Classical Concerts

Handel's Samson with H+H

By Cathy Fuller   |   Saturday, October 4, 2014
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Harry Christophers leads the chorus and orchestra of the Handel and Haydn Society in Handel's Samson, in concert at Symphony Hall.


To hear the performance click on "Listen" above. Below, Harry Christophers takes you inside the score of "Let the Bright Seraphim," the final aria of Samson.



Congratulations to the Handel and Haydn Society as they mark their 200th year!  The small group of Bostonians who started it all knew how vital great music was to the well-being and civic life of Americans.   And over two centuries, the organization has   developed levels of engagement with the community that keep getting deeper.

One great example comes with the Society’s recent performance of Handel’s oratorio Samson.  He wrote the piece right after finishing Messiah and based it on Milton’s dramatic poem amson Agonistes.  The story’s original source is the Book of Judges, from the Hebrew Bible.  It’s a sad coincidence that Samson, Milton and Handel all became blind in their lifetimes.  The composer manages to weave an affecting string of eclipses and sunrises into the entire work.

Harry Christophers

Harry Christophers conducts the Handel and Haydn Society in Handel's Samson in May 2014.

See a complete slideshow below

Hanging in the corridors of Symphony Hall during the performances of Samson were many unique and wonderful reactions to Handel and the story.  These vivid illustrations were a part of “Project Handel,” which brought H&H musicians along with research fellow Teresa Neff into the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.  During their visits, they opened up a dialogue about the creative process, giving students insight into who Handel was and how he approached composition.  And they focused on the story and the music of Samson.

The results are nothing short of breathtaking.  And for me, the immense variety in these artworks reminds us of how very personal the experience of listening to great music really is.  The idea of bringing that musical experience into the visual realm is exciting – and that’s only a small part of the outreach and imagination that has been built into the core of H&H over the last 200 years.

Boston is proud to be the home of the Handel and Haydn Society.  And I hope you’ll be able to experience them in person. 

Enjoy the photographs of many of the young artists whose works were displayed in Symphony Hall.  And enjoy the concert.  I don’t think there’s anyone on the planet who loves Handel as much as Harry Christophers, and in his hands Handel is as new as ever.






















Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, 1933-2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014
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Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos


In November 1970, several young conductors were cited as the "next generation" in an article in the Boston Globe. The message was clear: these were, informally, the candidates who could succeed Boston Symphony Music Director William Steinberg upon his departure from the BSO in 1972. Among the names mentioned were Claudio Abbado, Bernard Haitink, and Seiji Ozawa, who eventually proved to be the next leader of the BSO. 


Also mentioned was 34-year-old Spanish conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, who was to debut in January of 1971. It turned out that Frühbeck didn't return to conduct the BSO again until 2000. But he then became one of the most frequent guest conductors over the next 13 years. 


His relationship with the orchestra was warm and collaborative, and audiences were treated to interpretations by a master of large orchestral architectures, a refined concerto partner to many soloists, and a conductor with a special flair for music by composers from his homeland. When James Levine stepped down as Music Director of the BSO in 2011, Frühbeck, along with Bernard Haitink and Charles Dutoit, gave the orchestra a continuity and stability on the podium that helped in maintaining its world-class quality while searching for a permanent leader.


As that leader, 35-year-old Latvian Andris Nelsons, prepares to take the position of Music Director in the fall, the music world says goodbye to Maestro Frühbeck. He died on June 10th in Pamplona, Spain, after a battle with cancer over the last few years. Hear his most recent BSO performances below, on-demand.



Tanglewood Shed

Tchaikovsky at Tanglewood


In Opening Night of the 2013 Tanglewood season, Frühbeck led the BSO in an All-Tchaikovsky program, including the Violin Concerto, with soloist Joshua Bell, and the Symphony No. 5.

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Tanglewood(credit: John Ferrillo/BSO)

Mahler at Tanglewood


Frühbeck conducted the BSO in the Symphony No. 3 by Mahler at Tanglewood on July 6, 2013, joined by mezzo-soprano Anne-Sofie von Otter, the PALS Children's Chorus, and the women of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

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Symphony Hall(credit: Stu Rosner/BSO)

Beethoven, Neikrug, and Falla at Symphony Hall


On Nov. 23, 2013, Frühbeck led the BSO in Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, the "Pastoral," the world premiere of Marc Neikrug's Bassoon Concerto, featuring BSO Principal Bassoonist Richard Svoboda, and  at Symphony Hall in Boston.

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Beethoven on proscenium at Symphony Hall
Brahms and Beethoven at Symphony Hall


In his final appearance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Frühbeck, conducted the Piano Concerto No. 2, with soloist Peter Serkin, and the Symphony No. 7 by Beethoven at Symphony Hall in Boston.

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Richard Strauss 150

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
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Richard Strauss

Richard Strauss, in a portrait by Max Lieberman (via Wikimedia Commons)

June 11th marked the sesquicentennial of composer Richard Strauss. Born in Munich in 1864, he lived through some of the most tumultuous and transformative times the world has ever seen before dying at the age of 85 in 1949.

His music was a driving force in challenging the aesthetic status quo. He expanded the narrative possibilities of orchestral music through tone poems, explored the darkest corners of the human condition through operas, and pushed to an extreme the limits of virtuosity among instrumentalists and singers alike.

Strauss's music continues to be a powerful force on concert stages, as you'll hear in the exclusive performances below from WCRB. Presented in chronological order by date of premiere, they represent a trajectory from precocious teenager to provocative and daring voice of a epoch.



David Deveau(credit: Paul Carey Goldberg/RCMF)

1885: Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 13


Download one of Strauss's earliest published works, performed by  pianist David Deveau, violinist Irina Muresanu, violist Yinzi Kong, and cellist Emmanuel Feldman.

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Hugh Wolff(credit: Frank Hülsbröhmer)

1889: Don Juan


Hear the groundbreaking first pure tone poem by Strauss in a concert performance by the New England Conservatory Philharmonia and conductor Hugh Wolff, presented alongside Mahler's Symphony No. 1, which premiered the same year as Don Juan, in concert at Jordan Hall in Boston.

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Tanglewood(credit: John Ferrillo/BSO)

1890: Death and Transfiguration


As Strauss's language and impulses began to take a mature form, he tapped a transcendental, spiritual vein within himself to produce a work that went far beyond the story-telling of Don Juan two years earlier, producing a mysticism expressed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and conductor Stéphane Denève at Tanglewood in 2013.

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Stephane Deneve(credit: Drew Farrell/RSNO)

1897-98: Ein Heldenleben


Stéphane Denève conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with Concertmaster Malcolm Lowe, in the pinnacle of Strauss's tone poem composition, A Hero's Life, in concert at Symphony Hall in Boston.

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Andris Nelsons
(credit: Marco Borggreve/BSO)
1903-05: Salome


Boston Symphony Music Director Designate Andris Nelsons leads the BSO in a concert performance of the disturbing and brilliant opera Salome, with soprano Gun-Brit Barkman in the title role, mezzo-soprano Jane Henschel as Herodias, tenor Gerhard Siegel as Herod, and baritone Evgeny Nikitin as Jochanaan, in concert at Symphony Hall in Boston.

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A Rare American Oratorio, Live from Carnegie Hall

Friday, May 9, 2014
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Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall (photo by Jeff Goldberg-Esto, courtesy of Carnegie Hall)

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the May Festival Chorus, and conductor James Conlon perform Harmonium, by John Adams, and The Ordering of Moses, by R. Nathaniel Dett, at Carnegie Hall in New York.





Mendelssohn's Elijah, with Cantata Singers

Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn (credit James Warren Childe, via Wikimedia Commons)

As part of its celebration of 50 years of concerts in Boston, the Cantata Singers and Music Director David Hoose perform one of the pinnacles of choral-orchestral music: Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah.

Download program notes and a translation of the text of Elijah.

The currents that define the musical life of any city grow out of the fascinations of individual people. In Boston, the citiy's musical identity runs along several threads. The many educational institutions, through performances by both faculty and student musicians, have continually offered stellar chamber music. The Boston Symphony Orchestra performs orchestral music on the highest level. And more than almost any other American city, Boston audiences gravitate towards early music.

And then there is Bach. The composer most central to the formation of Western art music finds traction almost anywhere in the world. But Boston's relationship to Bach is even stronger than most. It was that connection that led to the founding of the Cantata Singers in 1964. Its primary purpose at the outset was the preservation of - as the group's name implies - the sacred cantatas Bach wrote and that, at the time, formed the least explored area of his music.

So as the Cantata Singers planned its celebratory fiftieth anniversary season, Bach remained at the core of the group. The 2013-2014 season opens and closes with Bach, but in between are works and composers that reflect the centrality of Bach in unique ways.

The concert performed on Feb. 22 was devoted to a singular work by the composer most often credited with launching Bach's music into the wider public realm: Mendelssohn. A prolific composer of many different genres of music, Mendelssohn revived Bach's St. Matthew Passion in 1829, and it was one of many experiences in which Mendelssohn learned from his predecessor. Those lessons took root in 1846 in Elijah.

David HooseAs Cantata Singers Music Director David Hoose writes in program notes for the concert, The reputation of Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah has fallen, risen, fallen and risen again since August 26, 1846, when 3,000 people gathered in Town Hall in Birmingham, England to hear the latest creation by the famous and beloved composer. ... Today, Elijah, along with the requiems by Mozart, Brahms and Faure´, is considered one of the great choral-orchestra works, and it is music beloved by performers and listeners alike.

Hear Mendelssohn's Elijah in a concert performance by the Cantata Singers and conductor David Hoose on Sunday, April 20, at 5pm on 99.5 WCRB.

Download program notes for complete cast and a translastion of the text.

Celebrity Series of Boston, 2014-2015

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
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April 16, 2014

Riccardo Chailly Lisa Batiashvili Calder Quartet
From left: Riccardo Chailly, Lisa Batiashvili (credit Mat Hennek), and the Calder Quartet (credit Autumn de Wilde)

In a continuation of a now 75-year tradition, the Celebrity Series of Boston has announced a 2014-2015 season that brings a wealth of musical riches to Boston from around the globe.

Building on a history that now stretches back three-quarters of a century, the Celebrity Series of Boston will present a diverse array of classical music concerts between October, 2014, and May, 2015. From solo pianists to world-class orchestras, the series features the return of many Boston favorites, as well as the Celebrity Series debuts of several artists and ensembles.

See highlights below, and for the complete schedule, including dance, jazz, spoken word, and other performances, visit the Celebrity Series of Boston.


Michael Tilson Thomas
Michael Tilson Thomas
(photo by Chris Wahlberg)
  • Nov. 7, 2014 - Riccardo Chailly conducts the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture and Symphony No. 5, the "Reformation," and Nikolaj Znaider is the soloist in Beethoven's Violin Concerto.
  • Nov. 16, 2014 - Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No. 1, Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2, with soloist Gil Shaham, Drift and Providence, by Samuel Carl Adams, and the Suite No. 2 from Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé.
  • Feb. 22, 2015 - The Mahler Chamber Orchestra and pianist Leif Ove Andsnes perform Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concertos Nos. 2, 3, and 4.
Daniil Trifonov
Daniil Trifonov
Renee Fleming
Renée Fleming
(photo by Andrew Eccles, courtesy of Decca)
  • Jan. 23, 2015 - Mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and pianist Angela Hewitt perform works by Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Fauré, and Debussy.
  • Feb. 8, 2015 - Soprano Renée Fleming, whose performances regularly sell out concert halls around the world, and who performed the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, sings a recital at Symphony Hall.
  • Apr. 17, 2015 - Tenor Joseph Calleja, described in the New York Times as having "
    one of the loveliest voices in opera right now, pure, sunny and strong, but with a ringing vibration - See more at:
    one of the loveliest voices in opera right now, pure, sunny and strong, but with a ringing vibration," sings a recital at NEC's Jordan Hall.
Janine Jansen
Janine Jansen
(photo by Harald Hoffmann, courtesy of Decca)
Chamber Ensembles and Instrumentalists
  • Oct. 18, 2014 - The Juilliard Quartet performs works by Webern, Berg, and Schubert.
  • Nov. 19, 2014 - The Simón Bolívar String Quartet makes its Boston debut with music by Mendelssohn, Ginastera, and Brahms.
  • Nov. 23, 2014 - Violinist Itzhak Perlman performs at Symphony Hall.
  • Jan. 22, 2015 - The Emerson Quartet performs a concert that includes Lowell Libermann's String Quartet, a Celebrity Series commission.
  • Feb. 6, 2015 - Violinist Janine Jansen and pianist Itamar Golan perform works by Prokofiev, Beethoven, and Ravel.
  • Feb. 20, 2015 - The Calder Quartet plays a concert of music by Andrew Norman, Ravel, Adès, and Beethoven.
  • Mar. 4, 2015 - The Silk Road Ensemble celebrates its 15th anniversary, with cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
  • Mar. 5, 2015 - Organist Cameron Carpenter performs at Sanders Theatre.
  • Mar. 29, 2015 - Violinist Lisa Batiashvili and pianist Paul Lewis perform works by Schubert, Bach, and Beethoven.
  • Apr. 8, 2015 - The Dublin Guitar Quartet makes it Boston debut with music by Tavener, Brouwer, Ligeti, and Pärt.
  • April 22, 2015 - Trio Jean Paul plays works by Beethoven, Rihm, and Dvorák.
  • May 1, 2015 - Cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan perform music by Bach, Prokofiev, and Schubert, as well as a new work by Joseph Hallman.

For complete information, visit the Celebrity Series of Boston.

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