Thursday, February 4, 2016
Friday, December 18, 2015
When you attend a Tallis Scholars concert, it’s a bit like stepping into another world. As Fiona Maddocks of The Observer said, it’s "as near extraterrestrial as you can get sitting in a concert hall.”
And that’s the feeling listeners had last Saturday night at St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge in a concert presented by the Boston Early Music Festival, with music by Elizabethan composers John Sheppard and Thomas Tallis, and contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. The program was conducted by Peter Phillips, who founded the 10-voice Tallis Scholars in 1973.
As the ensemble’s name suggests, Tallis and Sheppard are central to the identity of the Tallis Scholars as specialists in 16th century English vocal music. But Pärt? Music of our time may not seem to be the most natural companion to those earlier composers. But it only takes a few seconds of listening to sense that the austere, yet strangely rich sonorities Pärt creates is a reflection of both the ancient and the modern.
And according to Peter Phillips, it’s a sound-world every bit as compelling as that of the Tallis and Sheppard: “Sheppard has a particular atmosphere about him ... it’s not very different from Pärt’s particular atmosphere, and it’s a kind of contemplative, almost rhapsodic, sometimes very dissonant atmosphere that I love. It takes me out of worrying about anything and puts me in a different space ... I just float off.”
As for their namesake composer, the Tallis Scholars performed a mass written for Christmas Day in 1554, when the entire congregation at Winchester Cathedral was buzzing with the news that Queen Mary could possibly be pregnant with a boy who would be heir to the throne of England. So it’s significant that this grand seven-voice mass was based on a plainsong, “Puer natus est nobis” - A Boy is Born.
The “Boy” is the Christ-child – reason enough to celebrate - but perhaps there was another significant “Boy” on the way? In the end, as it turned out, Queen Mary wasn’t pregnant at all. Clearly Tallis was a master not only of his art, but also of composing just the right piece for his moment in history.
What’s more important now is what we hear in the Christmas Mass, which Peter Phillips describes as “quite a busy piece of music ... so it’s a lot of teeming detail that is fascinating. It’s sort of like a mosaic that’s forming up in front of your eyes and ears.”
To hear this “mosaic,” click on "Hear the concert on-demand" above.
(image of the Tallis Scholars by Eric Richmond)
Friday, December 11, 2015
A Far Cry - the name of this orchestra brings to mind something out of the ordinary, off the beaten track, something special. And that's just what A Far Cry delivers.
Formed in 2007 in Jamaica Plain, A Far Cry is the Chamber Orchestra in Residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The group still rehearses in Jamaica Plain, at a storefront they share with a couple of small theater groups.
It's an unassuming place, with a little shingle out front - and inside, some of the best music-making in town. Last week the Criers were rehearsing "A Tale of Two Sixes" - a concert of 6 Concerti grossi by Arcangelo Corelli and George Frideric Handel. The concerti come from each of the composers' Opus 6 collections - those are the two sixes in the title.
On most of its programs, A Far Cry creates "outside the box" combinations - a program might include a Handel Concerto Grosso, but it might be combined with something by Stravinsky, or even a newly-commissioned piece.
But for this concert, the Criers are focusing in on string music from early 18th century Europe - concertos by Corelli, the great violinist of Rome, who invented the Concerto Grosso, and Handel, the brilliant young opera composer, the toast of London, who took the Concerto Grosso to new heights of inventiveness.
They met in 1707 or 1708, on Handel's tour of Italy. Handel studied with Corelli while he was visiting Rome. Handel was an up-and-coming young composer, and Corelli was ready for retirement. But the younger composer must have been dazzled, in the presence of the great violin virtuoso of his generation.
Handel couldn¹t help but be influenced by Corelli¹s style, and he even arranged his opus numbers so that his collection of concerti grossi would come out as Op. 6, just like those of his famous teacher.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Whether a seasoned veteran or a busy young professional, the process of making great music has two sides. On one hand, there's the preparation, in which every detail and nuance of the music needs to be explored for the best possible performance. On the other, there's simple logistics and the realities of life that demand compressed schedules and a sense of never catching up.
In that light, the Marlboro Music Festival seems too good to be true: a chance to work together with fellow musicians on chamber music of your own choosing, in a beautiful location, with unlimited rehearsal time for seven weeks in the summertime. It's luxury unheard-of!
The results of that luxury are evident in the performances you'll hear on Sunday at 7pm, when Alan McLellan brings you several of the best moments from the summer of 2015.
Hear the program
The Marlboro Music Festival was established by Rudolf Serkin, with Adolf Busch, Hermann Busch, and Marcel, Blanche and Louis Moyse, in 1951 at an idyllic getaway in Vermont, two-and-a-half hours from Boston, and four hours from New York City. Their aim, from the very beginning, was to take an egalitarian approach to music-making, mixing seasoned mentors with exceptional young professionals.
In addition to the summer program, now led by Artistic Director Mitsuko Uchida, there’s a Musicians from Marlboro Touring Program, now celebrating its 50th anniversary. Musicians from Marlboro has been, and continues to be, a launching pad for the careers of some of today’s most sought-after soloists and chamber musicians.
On the program:
Mozart: Piano Quartet in G Minor, K. 478
Mitsuko Uchida, piano
Elizabeth Fayette, violin
Rebecca Albers, viola
Marie-Elisabeth Hecker, cello
Richard Strauss: Suite in B flat Major, Op. 4
Marina Piccinini, flute
Brook Ferguson, flute
Mary Lynch, oboe
Joseph Peters, oboe
Gabriel Campos Zamora, clarinet
Michael Rusinek, clarinet
Steven Dibner, bassoon
Brad Balliett, bassoon
Radovan Vlatkovic, horn
Nicolee Kuester, horn
Lauren Hunt, horn
Laura Weiner, horn
Nathaniel West, double bass
Johannes Brahms: String Quintet in G Major, Op. 111
Robin Scott, violin
Siwoo Kim, violin
John Stulz, viola
Kim Kashkashian, viola
Jonah Ellsworth, cello
Maurice Ravel: Piano Trio in A Minor
Zoltán Fejérvári, piano
Tessa Lark, violin
Christoph Richter, cello
Felix Mendelssohn: Selections from Six Duets, Op. 63
Sarah Shafer, soprano
Lauren Eberwein, mezzo soprano
Lydia Brown, piano
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
June 10: Phoenix Orchestra
photo courtesy of the artists
About WCRB's Massivemuse
A Massivemuse is a massive Groupmuse - a classical music "house party" where hosts can invite as many people as they want into their homes for a night of music. Luckily, WCRB has both the space and the connections to offer a Groupmuse that's not just massive in size, but in talent: WCRB's Massivemuses feature musicians from Boston's famed musical institutions or emerging artists just getting started with a record label. We've been lucky enough to bring in Handel and Haydn Society, Conrad Tao, the Naughton Sisters, and New England Conservatory's Opera Department so far, and can't wait to bring you many more!
Each Massivemuse at WCRB is open to the public, ages 21+ (please bring a valid ID). Tickets are $10 at the door, and beer and wine can be purchased at the event (no BYOB).
To become a subscriber and receive two free tickets to each WCRB Massivemuse, click here.
WCRB's Massivemuse FAQ
What time is the event?
Unless otherwise noted, all Massivemuses at WCRB begin at 8:15pm. Doors open at 8:00. The events usually run until 10:00.
Where do I RSVP?
WCRB Massivemuse subscribers RSVP on the Eventbrite page for each event. This allows us to hold reserved spots for you. There is no need to RSVP on the Groupmuse page. If you are a subscriber, please do not RSVP on the Groupmuse site, as you are already included in the "reserved spots" number. Just give your name when you arrive.
How do I get there?
We recommend MBTA bus routes 70, 64, or 86. Directions can be found here.
How can I find out what's going to be played at upcoming Groupmuse events?
Tune in to WCRB Thursday evenings around 6:45pm to hear a preview of a piece that will be played at a Groupmuse this coming weekend.
Why can't I bring my own beer/wine/etc. like I do at other Groupmuse events?
Building policy does not allow BYOB. Beer and wine are sold at WCRB's Massivemuses for $5; subscribers receive 2 free drink tickets per event.
I have questions about WCRB/WGBH membership.
Being a subscriber to WCRB's Massivemuse also means you have become a member of the larger WGBH/WCRB family. For questions regarding your member benefits, or any of WGBH's radio, television, or online services, please call our Member Hotline at 617-300-3300, Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm ET. You can also write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you!
Pictures from Previous WCRB Massivemuses
all images: credit Sheldon Golder
Friday, October 23, 2015
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.