To hear complete selections from Bach's sacred works and instrumental masterpieces, tune in for The Bach Hour, each Sunday at 6am and 5pm. Hear The Bach Hour on-demand
On March 16th, Classical New England, First Lutheran Church of Boston, and the Boston Chapter of the American Guild of Organists celebrated Bach's birthday with Bach Around the Clock, a sun-up to sundown free community event with dozens of performers, at the First Lutheran Church in the Back Bay of Boston. More information
On-demand (originally broadcast Friday, Mar. 8, and Sunday, Mar. 10
The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, with pianist Inon Barnatan
The Israeli-born pianist is the soloist in Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D minor in a program that also includes the Cello Concerto No. 1 by Haydn, with soloist Alisa Weilerstein, as well as Britten's Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge and Haydn's Symphony No. 45, the "Farewell." Hear the concert
Friday, Mar. 15, at 4pm
Pianist Inon Barnatan
The Israeli-born pianist performs Bach's Partita No. 1 in B-flat, BWV 825, in CNE's Fraser Performance Studio on Drive Time Live with host Cathy Fuller.
Sunday, Mar. 17, 3pm
"Bach Keyboard Journeys"
On Bach's birthday, hear highlights from a special celebration in Classical New England's Fraser Performance Studio, with historical keyboard specialists Luca Guglielmi playing the harpsichord (left), Dylan Sauerwald playing the lautenwerk, and Andrus Madsen playing the fortepiano, as well as pianist Sergey Schepkin and harpist Ina Zdorovetchi.
Thursday, Mar. 21, at 7pm
Randall Hodgkinson and the Goldberg Variations
The Boston-based pianist performs one of Bach's greatest keyboard works live in Classical New England's Fraser Performance Studio.
Sunday, Mar. 24, at 3pm
Friday, Mar. 29, at 7pm
The St. Matthew Passion in concert with the Handel and Haydn Society Conductor Harry Christophers leads the Handel and Haydn Society chorus and orchestra in the pinnacle of Bach's sacred music, in concert at Symphony Hall in Boston. Soloists include Joshua Ellicott in the role of The Evangelist, Matthew Brook in the role of Christ, soprano Gillian Keith, mezzo-soprano Monica Groop, tenor Jeremy Budd, and baritone Stephan Loges.
Classical New England, First Lutheran Church of Boston, and Boston Chapter American Guild of Organists thank you for making
Bach Around the Clock on Saturday, March 16th, a huge success!
Beginning at 6am with the sound of cellos and continuing through the day until 6pm, this celebration of the birthday of J.S. Bach was an experience never to be forgotten. If you attended in person or listened to our live stream, thank you for celebrating with us!
Be sure to listen to Classical New England on Mar. 21st (Bach's actual birthday), for highlights from this incredible day.
A sunrise cello ensemble tribute to Bach with Classical New England host and cellist James David Jacobs, with cellists Guillermo del Angel, Mark Churchill, Nancy Hair, Shayne Lebron, Christina Stripling
Hosted by Benjamin K. Roe
Bach Influences: Transcriptions
Bach's re-imagining of works by Couperin, Ernst, Fasch, Telemann and Vivaldi
Organist Balint Karosi (First Lutheran Church of Boston and Yale University)
Hosted by James David Jacobs
Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas
Violinists Brian Hong, Zenas Hsu, and Qianqian Li, from the studio of Donald Weilerstein at the New England Conservatory of Music
By Cheryl Willoughby | Thursday, February 28, 2013
Do you know this symphony? Write it in the comments area below!
Symphonies We Love filled the month of February with your choices of brilliant music and beautiful stories
Like a handful of snowflakes, February has already melted away!
When Classical New England launched Symphonies We Love on February 1st we had two goals in mind. First, to fill the midwinter atmosphere with some of the greatest classical music ever written. And in the process, to gain some insight into these symphonies through your stories.
And what wonderful stories you had! We could not have anticipated the hundreds of responses you offered to that simple encouragement to “tell us about a Symphony You Love”. We heard from so many of you in so many different ways: through our own web page, along with phone calls, letters, emails, Facebook messages, chance meetings in public, and even via our #LuvSyms tag on Twitter!
Truly there are Symphonies we Love, for very personal, and touching reasons.
From our listener Mitch, we discovered the connection to his father offered by Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. It was a piece his father introduced him to very early on, and then his father passed away at a young age from multiple sclerosis. Mitch wrote, “now when I listen to some of his favorites, it seems to bring him right back into the room.”
Another listener, Dan, describes himself as “a country boy at heart”, and offers Beethoven’s homage to nature, the Symphony No. 6, the "Pastoral," as one to which he can most relate.
And we learned that your musical tastes are as widely cast as where you listen! In addition to submissions from the six New England states, we had comments from listeners in faraway places, including California, Italy, and Florida. Musically, we found out that right up there with Beethoven and Brahms, Nicolai Myaskovsky’s 27th, Tan Dun’s “1997”, Malcom Arnold’s 3rd, and Samuel Wesley’s A Major also deserve a place among the Symphonies We Love.
Thank you so much for taking some time to get in touch and share your stories, memories, and special connections to this music! Here are the symphonies that generated the most conversation over the last month through your comments, requests and stories. In alphabetical order, they are:
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68, "Pastoral"
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, "Ode to Joy"
Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68
Antonín Dvorák: Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88
Antonín Dvorák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, "From the New World"
Gustav Mahler: Symphonies No. 1 in D Major
Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection"
Camille Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, "Organ"
Franz Schubert: Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D.759, "Unfinished"
Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43
A Cherished Memory Antonín Dvorák's Symphony No. 9, "From the New World"
When I was a young music student playing with the Denver Youth Symphony Orchestra, I studied privately with the principal horn player of the Denver (now Colorado) Symphony Orchestra. Once a year the principal players in the Youth Symphony joined the professional symphony in playing a large-scale work.
My opportunity came in 1984 during the Denver Symphony’s golden anniversary season. The concert’s feature piece was Dvorák’s 9th and I had the immense privilege of playing the majestic four-horn soli in the last movement—with my teacher and two of his colleagues to a full house at Boettcher Concert Hall.
There are more recordings of Dvorák’s 9th Symphony in my personal collection now (14 to be exact) than any other single piece. I love every one of them for their own unique qualities. And I will always go out of my way to hear that symphony performed live because of that one spectacular chance I had to play it myself in concert.
- Cheryl Willoughby, Music Director
Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karjan, conductor
A Rare Disagreement Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, "Pastoral"
My husband and I have been married for more than 21 years, and truthfully, we rarely disagree on anything of substance: our values, politics, the arts, which in-laws we love most. So I was shocked when we didn’t agree on our favorite Beethoven symphony! I picked the 6th, the “Pastoral” symphony. He said… “No. Definitely the 7th.” Wha??
The 6th depicts a day in the country. For me, there is simple charm in the original titles of the movements, beginning with "Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the country" to the final "Shepherd's song; cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm." The 6th is the first symphony Beethoven wrote after going completely deaf, and it's telling that this is a symphony of both visuals and feelings. For Beethoven, it wasn’t only an appreciation of the countryside. He shared the belief that by knowing nature, one could know God. There it is.
For my husband, on the other hand, Beethoven’s 7th is a “showcase of the composer’s abilities.” Hubs, (a professional musician, by the way) asserts that Beethoven's 7th blends the decisive narrative from the composer's 3rd and 5th Symphonies, with the fluidity and lyrical sensibilities of his 4th and 6th. In other words, a perfect balance from a man at the height of his musical abilities, despite his utter inability to hear.
I shared my "marital spat" story with Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, who joins me every weekday morning on Classical New England for "Keith's Classical Corner." But to my dismay Keith sided with my spouse -- and proceeded to repeat practically every word my husband had said earlier. An informal poll of my male colleagues also showed a preference for the 7th. But from my female colleagues, it was the 6th.
Still, I love the 6th best of all Beethoven's symphonies. The 7th is great, too, as are all Beethoven's symphonies. But now I’m wondering: Is it also “a guy thing?”
- Laura Carlo, host for weekday mornings and Baroque in Boston
Berlin Philharmonic, Simon Rattle, conductor
The world of Brahms has always overwhelmed me. Even at the end of his life, in his most intimate intermezzos for the piano, he opens up a world that is colorful and rich in a wholly unique way – open-hearted and full of consolation.
The second symphony came far easier than the first. Brahms was vacationing and famously wrote that the “the melodies flow so freely here, one must be careful not to trample on them!” But he revels in the shadows as much as he does in the sunshine, and this is one of his hallmarks.
Part of the deep sense of fulfillment that comes with hearing Brahms comes from knowing intuitively that it is built, like we are, in a profoundly organic way. Three notes – D, C-sharp, D – open the second symphony and become the DNA for a sonorous world that understands sadness, courage, joy and love.
The slow movement unfolds and overlaps in ways that go straight to the heart. And how does he convey that thrilling sense of collective humanity in the finale? Plenty of pieces call upon a triumphant blaze of horns to close things out, but at the end of this miraculously developed piece, it makes us feel larger than life. We are beaming! What more could you ask of a symphony?
- Cathy Fuller, afternoon host and co-host for Boston Symphony Orchestra broadcasts
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Neeme Järvi, conductor
Symphonies give us a chance to connect to places and people far away – both in time and geography. The template perfected by Haydn and Mozart has proven to be infinitely malleable, allowing composers to maintain the template while injecting their own thoughts, emotions, and cultural echoes.
Tchaikovsky’s six symphonies channeled a particular Russian voice through the form, but another, far less-known composer was equally successful. Vasily Sergeyevich Kalinnikov was a generation younger than his more famous colleague, and he explored the same kind of highly personal inner landscape in his music. But he also injected perhaps even more of the cultural landscape around him, taking on the character of composers like Rimsky-Korsakov and Mussorgsky.
Unfortunately, Kalinnikov lived in poverty and died too young, never fulfilling his potential role as a bridge between those Russian nationalists and the more western oriented Tchaikovsky. But the Symphony No. 1 in G minor can be seen as a brilliant attempt at creating that bridge.
- Brian McCreath, host of The Bach Hour and producer of Boston Symphony Orchestra broadcasts
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Järvi, conductor
A Symphony in Blues William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1, "Afro-American"
His life was the American "melting pot" incarnate: Born in Mississippi, with a mixture of African, Spanish, Irish, Scottish, and Native American blood in his veins. He worked with W.C. Handy, "The Father of the Blues," collaborated with Langston Hughes, won a scholarship to study at the New England Conservatory with George Whitefield Chadwick, and later the French avant-gardist Edgard Varese. His career began on Black Broadway, and ended on Hollywood soundstages.
In short, William Grant Still (1895-1978) was an American original, the so-called "Dean of African-American Composers." His Afro-American Symphony is justifiably famous for being the first large-scale symphonic work by a black composer to be performed by a major orchestra when it was premiered by the Rochester Philharmonic in 1931.
What's less well known is that Still's symphony is also a groundbreaking work in its marriage of symphonic form with the African-American experience. The symphony opens with a 12-bar-blues progression, the first time that had happened in a symphonic work. The second movement (which Still titled "Sorrow" in his drafts) takes on the form of a Spiritual. And in instead of a Minuet or Scherzo for the the third movement, Still opts for a jaunty "Hallelujah," replete with a tenor banjo.
Not unlike the sonnets Antonio Vivaldi attached to each of his Four Seasons, Still's Symphony No. 1 has four accompanying epigraphs by the noted African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, the last of which is titled "Ode to Ethiopia:"
Be proud, my Race, in mind and soul,
Thy name is writ on Glory's scroll
In characters of fire.
High 'mid the clouds of Fame's bright sky, And truth shall lift them higher.
They banner's blazoned folds now fly,
Demonstrating that music has no natural color line, you are hard pressed to top the snap, fire, blues, and boisterousness of the Estonian-born conductor Neeme Jarvi's recording with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
- Benjamin K. Roe, Managing Director
Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Claudio Abbado, conductor
Out of the Old Comes the New Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1, "Classical"
Prokofiev was quite a rabble-rouser as a young man. He loved to shock audiences with his "modern" music.
But in the midst of the turmoil of the Russian Revolution, in the summer of 1918, Prokofiev went on a vacation, made sure there was no piano to distract him, and sat down to write a symphony in the style of Haydn.
I love the idea that this young man saw himself and his world on the brink of something completely new, and yet turned to older styles and older forms to express himself. And that he then adapted it and stretched it to suit his own style.
The Symphony No. 1 may have alienated some of his modernist friends in the process, but it remains as fresh and vibrant today as it was then.
- Alan McLellan, mid-day host and producer of Drive Time Live
Berlin Philharmonic, Simon Rattle, conductor
"I just gotta be me!" Igor Stravinsky's Symphony in C
I openly admit I’m not a big fan of symphonies – they’re too grandiose, there’s too much going on, and I vastly prefer the intimate and precise quality of chamber music. This is why I love Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony in C – a post-classical take on the classic symphony form.
Just in the first movement, fluffy flutes, a sinister oboe, and a persistent string section play off of each other, imitating and supporting each other like members of a string quartet. The conversation among characters continues throughout the next three movements.
I like to see this symphony as Stravinsky’s way of saying, “yes, I recognize that there’s something you’re expecting, but hey, I’ve gotta be me.” This symphony expertly blends Beethovenian symphony writing with Stravinsky’s knack for perfect discord.
- Rani Schloss, production assistant
Prague Chamber Orchestra, Charles Mackerras, conductor
Prague's Embrace Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Symphony No. 38, "Prague"
In December 1786 Mozart had one of the greatest successes of his life: the opening of his opera Le Nozze di Figaro in the city of Prague. Everyone, from the royalty to the merchants to the musicians themselves, loved Figaro, with that deep love only a true popular hit can inspire. This love, in turn, inspired Mozart's love for a city that finally "got" him, and he expressed that love in a symphony written especially for Prague.
This love is evident in the music itself. The first movement, which foreshadows the sound world of Don Giovanni, is an expansive space you can inhabit and explore. The slow middle movement is a personal vehicle for the expression of emotions of profound depth, with an almost frightening sense of intimacy. The last movement, the first to be composed, has a kinetic energy that also invokes Don Giovanni and Beethoven with an undertone of seriousness that darkens its bubbly surface.
What I love about this symphony is that you're rarely conscious of its being a symphony - its form is so seamlessly embedded into its content that you're hardly aware of it. You don't think about what movement you're in or what's next - the work sweeps you along on its own terms.
The “Prague” symphony is an organic work that feels like a pure journey of real love, not the performance of love one encounters in the big Romantic symphonies, but what real love - with its mutual respect, deep appreciation, and the delights and dangers of being seen clearly for who one is - actually feels like.
- James David Jacobs, late night host and producer of Baroque in Boston
There is no composer as indispensible to music - and culture - as Ludwig van Beethoven. For the 242nd anniversary of Beethoven's birth, Classical New England celebrates with a special lineup of stellar performances from Boston and beyond.
Every listener can name a personal favorite. That composer whose music most fully captures the experience of being human. But whether your favorite is Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, or Schoenberg, all roads lead back, in some way, to Beethoven. All composers contribute to the dialogue across time and distance that makes classical music so vital in our lives, but no composer has had more impact on that dialogue than Beethoven.
The inscription of Beethoven's name above the stage at Symphony Hall (courtesy of the BSO)
Saturday, Dec. 15, 7pm
Join us for an encore performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as John Oliver conducts the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the BSO in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis.
Sunday, Dec. 16, 1pm
Beethoven has been central to the Boston Symphony Orchestra from the very beginning of the orchestra's existence, and from the very beginning of its summer home at Tanglewood. Join us for the Opening Night concert from Tanglewood 2012, as Christoph von Dohnanyi conducts the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, recreating the very first BSO concert at Tanglewood.
Sunday, Dec. 16, 6pm
While the symphonies, string quartets, and piano sonatas are the most commonly heard pieces by Beethoven, his writing for the voice, in song and opera, is utterly remarkable, something Cathy Fuller explores on Arias and Barcarolles.