By Brian McCreath | Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Thursday, April 7, 2016
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