Music News

Alisa Weilerstein Wins MacArthur Grant

By Brian McCreath   |   Tuesday, September 20, 2011
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Sept. 20

2011 has proven to be a good year for cellists with Boston connections, with a Tchaikovsky Competition Gold Medal for Narek Hakhnazaryan.  The trend continued today when the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced that Alisa Weilerstein is one of 22 people chosen to receive so-called "genius grants."  The awards of $500,000, paid over five years, are given on the basis of "creativity, originality and potential to make important contributions in the future,” according to a New York Times interview with Robert Gallucci, the president of the MacArthur Foundation.

Weilerstein, whose parents, Donald and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, are on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music, has rocketed to the front rank of concert soloists in the last few years, appearing with many major orchestras, including last month's appearance at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

She visited our Fraser Performance Studio in 2008, and you can hear that performance in the Live From Fraser archive, and there is more on the story at NPR Music.

In 2010, she was invited to perform Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in her debut with the Berlin Philharmonic.  Significantly, the conductor was Daniel Barenboim, whose late wife, Jacqueline DuPré, was closely identified with that piece.  Here is an interview from that week:

Taking Flight: A Guide to Boston's Upcoming Opera Season

By Arthur Smith   |   Wednesday, August 31, 2011
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Taking Flight: A Guide to Boston’s Upcoming Opera Season

It’s true that Boston has no bean-town equivalent to The Metropolitan Opera—the most dominant company in the nation, and source of many of the performances featured on WGBH's Opera Bash––but the city is host to a range of professional and collegiate opera groups—many presenting adventuresome repertoire with first-rate talent on stage and behind the scenes.

Boston Lyric Opera, led by Esther Nelson, John Conklin, and David Angus, has been newly invigorated of late, shedding its reputation for playing it safe with top 40—make that top 10—operas in conventional productions. This season continues to break the mold: On November 4, BLO opens with Verdi’s “Macbeth,” which boasts one of his greatest, and most vocally unforgiving, female roles, assayed by American soprano Carter Scott.  She’s a full-on dramatic soprano with power to spare.

The season continues with “The Barber of Seville” bowing March 9, 2012, followed by two contemporary works. Scottish composer Peter Maxwell Davies’ taut 1971 chamber opera, “The Lighthouse,” will be given at The Kennedy Library and Museum. John Musto’s “The Inspector,” a comic opera based on Gogol’s farce, rounds out the season with a run that opens April 20.

Full info on BLO’s season, including outreach events around town such as performances and previews at the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Public Library, is available at http://www.blo.org/.

Opera Boston's operatic niche is rarities and new works. Its conductor Gil Rose’s genius is to find the streams that connect new works—the company’s co-commission, “Madame White Snake,” garnered the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for music—with sometimes dusty traditions from the past. The combo makes for some of the smartest opera programing in town, and this Shakespeare-based season is no exception.

Berlioz’ “Béatrice et Bénédict,” the French orchestral wizard’s take on “Much Ado About Nothing” opens October 21. The leading man is the dashing Sean Panikkar, an up and coming tenor who, lucky for us, switched to opera from civil engineering when he was studying in Ann Arbor. (Although those statics classes may give him a leg up literally if he ever has to sing on that crazy circus ride of a set the Metropolitan Opera has going for their new “Ring” production by Robert Lapage!)

Opera Boston continues with Sir Michael Tippett’s “The Midsummer Marriage” opening in February. The British composer provided both music and text for this work, first given at London’s Covent Garden in 1955, and invoking myth and ritual to portray the choices in a marriage. The sources include T.S. Eliot, “The Magic Flute,” Shakespeare and Greek drama. A formidable stew, but in capable hands with director/choreographer Daniel Pelzig, whose dances can be seen in the “Iphigénie en Tauride” Opera Bash telecast.

“Capuleti e i Montecchi,” Vincenzo Bellini’s take on the Romeo and Juliet legend, rounds out the season opening April 27.  On and off the past few years, the company has ended their season with a bel canto rarity—in May 2011 they gave “Maria Padilla” of Donizetti. Bel canto, associated with early 19th century Italian composers including Bellini, means “beautiful singing.” That is, gorgeous florid melodies, runs, high notes, trills, the works, all in service to plots that would be unbelievable even on reality TV. But there's no problem believing in the beauty of Bellini’s music: for a sampler check out Met stars Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca in a duet from this work (and yes, both Romeo and Juliet are played by women, get over it. It’s opera.) Garanca is the star of two of the Opera Bash presentations by the way, “La Cenerentola” and “Carmen.” She’s blond, she’s Latvian, and she’s one hell of a Carmen.


Other Opera in Boston

Going beyond the resident professional companies devoted to opera, there is a wealth of activity by other arts organizations, colleges, and touring groups. Here’s a round up.

Boston Early Music Festival's reach goes beyond their extraordinary summer program. On November 26, they will be giving a double-bill of works by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, a French baroque composer of ravishing melodies and elaborate 17th century spectacle--opera was, well "operatic" from the get go. Like many baroque composers, he found the Orpheus myth irresistable; the sorrowing lyrist is the basis for the first work, “La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers.” It’s followed by “La Couronne de Fleurs.” The Jordan Hall performances are likely to be the only chance to be able to hear them live in Boston, or anywhere for that matter.

Teatro Lirico D'Europa is a touring company that brings well-known works to stages on the East Coast. Although no dates have been announced for 2011-2012 season, the works on their docket are “La Bohème,” “Don Giovanni,” “La Traviata,” and “Rigoletto.”

New England Conservatory's operatic activities are now under the direction of Stephen Lord, familiar to Boston audiences from many fine performances with BLO. He’s full of ambitious plans to reinvigorate the program.

NEC performs both scenes and fully staged operas. This year’s season has not been announced, but previous seasons have boasted works like “Candide” and a droll evening of one-acters by Offenbach. Well worth checking out, and often a bargain.

Boston University's Opera Institute has announced its season: Kicking off October 7 will be the 2011 Fringe Festival, Béla Bartók’s masterly “Bluebeard’s Castle:” four performances of a claustrophobic work that will likely get under your skin, an effect likely to be enhanced by BU’s studio setting.

Contemporary composer Jake Heggie’s “Three Decembers” follows the next weekend, October 14. This is a one-acter after a Terrance McNally play, with libretto by Gene Scheer. Heggie’s psychologically acute music has made him one of the most produced modern opera composers, and he’ll be at BU in person on October 28 for “Art Song Meets Theatre.”

BU’s season continues with Cimarosa’s silly but tuneful 1792 opera, “Il Matrimonio Segreto” bowing February 23, and the piquant grandeur of Poulenc’s “The Dialogues of the Carmelites,” from 1953, closes the season on April 19.

Like NEC, Boston Conservatory has yet to announce its main presentations, but it will be giving a free children’s opera, “The Bremen Town Musicians,” text by John Davies, on October 15. The music is a pastiche of Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi and the like.

There is also opera at Harvard.  Both Lowell House and Dunster House present works with student casts, also drawing on musicians from the community.  As you might guess a few stars have passed through. Alan Gilbert, now music director of the New York Philharmonic, was once a Lowell Opera conductor; perhaps a future Gilbert is pondering fall repertory choices right now.

Alas with the departure of James Levine, concert opera is not on tap at Symphony Hall. (Those glorious concert performances of Berlioz’ “Les Troyens” he led seem like just yesterday.) One plum is left in the pudding: Met stalwart James Morris, who recently passed the mantel of Wagner’s god-in-chief, Wotan, to Bryn Terfel, will be in town starting November 3 to sing excerpts from “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.” May be the only note of Wagner we’ll hear in Boston's area code this season, and given that Morris made his Met debut in 1971, he will be hanging up Hans Sachs’ cobbler tools for good pretty soon, so catch him now if you haven’t already. (He was heard in the “Simon Boccanegra” Opera Bash broadcast, partnered with Placido Domingo, Met debut 1968, and still singing all over the world.)

Narek Hakhnazaryan Wins Tchaikovsky Competition

Thursday, June 30, 2011
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Cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan, a recent Artist Diploma recipient from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, has won the Gold Medal at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.  Held every four years, the Tchaikovsky is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world.

Hakhnazaryan's journey to the Gold Medal involved some controversy when, during a rehearsal with the Armenian cellist, Russian conductor Mark Gorenstein told his orchestra, “Don’t let it concern you at all what this talent, this aul [a small village in the mountains; meant to indicate lack of respect] presented to us is playing. Your task is to play what is written there in the score and to do it with me.” [source:  Independent Journalists' Network]  Gorenstein was quickly called out by the press for the racial and nationalist overtones of his remark, and he later issued an apology. The cellist, though, kept his head cool, saying, “All is well. My head, my thoughts are now only on the competition. I am concentrating on the music for my upcoming performance in the finals.”

Hakhnazaryan was born in 1988 in Yerevan, Armenia. At the age of 12, Mr. Hakhnazaryan began studies at the Moscow Conservatory with Alexey Seleznyov. Working with Lawrence Lesser, he is pursuing an Artist Diploma at the New England Conservatory of Music. He plays a 1698 David Tecchler cello, on loan from Valentine Saarmaa, granddaughter of the renowned luthier Jacques Francais.

Here is Hakhnazaryan in performance at Boston's Old South Meeting House:






(image courtesy Tchaikovsky Competition)

Spring For Music, From Carnegie Hall

Thursday, May 5, 2011
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In the midst of conductor transitions, struggling orchestras, and dicey subscription renewal rates from audiences, orchestras all over the country are creating new concepts in programming to energize  and reinvigorate the concert experience.  A series of concerts at Carnegie Hall presented by Spring For Music puts that process on steroids.

Created through a proposal system open to orchestras around the country, each program casts is built around a specific artistic concept, bringing together familiar music in combination with lesser known pieces, many of them brand new commissions.

For Boston audiences, one particular concert stands out.  On May 10, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble known for exploring all corners of contemporary repertoire with their Music Director, David Alan Miller, will perform a program entitled Spirituals Re-Imagined.  Opening with George Tsontakis's Let the River Be Unbroken and closing with Aaron Copland's complete ballet Appalachian Spring, the heart of the program is The Spirituals Project.  This set of commissions based on American spirituals begins with works by two of Boston's great composers, John Harbison, with "Ain't goin' to study war no mo,'" and Donal Fox, with "Hear de' Lams A'cryin.'"

Join us at 99.5 All Classical for four of these concerts on the air, and all seven via live webcast.  Here's our broadcast schedule on 99.5, Boston's All Classical Station:

Saturday, May 7 at 10pm

ORPHEUS CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
THE NEW BRANDENBURGS
[program notes]

AARON JAY KERNIS
Concerto with Echoes (inspired by Brandenburg No. 6)
MELINDA WAGNER
Little Moonhead (inspired by Brandenburg No. 4)
SIR PETER MAXWELL DAVIES
Sea Orpheus (inspired by Brandenburg No. 5)
CHRISTOPHER THEOFANIDIS
Muse (inspired by Brandenburg No. 3)
STEPHEN HARTKE
A Brandenburg Autumn (inspired by Brandenburg No. 1)
PAUL MORAVEC
Brandenburg Gate (inspired by Brandenburg No. 2)

Wednesday, May 11 at 8pm

ALBANY SYMPHONY
David Alan Miller, Music Director
SPIRITUALS RE-IMAGINED
[program notes]

GEORGE TSONTAKIS
Let the River Be Unbroken

The Spirituals Project

JOHN HARBISON
“Ain’t goin’ to study war no mo’"
DONAL FOX
“Hear de’ Lams A’cryin’”
BUN CHING LAM
“Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”
TANIA LEON
“Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel”
DANIEL BERNARD ROUMAIN
“Harvest”
KEVIN BEAVERS
“Deep River”
RICHARD ADAMS
“Stan’ Still, Jordan”
STEPHEN DANKER
“Wade in de’ Water”
Nathan De’Shon Myers, baritone

AARON COPLAND
Appalachian Spring (complete ballet,1945)

Saturday, May 14 at 10pm

THE SAINT PAUL CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
[program notes]

IGOR STRAVINSKY
Concerto in D for String Orchestra
MARIA SCHNEIDER
Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories for Soprano and Chamber Orchestra
Dawn Upshaw, Soprano
Maria Schneider, Conductor
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Commission (New York premiere)
BELA BARTOK
Five Hungarian Folk Songs for Soprano and String Orchestra, arranged by Richard Tognetti
Dawn Upshaw, Soprano
FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN
Symphony No. 104 in D, London

Sunday, May 15 at 3pm

ORCHESTRE SYMPHONIQUE DE MONTREAL
Kent Nagano, Music Director

THE EVOLUTION OF THE SYMPHONY

GIOVANNI GABRIELI
Sacrae Symphoniae for brass excerpts
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Sinfonias, for solo keyboard, Nos. 1-5
Angela Hewitt, Piano
ANTON WEBERN
Symphony, Op.21
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Sinfonias, for solo keyboard, Nos. 8,9
Angela Hewitt, Piano
IGOR STRAVINSKY
Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920 version)
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Sinfonias, for solo keyboard, Nos 11, 12, 15
Angela Hewitt, Piano
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67



And here is the complete list of live webcast programs.




Friday, May 6, 2011 at 8pm

ORPHEUS CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
THE NEW BRANDENBURGS
[program notes]

AARON JAY KERNIS
Concerto with Echoes (inspired by Brandenburg No. 6)
MELINDA WAGNER
Little Moonhead (inspired by Brandenburg No. 4)
SIR PETER MAXWELL DAVIES
Sea Orpheus (inspired by Brandenburg No. 5)
CHRISTOPHER THEOFANIDIS
Muse (inspired by Brandenburg No. 3)
STEPHEN HARTKE
A Brandenburg Autumn (inspired by Brandenburg No. 1)
PAUL MORAVEC
Brandenburg Gate (inspired by Brandenburg No. 2)



Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 8pm

TOLEDO SYMPHONY
Stefan Sanderling, Music Director
[program notes]
Director: Cornel Gabara
Cast: Pete Cross—Alexander
David de Christopher—Ivanov
Yazan “Zack” Alquadi—Sasha
Kevin Hayes—Colonel
Benjamin Pryor—Doctor
Pamela Tomassetti—Teacher

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH
Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 30
ANDRE PREVIN TOM STOPPARD
Every Good Boy Deserves Favor
(New York City premiere of full orchestra version)


Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 8pm

ALBANY SYMPHONY
David Alan Miller, Music Director
SPIRITUALS RE-IMAGINED
[program notes]

GEORGE TSONTAKIS
Let the River Be Unbroken

The Spirituals Project

JOHN HARBISON
“Ain’t goin’ to study war no mo’"
DONAL FOX
“Hear de’ Lams A’cryin’”
BUN CHING LAM
“Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”
TANIA LEON
“Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel”
DANIEL BERNARD ROUMAIN
“Harvest”
KEVIN BEAVERS
“Deep River”
RICHARD ADAMS
“Stan’ Still, Jordan”
STEPHEN DANKER
“Wade in de’ Water”
Nathan De’Shon Myers, baritone

AARON COPLAND
Appalachian Spring (complete ballet,1945)


Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 8pm

THE DALLAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Jaap van Zweden, Music Director
[program notes]
Indira Mahajan, Soprano
Kristine Jepson, Mezzo-soprano
Vale Rideout, Tenor
Rod Gilfry, Baritone
Dallas Symphony Chorus (prepared by Don Krehbiel)

STEVEN STUCKY
August 4, 1964
(New York premiere)

Commisioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and first performed in September 2008 to commemorate the 100th birthday of President Lyndon B. Johnson.


Thursday, May 12, 2011 at 8pm

OREGON SYMPHONY
Carlos Kalmar, Music Director
[program notes]

CHARLES IVES
The Unanswered Question
JOHN ADAMS
The Wound-Dresser Sanford Sylvan, Baritone
BENJAMIN BRITTEN
Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20
RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS
Symphony No. 4 in F minor


Friday, May 13, 2011 at 8pm
THE SAINT PAUL CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
[program notes]

IGOR STRAVINSKY
Concerto in D for String Orchestra
MARIA SCHNEIDER
Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories for Soprano and Chamber Orchestra
Dawn Upshaw, Soprano
Maria Schneider, Conductor
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Commission (New York premiere)
BELA BARTOK
Five Hungarian Folk Songs for Soprano and String Orchestra, arranged by Richard Tognetti
Dawn Upshaw, Soprano
FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN
Symphony No. 104 in D, London


Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 8pm

ORCHESTRE SYMPHONIQUE DE MONTREAL
Kent Nagano, Music Director

THE EVOLUTION OF THE SYMPHONY
[program notes]

GIOVANNI GABRIELI
Sacrae Symphoniae for brass excerpts
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Sinfonias, for solo keyboard, Nos. 1-5
Angela Hewitt, Piano
ANTON WEBERN
Symphony, Op.21
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Sinfonias, for solo keyboard, Nos. 8,9
Angela Hewitt, Piano
IGOR STRAVINSKY
Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920 version)
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Sinfonias, for solo keyboard, Nos 11, 12, 15
Angela Hewitt, Piano
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67
 
(photo credit: Jeff Goldberg/Esto, courtesy Carnegie Hall)

Hear Music From The Royal Wedding

Friday, April 29, 2011
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(photo:  AP)

England's Royal Wedding of 2011 for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge included stunning musical performances.  Hear them on demand:

Processional Sequence:

For Queen Elizabeth:  March from The Birds, by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry
For the clergy:  Prelude on Rhosymedre, by Ralph Vaughan Williams
For the bride:  "I was Glad," by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry




Hymns:

"Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer," words by William Williams, translated by Peter Williams and others, and music by John Hughes
"Love Divine All Love Excelling," words by Charles Wesley and music by William Penfro Rowlands
"Jerusalem," by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, words by William Blake


 

"This is the day which the Lord hath made," by John Rutter, commissioned by Westminster Abbey as a wedding present and performed by both the Choir of Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal Choir





"Ubi caritas," by Paul Mealor, a Welsh composer




"Blest pair of Sirens," words by John Milton from At a Solemn Musick, music by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry




The National Anthem




Recessional Sequence:

"Valiant and Brave," after the motto of No. 22 Squadron (Search and Rescue Force), composed for the occasion by Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs, Principal Director of Music in the Royal Air Force
Crown Imperial, by William Walton
Toccata, from Symphonie V, by Charles-Marie Widor
"Pomp and Circumstance March No. 5," by Edward Elgar


 

And if you missed any of Cathy Fuller's pre-wedding interview this week with conductor Christopher Warren-Green, you can hear it here.

Zhou Long's Madame White Snake Wins 2011 Pulitzer Prize

Monday, April 18, 2011
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Chinese-American composer Zhou Long has been awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for his opera Madame White Snake, premiered in February 2010 by Opera Boston and broadcast in April 2010 on 99.5 All Classical. It was the first work commissioned by Opera Boston, and you can learn more below, as well as hear the entire opera on demand.
Listen now

Listen to 99.5 All Classical's world-premiere broadcast of Madame White Snake.

 

      
The World

WGBH's The World takes you behind the scenes of Madame White Snake.

WGBH on Twitter
Once upon a time...

A cross-cultural drama of passion and transformation, Madame White Snake is a story drawn from a beloved Chinese legend: A powerful white snake demon longs to become human to experience love. She grasps love for one fleeting instant before it is swept away by a flood of deceit, doubt, and distrust.
Who is Madame White Snake?
Watch as Opera Boston artists and Bostonians on the street try to answer, "Who is Madame White Snake?"
 



The birth of Madame White Snake
The creative team behind this world-premiere opera talks about the inception of the piece and the process of bringing it to the stage.
 

...the final step
The final preparations for Opera Boston's World Premiere, just before opening night!
 

The artists
Ying Huang, Madame White Snake
Chinese soprano Ying Huang has generated an extraordinary level of critical acclaim and popularity in a career that has already spanned many arenas, including opera and concert stages, television, recordings, and motion pictures.
Ms. Huang is consistently sought after on stages throughout the world for her portrayals of Mozart soprano roles. Her performances as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Despina in Così fan tutte and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte have been seen in opera houses throughout North America, Asia, Europe, and South America.

Zhou Long, composer
Zhou Long is recognized internationally for creating a unique body of music that brings together the aesthetic concepts and musical elements of East and West. Deeply grounded in the spectrum of his Chinese heritage, particularly its philosophical and spiritual ideals, he is a pioneer in combining the idiomatic sounds and techniques of ancient Chinese musical traditions with contemporary Western ensembles and compositional forms.

Gil Rose, music director
Gil Rose is recognized as one of a new generation of American conductors shaping the future of classical music. His orchestral and operatic performances and recordings have been recognized by critics and fans alike. In 1996, Rose founded the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the leading professional orchestra in the country dedicated exclusively to performing and recording music of the 20th and 21st centuries. Under his leadership, BMOP's unique programming and high performance standards have attracted critical acclaim and earned the orchestra eight ASCAP awards for adventurous programming as well as John S. Edwards Award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music. Since 2003, Rose has also served as music director of Opera Boston, an innovative opera company in residence at the historic Cutler Majestic Theatre.

About the Authors
Brian McCreath Brian McCreath

Arthur Smith Arthur Smith
Arthur Smith is the former editor of WGBHArts. Executive producer for digital education at WGBH, Arthur, an amateur pianist and singer, was previously a freelance classical music reviewer for the Washington Post for 9 years. He has also worked at an opera company, and ran the information service and publications programs for OPERA America, the national service organization for the art form.  Since 1991, he has been the program annotator for Vocal Arts DC, a classical song recital series based at Washington's Kennedy Center. 

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