Boston Symphony Orchestra

Celebrating Bartók

Friday, March 11, 2011
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During this 130th anniversary year of the birth of Béla Bartók (born March 25, 1881), 99.5 All Classical celebrates the groundbreaking Hungarian composer with a series of on demand performances and features.

New England Conservatory Philharmonia
The Concerto for Orchestra, one of Béla Bartók's most enduring and popular masterpieces, was commissioned by conductor Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  Performed for the first time in December 1944, it remains a regular fixture on orchestra programs around the world, and on March 9, 2011, Benjamin Zander conducted a performance at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall, with the NEC Philharmonia.
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Discovery Ensemble
Courtney Lewis conducts one of Boston's most exciting orchestras, Discovery Ensemble, in Bartók's kaleidoscopic Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta. 99.5 All Classical host Brian McCreath talks with Lewis about the piece, with a walk-through of each of the movements, all recorded in 99.5 All Classical's Fraser Performance Studio.

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Duke Bluebeard's Castle
In 1911, Bartók completed a one-act opera based on Charle Perrault's French fairy tale "Bluebeard," further revising it before its first performance in Budapest in 1918. A dark, pyschologically rich piece, Brian Bell offers a guided tour.
(image:  Gustave Doré's Barbe Bleue, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Hear a guided tour at Backstage with Brian Bell


Takács Quartet, Muzsikás, and Márta Sebestyén
One of the premiere string quartets on today's concert stages joins forces with a legendary Hungarian folk ensemble and equally legendary Hungarian folk singer to explore the roots of Bartók's music.

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Pianist Hung-Kuan Chen
Recorded in 2008 in 99.5 All Classical's Fraser Performance Studio, Hung-Kuan Chen performs a piece that combines Bartók's fascination with folk music and his evolving perspective of the piano as a percussion instrument, the Out of Doors Suite, in a program that also includes music by Brahms and Ravel.

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Violinist Augustin Hadelich
Recorded in 2008 in 99.5 All Classical's Fraser Performance Studio, Augustin Hadelich performs Bartók's Sonata for solo violin, Sz. 117.

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Violinist Lara St. John and Pianist Anton Kuerti at the Montreal Chamber Music Festival
Recorded on May 14, 2009, at St. James Church during the Montreal Chamber Music Festival, Lara St. John and Anton Kuerti perform Bartók's Rhapsody No. 2, Sz. 89, BB 96, written in 1928, part of a program that also includes music by Beethoven, Franck, Hindson, Ravel, and Liszt.

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Roberto Abbado Conducts Beethoven's Fifth

Thursday, March 10, 2011
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The Future of the BSO

Thursday, March 10, 2011
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Mahler's Symphony No. 9

Friday, February 25, 2011
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Ben Roe Named Managing Director of Classical Services

Thursday, February 17, 2011
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Veteran public radio producer and manager Benjamin K. Roe has been named Managing Director of WGBH’s Classical Services. In this role, Roe will guide the overall strategy for 99.5 All Classical services, including programming, live performances and special events.

Roe joins WGBH after serving as the general manager of WDAV Radio in Davidson, North Carolina, since 2008, and his extensive experience with NPR dates back to 1982 with WUMB and WBUR in Boston, where he was one of the early producers of Car Talk. From there, he moved into NPR’s Cultural Programming division, serving in a variety of roles including Director of Music and Music Initiatives from 2002 to 2007.

Marita Rivero, WGBH Vice President and General Manager for Radio and Television said, “When we acquired 99.5 more than a year ago, our mission was to preserve and develop classical music in this region.  Ben will certainly be an asset to WGBH, as we strive to provide the best possible classical services and continue to enhance the listener experience.”

An accomplished producer, Roe earned a Grammy Award in 1998 for a recording of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem by the Washington Chorus and is also a recipient of the Chairman’s Medal from the National Endowment for the Arts, a George Foster Peabody and ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for NPR’s Performance Today and the National Medal of the Arts for NPR Cultural Programming.

Arts leaders around Boston applauded the appointment of Roe, including Marie-Hélène Bernard, Executive Director and CEO of the Handel and Haydn Society, who said, “Ben Roe brings a wealth of experience in radio broadcasting, true intelligence to programming and a passion for classical music.”

Rob Hayes, Assistant Vice President for External Affairs at the Berklee College of Music, said, "Ben Roe is one of the most astute broadcasters in the United States. He has a true, 20,000-foot view of the relationships between music, radio, and the web -- probably as good as there is -- and a legacy of seminal public radio programs he's helped to create. A city of smart people, with best-of-category producers of culture, just got a new friend and champion. I am thrilled that Ben is coming to WGBH.”

Gerald Slavet and Jennifer Hurley-Wales, co-CEOs of From the Top, said, “We have known Ben for years and are thrilled to see him come back to Boston. We worked closely with him when he was at NPR and his insight and advice have been most valuable over the years. We look forward to collaborating with him in his new capacity at 99.5, as we work together to keep the classical music scene vibrant here in Boston.”

And Mark Volpe, Boston Symphony Orchestra Managing Director, said, “WGBH is incredibly fortunate to have Ben Roe join the team at 99.5 All Classical. Many of us at the BSO have enjoyed working closely with Ben on such NPR broadcasts as the opening of Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, the Symphony Hall Centennial Celebration, and a James Levine-led performance of Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand - the maestro’s first concert as BSO music director. Ben’s creative spirit and unquestionable professionalism, along with his uncanny ability to find workable solutions to tough challenges, are just a few of his impressive qualities. We look forward to collaborating with Ben on the BSO’s broadcast presence on 99.5.”

My Favorites: An Unknown Romeo and Juliet

By Brian Bell   |   Saturday, February 12, 2011
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For the week of Valentine's Day, we'll be playing the music you love most, and in that spirit, here is the next in a series of what a few of us here at 99.5 All Classical love most.

Brian Bell is the long-time producer of our live Boston Symphony Orchestra broadcasts, as well as Sunday Concert.  Be sure to check out the archive of features and interviews Brian has produced at Backstage with Brian Bell.

We hope these ideas prompt you to think through your favorites, which you can submit here!

Feb. 12

I'll be honest with you. I'm not a big fan of choosing one piece of music over countless others. To me, there's an exclusionary tone to it. After all, Wanda Landowska once said, and I fully concur, that "masterpieces are not wolves that devour each other." Sometimes making choices like this does a disservice to the thousands upon thousands of works that deserve to be heard.

I would prefer such exercises along the lines of "music to listen to when you are in a grumpy mood", or "great music by composers who died of unnatural causes" (Stumped? What about Granados, Berg, Lully, Chausson, and we mustn't forget Stephen Albert*) or "the greatest pieces by composers you've never heard of" or, well, you get the idea.

Frequently, when asked such a question, I tend to gravitate to pieces that are relatively unknown. I still hold the established favorite works of music in high esteem and love them as much as anyone. But I like to think of classical music as a very large world, and a world that not only accepts a wide variety of tastes, but embraces them.

And here we are with Valentine's Day, so perhaps we can find something off the beaten path that implies a romantic tinge. A very large realm, and one that has emptied many a pen. Romeo and Juliet, for example, has inspired Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Berlioz, Bernstein ("West Side Story," right?) and Gounod for starters.

But an opera that I believe has never been staged in Boston (and please correct me with a comment below if I'm wrong!) is A Village Romeo & Juliet by Frederick Delius. There's an orchestral interlude called "A Walk to Paradise Garden" that says those things that only music can say.

Sir Thomas Beecham conducted the first performance in 1910, and made the first recording in less than ideal circumstances.  But if you'd like a great recording, look for the one by the BBC Symphony, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.

(image:  Ernst Würtenberger's "Sali and Verena by the River")

*Enrique Granados died when the Sussex was torpedoed by a German U-boat on 24 March 1916. He saw his wife go overboard, and though unable to swim, he dove in after her. They both drowned, though the portion of the ship he was on was later towed into port.

Alban Berg died when he underwent emergency surgery on Christmas Day, 1935. The surgeon was inebriated and opened a major artery by mistake.

Lully died when he was beating time with a staff and hit his foot, which became infected. He died after refusing amputation.

Chausson died on June 10, 1899, when his bicycle crashed into a wall.

And Stephen Albert died December 27th, 1992, in an automobile accident on Cape Cod.

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