CNE Journal

Giuseppe Verdi's "Best Creation"

By Laura Carlo   |   Wednesday, October 9, 2013
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Giuseppe Verdi

October 10th marks the date when the world celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). Italy’s Verdi is invariably mentioned with Germany’s Richard Wagner (also born in 1813) as being the two greatest opera composers of the 19th century, although their styles were quite different, and their opinions of each other were usually less than complimentary.

In his own time, Verdi’s work was celebrated not only for the quality of his musical output, but also for the profound and political connection between his music and his nationalistic leanings towards an independent and unified Italy, freed from the yoke of the Austrian Habsburg Empire.

But for all of his musical and political accolades, what Verdi called his “best creation” may surprise you. No, it wasn’t any of his great operas, or his powerful Requiem, or songs, or sacred works. Or anything else he wrote – or said.

Instead, it was the Casa di Riposa per Musicisti, a retirement home for musicians in Milan. The home, an imposing mansion on Milan’s piazza Buonarotti, was Verdi’s idea of an enduring memorial to his music. And it wasn’t a retirement home limited only to those who sang at La Scala, either. In his vision, Verdi saw the Casa Verdi – as it is now known – as a place for elderly actors, ballerinas, and musicians of all types who had no money and nowhere else to go. Since it opened in 1902, more than one thousand residents have been housed here.

Verdi saw to it that royalties from his works would finance the home, and indeed the lira from such great works as Rigoletto, Aida, and Nabucco kept the Casa Verdi operational for decades. Today it runs on donations. Checks still come in from around the world, and prominent plaques in the main hall show the names of such major donors as Luciano Pavarotti, the Toscanini Family, Marilyn Horne, Maria Callas, and the Metropolitan Opera Company.

Mind you now, this retirement home is not a place for bingo games or arts and crafts: the Casa Verdi residents present weekly concerts that are open to the public. While there, concertgoers can also visit the tombs of Verdi and his wife Giuseppina, ensconced in the chapel on the Casa Verdi grounds.

Verdi celebrations will be noted around the world on the 200th anniversary in concert halls, opera houses and certainly on WCRB…but no place more deeply connected to the composer than at the Casa di Risposa. Verdi wrote a letter to his good friend Giulio Monteverdi saying: “…The poor, dear companions of my lifetime. Believe me, my friend, that Home is truly my most beautiful work.”
 


download buttonDownload Verdi's Ave Maria, performed in concert by Boston's Cantata Singers and conductor David Hoose.  

Henri Dutilleux, 1916-2013

By Brian McCreath   |   Wednesday, May 22, 2013
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Henri Dutilleux with Leon Kirchner
Henri Dutilleux (right) with composer Leon Kirchner at Symphony Hall in Boston in 1997
(photo by Miro Vintoniv, courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra)


French composer Henri Dutilleux has died at the age of 97. Born on Jan. 22, 1916, in Angers, France, Dutilleux's music became a regular presence over the years at Symphony Hall in performances by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

His Symphony No. 1 was performed by the BSO and conductor Charles Munch in 1954, and his Symphony No. 2, Les Double, was commissioned by the orchestra for its 75th anniversary. More recently the BSO co-commissioned his song cycle Le Temps l’Horloge, which was given its American premiere by soprano Renée Fleming with the BSO under James Levine in 2007.

Tom Service of The Guardian has written that Dutilleux's Cello Concerto, Tout un monde lointain, written for Mstislav Rostropovich in 1970, is "music of sumptuous but rigorous splendour, music whose sheer attractiveness belies the refinement of Dutilleux's harmonic and structural imagination, and which seduces you into a faraway world of heightened feeling. I defy you not to be won over by this music."

Upon the passing of Henri Dutilleux, Tony Fogg, Artistic Administrator for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, said,

Henri Dutilleux will be remembered not only for the singularity of his musical language - profoundly beautiful, perfect in discourse, luminous in sonority - but also, by those of us lucky enough to know him, for his personal grace, generosity, and purity of spirit. Few composers express the level of gratitude to his or her interpreters which Dutilleux showed to the artists who performed his works, and to those who helped bring about those performances.

In the context of his long relationship with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Munch and Ozawa were his gods. Yet just as important in his eyes, were the young composers he befriended during his visits to Tanglewood - friendships he maintained for years afterwards. We are lucky to have enjoyed a unique relationship with this great, great figure.


To hear Dutilleux's Métaboles with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and conductor Alan Gilbert in concert, click on "Listen" above.

Roman Totenberg: Boundless Generosity

By Cathy Fuller   |   Wednesday, May 8, 2013
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Roman TotenbergI wish I had known him. For as long as I have been musically conscious, I have felt the presence here in Boston of Roman Totenberg.

Born in 1911, he began as a child prodigy and ultimately became an artist and teacher who would touch the lives of countless musicians around the world. In fact, so widespread was his reach as a mentor that his daughter, Nina Totenberg (NPR's Legal Affairs correspondent) dares to surmise that there is probably not a major orchestra in Europe or the United States that doesn’t have at least one player who studied with him.


His life began in Poland and his memories took him back to the tumultuous years of the Russian Revolution. He studied in Berlin in the 1920’s with Carl Flesch, and later in Paris with one of the most remarkable geniuses music has known, Georges Enesco.

Totenberg toured in his early years with the brilliant Polish composer/pianist Karol Szymanowski. In his travels across the globe, he premiered works by Hindemith, Barber, Penderecki and Milhaud. He toured South America with Arthur Rubinstein.

His playing was surely deepened as he bore witness to revolution and war while coming of age. Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, studied the violin with Totenberg for nine years, and told the Boston Globe’s Jeremy Eichler that, for Totenberg, “music was the natural language of freedom. It was not decorative. When he taught and when he played, you were consciously aware that he owned every phrase.”

Roman Totenberg settled here in the United States in 1938. He toured internationally before making his home in Boston and taking up a teaching post at Boston University. He directed the Longy School of Music from 1978 to 1985. He also taught at Aspen, Tanglewood, and Blue Hill Maine’s Kneisel Hall.

Last year, on May 8th, he passed away at the age of 101. And until the very end, he kept on teaching. Through the week leading up to his death, a long line of loving violinists came to his Newton bedside to pay their respects and to play for him. He offered them guidance even in his final hours.

Totenberg’s daughter Amy told the Globe, “He had such a feeling for youth, and had so many people of all ages who filled his life that he didn’t grow old.’’

All three of Roman Totenberg’s daughters are ferociously gifted – Amy is a federal judge in Atlanta; Jill is CEO of the Totenberg Group, a communications firm in New York; and then there’s Nina – Legal Affairs correspondent for National Public Radio, who wrote a beautiful tribute and obituary for her father.

Classical New England has some precious performances that were recorded by our WGBH engineers years ago. Listen for Roman Totenberg’s artisty throughout the day today as we mark the anniversary of his passing.

To hear Roman Totenberg's artistry in performance at the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, click on "Listen" above.

The Rite of Spring: Violence in Music in a Time of Violence

By James David Jacobs   |   Tuesday, April 23, 2013
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Boylston Street after Boston Marathon Bombing rite of spring costume design

left: Boylston St. following the Boston Marathon bombing (Anne Mostue/WGBH)
right: Nicholas Roerich's sketch of costumes for the 1913 production of The Rite of Spring (via Wikipaintings.org)


April 24, 2013

May 29th marks the 100th anniversary of the infamous premiere of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. The New England Conservatory Philharmonia is celebrating the occasion by performing the work tonight on a program that also features another celebration of Spring, Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 1, and the Polovtsian Dances by Alexander Borodin, one of the other works on the program on that historic night at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.

What could not have been anticipated when this concert was planned well over a year ago was that, just a week before the concert, the young musicians performing it would bear witness to an historical event as violent and senseless as that portrayed in Stravinsky's music. I talked to several members of the orchestra, and they shared their stories and observations on what it was like to be in downtown Boston last week while working on The Rite of Spring. To hear their thoughts, click on "Listen" above.

For more about the NEC Philharmonia's performance of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, visit the New England Conservatory.

The Celebrity Series at 75

Sunday, April 14, 2013
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In 1938, pianist Aaron Richmond brought friends from the concert world to perform in Boston. Now the Celebrity Series celebrates 75 years as a major cultural force in the city, with visiting orchestras, a significant co-commission, and much more.


Executive Director Gary Dunning details the classical music highlights with Classical New England's Brian McCreath. Read about the season below, and to hear the conversation, click on "Listen" above.





Orchestras

In March of 2014, the Israel Philharmonic and conductor Zubin Mehta visit Boston's Symphony Hall to perform Bruckner's Symphony No. 8.

In that same month, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Gustavo Dudamel perform John Corigliano's Symphony No. 1 and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5.

   
Mark Morris Mark Morris's Acis and Galatea

Mark Morris creates a new production of Handel's opera Acis and Galatea in a Celebrity Series co-commission. The culmination of the 75th anniversary season in May, the performances feature Mozart's arrangement of Handel's music, with the the chorus and orchestra of the Handel and Haydn Society and conductor Nicholas McGegan.

   
Marc-Andre Hamelin Piano

Marc-André Hamelin curates and performs a three concert series, including a solo recital, a duo concert with Emanuel Ax, and a chamber music concert with violinist Anthony Marwood and clarinetist Martin Fröst.

Other pianists appearing during the season include Yuja Wang, Benjamin Grosvener, András Schiff, Kirill Gerstein, Cédric Tiberghien, and Evgeny Kissin.

   
Takacs Quartet String Quartets

The Takács Quartet the six quartets by Béla Bartók over two concerts in March and April.

Also, Quatuor Ebène visits Boston for a program of Mozart, Bartók, and selections from the ensembles vast jazz repertoire.

In addition, the Jerusalem Quartet and Danish Quartet make their Boston debuts.

   
Deborah Voigt Vocalists

Soprano Deborah Voigt visit Boston twice during the season. In November, she'll bring her one-woman show, Voigt Lessons, developed with playwright Terrence McNally and director Francesca Zambello to the Calderwood Pavilion. Then, in April, she'll return for a recital at Symphony Hall.

Also, baritione Gerald Finley and pianist Julius Drake perform Schubert's Winterreise at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall in February.

Other vocalists performing during the season include soprano Natalie Dessay, tenor Nicholas Phan, and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky.


To hear a conversation with Celebrity Series Executive Director Gary Dunning about the season, click on "Listen" at the top of the page, and for complete information about the 2012-2013 season, visit the Celebrity Series of Boston.

Photo of Gary Dunning by Robert Torres, courtesy of Celebrity Series of Boston
Photo of Gustavo Dudamel courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Photo of Marc-André Hamelin by Fran Kaufman
Photo of the Takács Quartet by Ellen Appel
Photo of Deborah Voigt by Peter Ross


Sommerville's Dual Career

Monday, February 11, 2013
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