Classical Concerts

The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular

Monday, July 2, 2012
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Mozart Comes to America

By Cathy Fuller   |   Saturday, June 15, 2013
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The violin and viola once owned by Mozart himself speak through the composer's music during the Boston Early Music Festival, thanks to the Salzburg Mozarteum. 

To hear the performances, click on "Listen" above, and watch a video excerpt below.

Mozart never made it to America: getting seasick crossing the English Channel put an end to any of his seafaring fantasies. But America was frequently on Mozart's mind. In fact, his closest collaborator, librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, actually immigrated to these shores and became the first professor of Italian at Columbia University in New York.

Mozart's music has made it here, of course – it's woven into the lives of practically everyone. And that's a big part of why there were so many goosebumps when an excited audience in Boston was suddenly in the presence of two of the instruments that Mozart had placed firmly under his chin, in private and in concert, uncountable times.

Only a few days earlier, an Austrian had made his way through security with a violin case and boarded a plane in Salzburg. Another Austrian boarded a different plane with a viola case. And that marked the first time that two priceless possessions of Mozart had gone transatlantic. What a thrill that they were headed for the room up the hall from us at Classical New England. The Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation was reaching out to the wider world, and the two instruments were never, ever out of the sight of at least one member of the entourage who came along for events presented by the Boston Early Music Festival.

Ulrich Leisinger and Gabriele Ramsauer of the Mozarteum Foundation painted a vivid picture of Mozart the performer – playful, proud, very short (just five feet!) and ultimately favoring the viola over the violin. I watched Daniel Stepner taking advantage of every minute that he had with the violin, trying to unlock the secret of making it speak. It's no turbo-charged Stradivarius – it has a bright but intimate sound that will complain if it's leaned on too heavily. Dan had to learn its ins and outs in a matter of hours. The marvel is that the violin has remained almost entirely intact – just as Mozart knew it. And that's because everyone who owned it knew that it had been Mozart's. The viola is a beauty, too, although it has seen a number of alterations over the years.

I squinted at the instruments during the performance, trying to imagine them in Mozart's candlelit rooms. I fantasized about their warm color getting a glint of sunshine through a Paris window during a rehearsal for the premiere of one of the violin concertos. I wondered if Mozart improvised cadenzas on that violin.

I asked Leisinger if we had any way of knowing what Mozart's actual voice sounded like. He said that we only know that when he sang he was a tenor. So his speaking voice was probably high. That's something we'll never be able to hear. But it was so good to hear the voices that came from his instruments. And because Mozart really is so deeply woven into us, virtually everyone took a moment at the reception to have their photo taken holding Mozart's violin. Having played so much Mozart at the piano over the years, I felt so deeply happy and privileged to touch these things that meant so much to him.

The BEMF Orchestra Through the Years

Saturday, June 8, 2013
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Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in Concert at NEC

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
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Conductor Hugh Wolff and the New England Conservatory Philharmonia mark the centenary of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring at Jordan Hall in Boston.

To hear the concert, click on "Listen" above.

May 29, 1913, marks a turning point in the history of music and of culture in general. Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring was performed for the first time, supporting the choreography of Vaslav Nijinsky in a production of Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.

The story of its riotous premiere and aftermath is a great story worthy of more exploration. Here in Boston, the NEC Philharmonia commemorated the centenary with a concert that also included Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 1, the "Spring" Symphony, and the "Polovtsian Dances" from Alexander Borodin's Prince Igor

On April 15, the rehearsal process was interrupted by the bombing at the Boston Marathon, an event that indelibly colored the experience of The Rite of Spring.

Join host James David Jacobs for an exploration of that experience through reflections by NEC students and conductor Hugh Wolff, who wrote

The morning of April 15, we rehearsed as usual: students with cups of coffee fighting early morning fatigue and the end-of-school-year work crunch. When we reconvened on April 17, our world felt altered. We were gripped by an unusual anxiety.

This wasn’t about practicing and recitals and exams, this was about life and death. Our musical world had shrunk in significance, crowded out by the harsh reality on the city’s streets. What does a concert mean when life and limbs have been lost in act of violence just blocks away? Why were we doing this? Did it matter?

As I looked over the sea of young faces that morning, I felt their worry and their distraction, so I asked them to consider the point of creating art. Why does art matter? Art is often about creating beauty. Creating beauty affirms the best in the human spirit. But art also holds a mirror up, reflecting even what is repugnant.

As musicians, we don’t expect to alter political discourse or prevent tragedies like the Marathon bombing. But we can, each of us incrementally, add beauty to the world and help tip the balance away from the horrible. We can be a collective conscience, raising voices together, acknowledging human failure, and aspiring to something better, something larger than ourselves.

To hear the concert, click on "Listen" above.

Keith Lockhart and the Londoners, Part 2

Monday, May 6, 2013
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Viva Verdi!

Saturday, April 13, 2013
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