A Portuguese Renaissance Christmas

Thursday, December 23, 2010
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A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

Monday, December 20, 2010
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010
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WGBH's Sounds Of The Season

Thursday, December 9, 2010
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During the next few weeks, 99.5 All Classical offers a wealth of music to make your holidays more beautiful, joyful, and inspirational. 

Saturday, Dec. 11 at 7pm
Holiday Pops Live!

Keith Lockhart, the Boston Pops, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus take the stage for one of Boston's most cherished traditions. Tune in for favorite carols, a few suprises, and a visit from a certain fellow in a red suit, live from Symphony Hall in Boston! WGBH members, for discounted tickets to the Dec. 22 shows, visit The Boston Pops!

Sunday, Dec. 12 at 2pm
Act II of The Nutcracker

The Boston Symphony Orchestra and conductor Seiji Ozawa perform Tchaikovsky's magical ballet score, with the Spanish Dance, Dance of the Mirlitons, Trepak, and the Waltz of the Flowers.

Saturday, Dec. 18 at 7pm
Best of Holiday Pops

Ron Della Chiesa hosts an evening of the best of the Boston Pops holiday recordings, beginning with Arthur Fiedler in 1937, the "Skater's Waltz" by Waldteufel, through the tenure of John Williams all the way to the latest download conducted by Keith Lockhart, the "12 Days of Christmas" by David Chase.  (Repeats Saturday, Dec. 25 at 7pm.)

Sunday, Dec. 19 at 2pm

Join Ron Della Chiesa for one of Boston's most cherished holiday traditions as Music Director Harry Christophers leads the Handel & Haydn Society Orchestra and Chorus in Handel's Messiah, recorded in concert on Dec. 5 at Symphony Hall in Boston with soprano Sophie Bevan, alto Catherine Wyn-Rogers, tenor Allan Clayton, bass Sumner Thompson.  (Repeats Friday, Dec. 24 at 8pm.)

Sunday, Dec. 19 at 8pm
Bach's Magnificat

The Bach Hour features one of J.S. Bach's most glorious creations, the Magnificat, in a performance by conductor Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale that includes the rarely heard "Christmas interpolations."

Monday-Friday, Dec. 20-24, 5am-9am
Classical Christmas Carols

Did you know that some popular Christmas carols were composed by "classical" composers?  Felix Mendelssohn, Samuel Wesley, George Frederic Handel, Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams all contributed to our Christmas bounty.  Laura Carlos shares these and more with you through the season.

Friday, Dec. 24 at 10am
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

Continuing a broadcast tradition begun in 1928, the 30-voice King's College Choir performs the legendary Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service of Biblical readings and music, live from the chapel at King's College, Cambridge, with host Michael Barone.

Friday, Dec. 24 at 3pm, Saturday, Dec. 25 at 10am, & Sunday, Dec. 26 at 10am
J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio, Parts I, II, & III

Just as Handel's Messiah has become a holiday tradition in this country, Bach's Christmas Oratorio is a touchstone of the season in Europe.  Made up of six separate parts for specific days during the Christmas season, Parts I, II, & III tell the Christmas story from a festive announcement of the birth of Christ through the angel's appearance before shepherds in the field, and on to the adoration of Christ by the shepherds.

Sunday, Dec. 24 at 8pm

Join Ron Della Chiesa for one of Boston's most cherished holiday traditions as Music Director Harry Christophers leads the Handel & Haydn Society Orchestra and Chorus in Handel's Messiah, recorded in concert on Dec. 5 at Symphony Hall in Boston with soprano Sophie Bevan, alto Catherine Wyn-Rogers, tenor Allan Clayton, bass Sumner Thompson.

Saturday, Dec. 25 at noon
A Leroy Anderson Christmas

Hosted by conductor Leonard Slatkin and the composer's son Kurt Anderson, enjoy performances of Leroy Anderson’s Christmas music with the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and Leroy Anderson conducting his “Pops” Concert Orchestra.  Also, Leroy Anderson talks about how he wrote some of his famous Christmas music and what Christmas means to him.

Saturday, Dec. 25 at 1pm
A Chanticleer Christmas

A celebration of the season as told through the glorious voices of Chanticleer, the 12-voice San Francisco-based men's choir, the program spans the globe and the centuries — from England in the 1300s to new arrangements of classic contemporary carols. And no Chanticleer program would be complete without Joseph Jenning's patented Christmas spirituals arrangements. Recorded in the gorgeous acoustic of Memorial Church, on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California.

Saturday, Dec. 25 at 2pm
Music of the Baroque

Brass instruments have long been associated with ceremony and celebration. Ubiquitous in Renaissance court pageantry, their connection to royalty and wealth lent an air of respectability to any occasion.  Courts and churches capitalized upon the exalted status of brass instruments, flaunting their virtuoso players and composers in order to enhance their reputations.  Diverse in nationality, temporality and musical style, these stories told through music are nonetheless similar in their message. Many are related to the Christmas narrative, shedding light on different facets of the tale, while others offer a timely reminder that the wonder and awe the season inspires can last the entire year.

Jane Glover conducts Chicago's Music of the Baroque with music of the 16th and 17th centuries by composers such as Johann Vierdanck, Michael Praetorius, Thomas Tallis, Heinrich Schütz, Giovanni Gabrieli, Jacob Handl and John Francis Wade, among others.

Saturday, Dec. 25 at 4pm
An Elizabethan Christmas with the Rose Ensemble

Grand candlelit halls, lavish feasts, and stately dances: the regal elegance of the Elizabethan era.  The time and culture of Elizabeth I also contained tension and intrigue, dark and light.  And it’s all evident in the music of their Christmas celebrations.  The Rose Ensemble captures those contrasting shades in concert, as they reawaken the ancient with medieval carols, and motets and anthems by the beloved English Renaissance composers Robert Parsons, William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons, accompanied by lute and viola da gamba.  The Rose Ensemble is also joined by special guests Voces8, the vibrant young a capella group from London, for a glorious, soaring sound.

Saturday, Dec. 25 at 5pm
Carols for Dancing

In the Middle Ages, lauda, villancicos, noëls and carols— all popular forms of dance song—became part of innovative celebrations of Christmas and then flowered during the Renaissance.  At Christmastime, these cheerful songs accompanied joyful dancing at home and in the streets, in churches and cathedrals. Showcasing vigorous performances by Renaissonics, an award-winning improvisatory Renaissance dance band that produced new arrangements for this special, the program also tells the story of the mid-winter holiday dance tradition with brief, intriguing narratives by Ellen Kushner.

Saturday, Dec. 25 at 6pm
Noël - A Christmas from Paris

The celebrated Westminster Choir from Princeton takes listeners on a musical Christmas tour, from medieval Paris to the present day, with host Bill McGlaughlin.

Saturday, Dec. 25 at 7pm
Best of Holiday Pops
Ron Della Chiesa hosts an evening of the best of the Boston Pops holiday recordings, beginning with Arthur Fiedler in 1937, the "Skater's Waltz" by Waldteufel, through the tenure of John Williams all the way to the latest download conducted by Keith Lockhart, the "12 Days of Christmas" by David Chase.

Saturday, Jan. 1 at 11am & Sunday, Jan. 2 at 3pm
New Year's Day from Vienna
This annual celebration concert by the Vienna Philharmonic features the waltzes, marches, gallops  of the Strauss family and much more.  This year, following in the steps of fellow Austrians Clemens Krauss, Josef Krips, Willi Boskovsky, Herbert von Karajan and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the conductor is the Music Director of The Cleveland Orchestra, Franz Welser-Möst.  Join host Cathy Fuller for a festive entry into 2011!

Holiday Pops! Member Discount

Tuesday, December 7, 2010
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As a thank you for our WGBH and WGBY members, take 20% off the ticket price for December 22, 2010 Holiday Pops concerts!

Experience the wonder of a Holiday Pops concert this season. For a few weeks in December, historic Symphony Hall is transformed into a magical place for all ages as the Boston Pops perform the most beloved holiday music. Join together with the millions of other New Englanders and Bostonians to continue your family's tradition or start a new one. Order your tickets now to ensure you'll be a part of it all.

December 22, 2010 4PM
December 22, 2010 8PM

To secure your discounted tickets, visit The Boston Pops.

Requiems, Anniversaries, and Controversies

By James David Jacobs   |   Friday, December 3, 2010
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Dec. 4 & 5

Mozart died early in the morning on December 5, 1791. If you are even a casual Mozart fan, it's likely that you already knew that, and that you have a picture in your mind of what that event was like. While the movie Amadeus certainly contributed to this scene entering the public imagination, playwright Peter Shaffer is not to be blamed/credited for creating the mythology surrounding Mozart's death or the mystery and controversy surrounding it. In fact, the original stage play made it very clear that the events you see enacted are not intended to be factual history but a dramatization of the paranoid, solipsistic delusions that Salieri harbored in his state of increasing dementia in his last years - and the fact that he harbored these delusions is well documented history. The play is very stage-y and presentational and clearly an internal, psychological drama. The movie, however, felt like a biopic, and misinformed an entire generation of the truth surrounding Mozart's death - and his life, for that matter.

But before you start blaming Milos Forman and Hollywood sensibilities for distorting and rewriting history, consider that Pushkin wrote a short verse drama called "Mozart and Salieri" in 1830, while Mozart's wife Constanze was still very much alive!  (In the picture to the left, Constanze is the one in front on the left, wearing black. Maybe. Like so much else surrounding Mozart's life, this picture's authenticity has been disputed.)  This piece, in historical terms, leaves Shaffer and Forman in the dust: we see Salieri poison Mozart in front of our eyes. This drama, was, in turn, set as a one-act opera by Rimsky-Korsakov, who certainly knew that as history the story is nonsense, but as drama, especially as written by Pushkin, it's great theater. But, before you start saying that it's the Russians' fault that Mozart's story was distorted, perhaps you should take a look at what Constanze herself did in the weeks following Mozart's death.

Desperate to fulfill Count Walsegg's (a servant of whom was the real "grey messenger") commission so the balance of the fee could be collected, Constanze took Mozart's unfinished Requiem manuscript to several composers in the hope that they would complete the composition in a plausibly Mozartian style. In the end the job fell to Franz Xaver Sussmayr, a pupil of Mozart's whom some biographers allege was having an affair with Constanze while Mozart lay on his deathbed (there's another movie here, methinks...).  Sussmayr's handwriting was remarkably close to Mozart's, so the ruse worked, but it was not long before the truth was revealed, and the timing of this revelation was also designed to bring the surviving players maximum profit. And before we're done pointing fingers, let's go to Mozart himself: the opening bars of the work are obviously-more-than-coincidentally derivative of the opening of Handel's funeral anthem "The Ways of Zion do Mourn."  For the soprano solo on the words "Te Decet Hymnus," Mozart uses the same derivation of the tonus peregrinus that Bach used in both his Latin and German Magnificat settings, and was also used by several other German Lutheran composers of the 17th and 18th centuries, but has no direct connection with the Requiem text; and the first subject of the Kyrie fugue that follows is "borrowed" from another Handel work, one that's resounding all over Boston this weekend - "And With These Stripes" from Messiah. While this could all be more properly considered tribute than plagiarism, these kind of borrowings are very rare in Mozart's work, and his extensive use of appropriated materials that aren't very well hidden could be construed as a sign of haste. (Interestingly, the only other well-known example of Mozart doing this dates from the same period: the derivation of the theme of the overture to The Magic Flute from a piano sonata by Clementi.)

So Mozart's Requiem has been shrouded in murkiness, mystery, shadiness, deviousness, and just-plain weirdness from the beginning. One of the first people to try to unravel the mystery is Johannes Brahms, who was a significant musicologist as well as a composer. Brahms edited the Requiem for the first edition of Mozart's complete works, in which he carefully went through the score and marked M for those parts composed by Mozart and S for those parts by Sussmayr. This wasn't as difficult as it sounds: their handwriting was similar but not identical, and before he died Sussmayr himself pretty thoroughly documented who wrote what. So we've had access to a pure-Mozart torso for well over a century, and you'd think -- well, at least I'd think -- that somewhere in there someone would be curious to hear what that unadulterated torso sounds like. We've had other completions by various musicians (including Harvard's own Robert Levin) attempting to correct Sussmayr's clumsy orchestration and voice-leading; while these are perhaps more skillful than the traditional version, their existence and proliferation via recordings just adds more layers of inauthenticity and takes us even further from Mozart's text. For years I had been thinking how much I'd love to produce a performance of the torso, to be appreciated much the way we appreciate the Venus de Milo (who would think of adding arms?), so I was delighted to discover while exploring WGBH's wonderful library that someone did indeed record the torso (most of it, anyway - the Offertorium is inexplicably missing.) It forms the filler on a CD of Rimsky-Korsakov's Mozart and Salieri, appropriately enough, and was recorded by the Frankfurt Kantorei and Radio Symphony Orchestra back in the anniversary year of 1991. On Sunday morning we'll hear it, as well as the movement of Handel's Funeral Anthem that inspired the opening movement.

Hearing the work in this form, in which the choral and vocal parts are complete and the instrumental parts are incomplete, frequently just a bass line, underscores how essentially choral the piece is: it sounds uncluttered, with the essential musical materials all there. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this version after you hear it on Sunday.

In the first hour we'll celebrate Hanukkuh with music from the Boston Camerata's album "The Sacred Bridge: Jews and Christians in medieval Europe", which the Camerata will be recreating live Sunday afternoon in an already sold-out concert at Longy School of Music's Pickman Hall. Also, since there are only a few more weeks to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers, we'll hear selections from that work that are settings from the Old Testament (the sensuously devout Song of Songs).

On Saturday we'll play another Requiem, this time to celebrate a birthday: Andre Campra was baptized 350 years ago on December 4, 1660. Campra was the greatest French opera composer in the generation between Lully and Rameau, is credited with bridging the forms of opera and ballet, and, by virtue of living and composing to the age of 83, bridged several stylistic trends, which are evident in the beautiful Requiem - a uniquely French approach to the text that at times astonishingly anticipates the Requia of Faure and Durufle.

Saturday's Kid's Classical Hour is devoted to family connections in music, and we'll salute a great local musical family - as well as take one more chance to celebrate Schumann's 200th birthday - by playing a new recording of the Trio in G minor performed by the Weilerstein Trio - father Donald playing violin, mother Vivian playing piano, and daughter Alisa playing cello.

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