Boston Symphony Orchestra

The Chaconne Through The Orchestral Prism

Friday, April 8, 2011
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Haydn and Mozart, the Masters of Classicism

Friday, April 8, 2011
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Making his Symphony Hall debut, conductor Johannes Debus leads the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the Symphony No. 32 and Clarinet Concerto by Mozart, and the Symphony No. 97 by Haydn.  Debus talked with BSO broadcast producer Brian Bell about the program:


Conductor Johannes Debus


Featured in the Clarinet Concerto by Mozart is BSO Principal Clarinetist William R. Hudgins, who talked with Brian Bell about one of Mozart's greatest masterpieces:

Clarinetist Williams R. Hudgins


For complete program notes, visit the BSO, where you can also see the original program page from the 1882 performance of Haydn's Symphony No. 97, during the BSO's second season.



William R. Hudgins, clarinet soloist in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Johannes Debus, conductor;  April 7, 2011 (photo:  Stu Rosner)

Celebrating Liszt With Conductor John Nelson

Thursday, March 31, 2011
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Charles Munch's First BSO Recordings

By Brian Bell   |   Friday, March 25, 2011
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Mar. 25

A little background on this week's BSO on Record...

In December of 1949, RCA Victor arrived at Symphony Hall to make the first Boston Symphony records with their new Music Director, Charles Munch (left).

Just as we've seen an evolution of playback technology recently, the Battle of the Turntable Speeds was raging, and Victor was issuing their new 45 RPM discs in addition to the standard discs of 78 RPM.

Fortunately the recording medium by this time was tape, and the sound quality compared to just a few years earlier was significant.

Just hours before the sessions, Munch had fallen ill and had left the concerts to Richard Burgin to conduct, but Munch led the first BSO recording of the Beethoven Seventh Symphony and the first-ever disc of any music from Berlioz's Beatrice and Benedict.

Any question of his health was resolved by the following April, when he made the first of his four recordings of Ravel's La Valse, which closes the program. This one is easily the most frenetic.

Tune in Sunday at 2pm to hear all of it.

The Tempest, Shakespeare's Most Musical Play

By James David Jacobs   |   Wednesday, March 23, 2011
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The Tempest was written and premiered exactly four centuries ago in 1611. It's the last play that Shakespeare wrote without collaboration. And it's one of only two plays he wrote which is not an adaptation of an existing story or history.

(The other one is Love’s Labours Lost, one of Shakespeare’s first plays.)

It is truly an original work, one that stands at the crossroads of theatrical history: between the Renaissance and the Baroque, between the Elizabethan theatre of the imagination and the Jacobean spectacle, between the primacy of the word and the primacy of sensory entertainment.

The common link between all of these is music. It's no coincidence that at the same time these upheavals were taking place in England, the art form known as opera was being born in Italy (the first operatic masterpiece, Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, was premiered in 1607.)

One of the most remarkable aspects of the play is how aware it is of its own historical position, how consciously Shakespeare bids farewell to past trends and welcomes new ones, reinventing himself even at the end of his career. This is particularly evident in his use of music and sound cues, which are integrated into the text in an unprecedented way.
 

Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That if I then wak’d after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I wak’d
I cried to dream again.
(Caliban, Act III scene ii)

 

George Romney's The Tempest, Act I, scene i (1797)

At just over 2,000 lines, The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays on the page (only The Comedy of Errors has fewer lines), but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the shortest in performance.

There are many places where the music takes over, and whole scenes are performed in mime and dance, or, most remarkably, with the characters themselves just standing there listening to the music along with the audience.

We have a better idea of what the music in the original production sounded like than we do for any other Shakespeare play.  That's thanks to surviving settings by the composer and lutenist Robert Johnson of two songs from the play ("Full Fathom Five" and "Where the Bee Sucks").

Since this play was written to be played indoors for a court theatre, there were possibilities for more subtlety in the scoring than would be possible at an outdoor theater, and we can be sure Shakespeare took advantage of that; you certainly couldn’t hear a solo lute, or a viol consort, at the Globe.

(Another new innovation of the indoor theater was intermission; outdoor productions were played without a break, but court performances had long intermissions with plenty of refreshments available, not unlike the Metropolitan Opera today. Near the end of Act III scene i, Miranda says to Ferdinand, apropos of nothing related to the plot, “And now farewell / Till half an hour hence.”)
 
While many of Shakespeare’s plays have inspired musical settings through the years, what’s unique about The Tempest is how few changes are necessary to make the play adaptable to music of many centuries, not to mention film.

Many of the settings of Romeo and Juliet, for example, could just as easily refer to the older tragic love stories Shakespeare himself drew on when writing that play. But The Tempest is truly a world Shakespeare himself created, and it is no coincidence that it is the least dated of Shakespeare’s plays, the one that requires the least translation for a modern audience.

And one of the main reasons for this is that it is the play in which he puts the most trust in the power of music.



In March, the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed a concert devoted in large part to music inspired by Williams Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Thomas Adès conducted scenes from his own opera based on the play, along with Tempest-inspired pieces by Tchaikovsky and Sibelius. In addition, Anthony Marwood was the soloist for Adès's Violin Concerto, "Concentric Paths." Adès talked with Brian Bell about the entire concert, including the conception of a program built around The Tempest:
 

Hear WGBH's BSO broadcast producer Brian Bell's interview with
composer and conductor Thomas Adès
.


Brian Bell also talked with Hila Plitmann, who sang the role of Ariel:

Hear WGBH's BSO broadcast producer Brian Bell's interview with
soprano Hila Plitmann
.


Oboist Alfred Genovese

Thursday, March 24, 2011
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