Classical Concerts

Mozart's Mass in C minor

Friday, October 23, 2015
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The Cantata Singers perform choral works by Mozart and Beethoven in concert, Sunday, Oct. 25, at 7pm on 99.5 WCRB

Bach's sacred cantatas may not be the most commonly performed works in the concert hall these days, but there was a time when they were positively rare. In 1964, a group of friends came together to explore this vast, remarkbly inventive body of work first-hand. The Cantata Singers were born.

By 1982, the group's repertoire had evolved well beyond those cantatas, never losing its roots, though, as it continued to place Bach's work next to music by composers of all generations. With conductor David Hoose (pictured), the ambitions of the ensemble took on new dimensions.

During the 2014-2015 season, one highlight was a performance that placed one of Mozart's most alluring and mysterious choral works, the Mass in C minor, left unfinished by the composer, on a program with Beethoven's short and beautifully evocative Elegiac Song.

In a way, these pieces allow us to experience Mozart and Beethoven defying their stereotypes.  We often think of Beethoven as edgy, pushing the emotional boundaries of music, and shaking his fist at the world.  But the Elegiac Song is something altogether different:  tender, emotionally vulnerable, and profoundly expressive.  He wrote it for a friend - his landlord, actually - whose wife had just died. 

Here’s the text, by Castelli:  
Gently as you lived, so have you died: too holy for pain!
Let no eye weep for the homecoming of this heavenly spirit.

Similarly we think of Mozart as charming, sensitive and suave. But in the C minor Mass, he’s passionate, determined, and emotionally committed. Surprisingly, he never completed it, but fortunately, others have since done it for him. David Hoose chose a completion by C. Robbins Landon.

Join us on Sunday, Oct. 25, at 7pm, on 99.5 WCRB, to hear a pillar of Boston's musical ecology, the Cantata Singers, in concert.

Hugh Wolff, NEC, and the Symphony at 8

Friday, September 18, 2015
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Hugh Wolff conducts the orchestras of the New England Conservatory in five symphonic masterpieces on the Symphony at 8.

Tune in to 99.5 WCRB, Monday through Friday at 8pm this week, for extraordinary performances by some of today's most exciting young musicians.



Each weekday, 99.5 WCRB brings you a symphonic masterpiece, providing a bookend to the day and a prelude to the evening. And as the academic year gets underway, our Symphony at 8 features performances from the New England Conservatory of Music and Director of Orchestras Hugh Wolff.

Hear Hugh Wolff's reflections on his work at NEC and each individual symphony in this series above, and for information about the coming season of free concerts, visit the New England Conservatory.

The five symphonies you'll hear represent not only the core of the orchestral repertoire, but also a range of particular emotional experiences for listeners. Those qualities, combined with the kinetically charged energy of the musicians of NEC, add up to create performances of unusual magnetism, all recorded in concert at NEC's Jordan Hall. The series includes

  • Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 (preview at 13:15 of the interview above),
  • Schubert's Symphony No. 9 (16:33),
  • Dvorák's Symphony No. 7 (19:54),
  • Sibelius's Symphony No. 1 (21:26), and
  • Mahler's Symphony No. 9 (23:47).


The Monteverdi Trilogy at the Boston Early Music Festival

Wednesday, September 2, 2015
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In a project of unprecedented artistic ambition, the Boston Early Music Festival performed groundbreaking operas by Monteverdi. Now WCRB brings you these performances, on-demand.

Every couple of years, the opera productions from the Boston Early Music Festival inevitably generate some of the most memorable moments on the concert calendar. For the 2015 festival, organizers multiplied the excitement by featuring not just one operatic centerpiece, but three: The Monteverdi Trilogy, including Orfeo, L’incoronazione di Poppea ("The Coronation of Poppea"), and Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria ("The Return of Ulysses to His Country").

Experiencing these three productions in performance was thrilling, almost like traveling back in time. Picturing the astonishment of those first audiences in Mantua and Venice, who had never seen nor heard such a combination of musical and dramatic genius, wasn't difficult. The emotional power of Monterverdi's vision resonated with an equal relevance for the BEMF audiences at the BU Theatre on Huntington Ave., the narratives and artistic expressions touching on aspects of humanity that have remained constant through the centuries.

Hear these stellar performances on-demand and a preview with BEMF Co-Artistic Directors Stephen Stubbs and Paul O'Dette and cast members:


Download program notes for the Monteverdi Trilogy


Watch a preview of The Monteverdi Trilogy at the 2015 festival:




Aaron Sheehan as Orfeo
Image courtesy of Boston Early Music Festival







Aaron Sheehan, Orfeo
Mireille Asselin, Euridice

listen buttonHear the performance on-demand

Orfeo was the first great opera. Not just Monteverdi’s first opera – the first great opera by anyone! Imagine a time when the very idea of actors singing their parts was a novelty, a brand new theatrical experience! That’s the way the audience saw things in 1607. It tells the age-old story of Orpheus, the greatest musician who ever lived, who endures the tragic death of his beloved Euridice, and travels to the underworld to plead for her return. Tenor Aaron Sheehan is Orfeo, and soprano Mireille Asselin plays Euridice.

Download cast and libretto for Orfeo


Colin Balzer as Ulysses
Image courtesy of Boston Early Music Festival



The Return of Ulysses to His Country



Colin Balzer, Ulysses
Mary-Ellen Nesi, Penelope

listen buttonHear the performance on-demand

The Return of Ulysses to His Country, first produced in 1640, tells the story of the Greek hero Ulysses and his return to Ithaca after the fall of Troy. His ever-faithful wife, Penelope, has been besieged by suitors, hoping to cash in when she finally concludes that he isn’t coming back. But, bad luck for them, he does return, and with a vengeance! Our BEMF performance features tenor Colin Balzer as Ulysses and Mary-Ellen Nesi as Penelope.

Download cast and libretto for Ulisse


Amanda Forsythe as Poppea
Image courtesy of Boston Early Music Festival




The Coronation of Poppea



Amanda Forsythe, Poppea
David Hansen, Nerone

listen buttonHear the performance on-demand

Monteverdi’s final opera, The Coronation of Poppea, has a convoluted plot that’s worthy of one of today’s political thrillers (think House of Cards), set in ancient Rome. The Emperor, Nero, is in love with the beautiful Poppea, and longs to marry her and put her on the throne. If only he could get rid of his wife, and Poppea’s pesky boyfriend, all would be well! Countertenor David Hansen plays Nerone and soprano Amanda Forsythe is Poppea in this stunning production.

Download cast and libretto for Poppea


See the complete Sunday Night Opera schedule.



The Shanghai Quartet at Rockport

Monday, June 8, 2015
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Join Alan McLellan for highlights of the opening weekend of the 2015 Rockport Chamber Music Festival. To hear the program on demand, click on "Listen" above.

The Shanghai Quartet performs masterpieces by Beethoven and Barber before joining forces with pianist David Deveau in music by Brahms.


David Deveau and WCRB's Cathy Fuller preview the entire 2015 Rockport Chamber Music Festival:


The 2015 Rockport Chamber Music Festival marks the fifth anniversary of the opening of one of New England's most stunning concert halls, the Shalin Liu Performance Center. Before 2010, festival concerts took place in the charming if cramped galleries of the Rockport Art Association. To say that the Shalin Liu is a step up as a concert space is to vastly understate its importance. With an on stage window looking out to Sandy Bay and its intimate acoustics, the hall has become an integral part of the cultural landscape not only of the North Shore but of the entire region.

This summer's festival began with a gala concert by Yo-Yo Ma, followed in quick succession by two appearances by the Shanghai Quartet, the second including a performance with festival Artistic Director David Deveau in the Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25, by Brahms. WCRB brings you highlights of those concerts on Sunday, June 14, at 7pm.

The festival continues through August 1, when pianist Benjamin Grosvenor visits Rockport with a program of works by Mendelssohn, Bach-Busoni, Ravel, and more. You can see Grosvenor in action below in a visit to WCRB's Fraser Performance Studio.

The festival also includes appearances by pianist

  • Marc-André Hamelin, performing Debussy, Schubert, and his own works on Saturday, June 20,
  • a program devoted to composer Matthew Aucoin on Tuesday, June 23,
  • Emmanuel Music, with pianist Andrew Rangell, in a program of works by Bach and Handel on Friday, June 26,
  • Anonymous 4, singing works from each of the ensemble's 25 recordings, on Thursday, July 9, and
  • the Escher Quartet in two concerts, featuring pianist Gilles Vonsattel on July 11 and flutist Carol Wincenc on July 12.


For complete information, visit Rockport Music.





Weilerstein and Barnatan in Concert

Wednesday, May 13, 2015
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Bach 330: the Passions

Tuesday, March 17, 2015
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WCRB continutes a celebration of the 330th anniversary of J.S. Bach's birth with concert performances of the St. Matthew Passion from the Handel and Haydn Society and the St. John Passion from Emmanuel Music.

No composer has had as deep and enduring an effect on music and wider culture than J.S. Bach. Born in the small town of Eisenach in the German region of Thuringia on March 21, 1685, each stage of his life resulted in timeless masterpieces that continue to speak to audiences today. Join us at 99.5 WCRB on Sunday, March 29, to celebrate that legacy with two of Bach's most monumental works of sacred music.

Sunday, March 29, 3pm: The St. Matthew Passion, live with the Handel and Haydn Society

Harry Christophers
WCRB takes you live to Symphony Hall for one of the signature events of the bicentennial season of the Handel and Haydn Society. Artistic Director Harry Christophers leads this pinnacle of Bach's musical achievement, a piece performed for the first time in the U.S. by the Handel and Haydn Society in 1879. Tenor Joshua Ellicott sings the role of the Evangelist, with baritone Roderick Williams in the role of Jesus. Additional soloists include

  • soprano Joélle Harvey,
  • mezzo-soprano Anna Stéphany,
  • tenor Matthew Long, and
  • baritone Sumner Thompson, with
  • the VAP Young Women's and Young Men's Choruses.

See a translation of the St. Matthew Passion


See Harvard University Bach scholar Christoph Wolff's introduction to the St. Matthew Passion:



listen buttonHear a guided tour of the St. Matthew Passion with Harry Christophers on The Bach Hour


Sunday, March 29, 7pm: The St. John Passion, in concert with Emmanuel Music

Ryan TurnerRyan Turner leads the chorus and orchestra of Emmanuel Music in Bach's St. John Passion, with tenor Matthew Anderson in the role of the Evangelist and baritone Dana Whiteside in the role of Jesus. Additional soloists include

  • sopranos Roberta Anderson and Brenna Wells,
  • altos Deborah Rentz-Moore and Krista River,
  • tenors Jonas Budris and Frank Kelley, and
  • bass soloists Bradford Gleim, Mark McSweeney, and Paul Max Tipton.

See a translation of the St. John Passion


Hear a preview of the St. John Passion with Ryan Turner and WCRB's Brian McCreath:


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