the Liverpool Orchestral Society. The march’s middle section boasts one of music’s immortal melodies. Every American knows it, even those who have no idea where it comes from. Elgar knew its worth the moment he conceived it: “I’ve got a tune that will knock ’em—will knock ’em flat,” he enthused to a friend. The Pomp and Circumstance marches exude a deep British pride that wells up often in Elgar’s music, suggesting, as conductor Colin Davis put it, “nostalgia for a time that never existed.” [continued…]

July 10, 2018

in: News & Features

Oliver Knussen, 1952-2018

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Oliver Knussen’s recent passing leaves modern music at a terrible loss. He was a composer of our own era who wrote very good music, and no less than that, he was a conductor who cared about sustaining the modern era in performance. Only 66 years old when he died Sunday, he had suffered from significant health problems for some time.

Some of us will remember his wonderfully picturesque and boisterous “wild rumpus” music for his opera Where the Wild Things Are, after Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s book. We will remember his NPR talk about Act II of Boris Godunov, which he compared to the best children’s music of all time. I will remember him for his able management of Fromm Week at Tanglewood, his loyalty and skill in defense of Alban Berg’s music, and especially a fine Boston Symphony appearance 26 years ago, when he conducted Debussy’s La boîte à joujoux, an entrancing work from 1913 which the BSO, in all of its French-oriented history, had never before managed to perform.

Knussen’s career start, as adolescent composer and conductor, was auspicious and already accomplished. Writing in the Boston Globe 49 years ago from the Florida International Music Festival, Michael Steinberg reported that: [continued…]

July 6, 2018

in: News & Features

BSO: Is Its Pay Policy Suitable?

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Elizabeth Rowe (Borggreve)

So, the question that’s burning everyone’s mind this week (or is it just that the heatwave has toasted everyone’s mind?) is whether the BSO’s first-chair flute player is worth as much (speaking strictly in dollars and cents) as its first-chair oboist. Or, put more correctly (as opposed to concisely), is the amended Massachusetts Equal Pay Act that took effect on July 1st going to force the BSO to pay its first-chair flutist, Elizabeth Rowe, as much as its first-chair oboist, John Ferrillo?

If the first question in your mind is, who am I to be dilating on this on these pages, my answer is, that’s a pretty good question. Wearing one hat, I write music reviews here. Wearing the more expensive hat, I’m a lawyer. I am not, strictly speaking, a labor or employment lawyer, though as a business-transactional lawyer I’ve done a fair amount of work on (executive) employment agreements. So, consider me an informed quasi-layperson in this discussion. I’ve been around the block a few times. But as to specialist knowledge, don’t expect that from me; and for sure, don’t consider what I write here as legal advice (my lawyer makes me say that).

In aid of this discussion, we have reprinted the entirety of the old and new statutes HERE. The law is codified at chapter 149 of the Massachusetts General Laws, section 105A (don’t get me started on the ridiculous numbering system—it probably dates from John Adams’s day). You’ll probably notice, when you get past the definitions to the business end of the new statute, that it’s not substantially different from what it replaces. It adds what purports to be greater detail (but I have my doubts, as will become apparent), and provides more administrivia around who can sue, anti-retaliation provisions, the power of the state to sue, the damages to be collected, and so forth. It also provides some more precise exemptions, some of which may bear on Rowe’s first-out-of-the-gate lawsuit. [continued…]

July 2, 2018

in: News & Features

Newport News, 2018

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Over 19 gilded days and nights, the Newport Music Festival’s 52 embedded musicians will enliven mansions, churches, tents, and museums with engaging mainstream offerings of chambermusic, vocal extravaganzas, and more various fares. The 43-concert festival brings Joshua Bell, A Far Cry, Imani Winds, Jake Heggie, Charlie Albright, and Frederica von Stade to such venues as the the Elms, the Chinese Tea House, Belcourt, and especially to the Breakers, where, when the full moon is streaming through the open arches, we erupt in Gatsby goosebumps without later suffering to be found face-down in a pool.

Highlights of the 50th-anniversary festival include the Fourth of July opening festival concert celebration with Boston Brass, sunrise concerts at the Chinese Tea House on July 6, 13 and 20, an evening with mezzo von Stade and composer-in-residence and pianist Jake Heggie on July 7, A Far Cry performing Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 3 on July 8, free “From the Porch” concerts at the Newport Art Museum on July 10 and 17, a Bernstein centennial concert with excerpts from West Side Story and Anniversaries featuring pianist Jeffrey Siegel on July 12, the Newport debut of 2017 Van Cliburn gold medalist Yekwon Sunwoo on July 12, Grammy-nominated Imani Winds in its Newport debut at the Breakers on July 13, Young Persons’ Concert featuring Siegel on July 14, Bell headlining the festival gala on July 15, festival ensemble-in-residence Summer Strings performing everything from Led Zeppelin and Michael Jackson to Brahms at Newport Vineyards on July 19, and the Newport debut of pianist, composer, and improviser Charlie Albright on July 21. Click HERE for tickets and further details. [continued…]

June 27, 2018

in: News & Features

BSO Chorus Is a-Changin’

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When in the course of symphonic events a new music director materializes, contracts likely protect performing personnel from firings. By contrast, when the new director of a volunteer chorus asks its members to reaudition, especially when doing so pointedly, and taking a new tack, few impediments exist. Why would any arts news organization pay attention?

Nevertheless, when some veteran singers complained of their new director’s impolitic course correction for the beloved 48-year-old Tanglewood Festival Chorus, we took notice.

Only the second conductor to lead TFC since John Oliver founded it, in 1970, English choral man James Burton inherited a contingent with long service and deep institutional loyalty. It cannot have been an easy role to assume. Before accepting the new title of BSO choral director, last February, Burton agreed to take on the dual roles of preparing the chorus for concerts and building, maintaining, and shaping the ensemble through auditions and selection. BMInt announced his appointment HERE. Contributor Stephen Owades, one of arguably two active charter members remaining, was told to reaudition, and got culled. Owades observed, “If I were among a modest number of people weeded out, I would be unhappy but not aggrieved. Yet the sheer scale of the retirements and cuts, far beyond anything that TFC has suffered in its history, tells me that—in contrast to the explicit, published assurances of our new director—he and the BSO are taking the group in a dramatically new direction.” [continued…]

June 15, 2018

in: News & Features

Meditating on the “Bounded Fields of Time”

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Oliver Caplan, featured composer

All of us — well, except those who achieve Nirvana — rebel against time. We want to hold onto it, retrieve it, freeze it, even reverse it. And humans have always yearned for a release from time’s iron grip – an impossible return to an Edenic existence. (And what is a heavenly afterlife but lux aeterna in a timeless realm free from pain and striving?) In the founding Judeo-Christian narrative, Adam and Eve brought humankind sin, misery and death (not to mention the pain of childbirth) by eating that damned apple and acquiring a godlike knowledge of good and evil.

In one way and another, Boston debut of the New Hampshire Master Chorale will be a meditation on time and human existence through wide-ranging contemporary music including the premiere of Bostonian Oliver Caplan’s response to the 2017 racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. His We Exist, pleads for a universal humanity.

The 22-voice Chorale and chamber orchestra under the direction of Dan Perkins will perform the show at Friday, June 22nd at First Church Boston at 8:00 P.M, Saturday the 23rd at 7:00 P.M. in the First Congregational Church in Concord, NH on Sunday the 24th at 4:00 P.M. at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Plymouth, NH. My program notes summarize it thus: [continued…]

June 8, 2018

in: News & Features

Concert Marketing 101

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Inspiring the next Sol Hurok

New England Conservatory recently announced the inaugural group of NEC’s Entrepreneurial Musicianship (EM) Nova Fellows, a new student-run music-presenting collaborative sponsored in part by a generous anonymous donor. EM Nova, a transformation of Symphony Nova, a professional development fellowship program founded in 2007 for orchestral musicians, will be integrating its operations into NEC’s entrepreneurial musicianship department.

Next fall’s six-fellow team represents a cross-section of the student body, with participation from the classical, jazz, and contemporary improvisation departments. The fellows will be directly overseen by EM faculty, providing resources for students’ creative paths. Interim NEC president Tom Novak points out that “This is an incredible opportunity for students to experience every component of producing a concert series. It is a great enhancement to the offerings provided by the entrepreneurial musicianship department, as NEC aspires to prepare students for the professional world.” Students will have an unprecedented opportunity for hands-on learning, as they will be responsible for all areas of managing the EM Nova program, which will offer not only new, eclectic presentations to the Boston community but also professional development and performance opportunities to students.

We had to learn more. [continued…]

May 30, 2018

in: News & Features

Fempowering Opera

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Soprano Kathryn McKeller (T-Stop Pictures for OperaHub)

Nine divas from two centuries locked in the afterlife and pitted against one another will fight for the soul of opera—what couldn’t go right? OperaHub’s timely new play with music DIVAS is a female-powered world premiere written by Boston playwright Laura Neill and packed with true stories, extravagant fashion, and gorgeous music. Including 13 selections from Purcell to Puccini, DIVAS, both hilarious and poignant, showcases larger-than-life women whose voices reverberate across the centuries.

Boston’s self-described “opera punks” break out the ballgowns to ask, “What is the power of opera? Can women harness it to new ends?”  The piano-accompanied production runs June 21st -30th in the Plaza Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts.

It seems an ideal moment for DIVAS. As a layered historical exploration of female theater leadership, the stories of these nine divas are full of emotional, physical, and financial mistreatment, the truths for many women in theater and opera over the ages. As the current public reckoning with sexual harassment and power abuse makes plain, this is the daily experience of contemporary women in the arts and beyond. You don’t have to be a diva. [continued…]

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