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Music and Recordings

Lincoln Center Great Performers Presents

Russian Dreams: The Music of Sergei Prokofiev


Monday, March 23, 2009 at 8:00

Avery Fisher Hall

London Symphony Orchestra

Valery Gergiev, conductor

Vladimir Feltsman, piano

All-Prokofiev program


Symphony No. 1 in D major, Op. 25 (“Classical”)

Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16 

Symphony No. 6 in E-flat minor, Op. 111


Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 8:00

Avery Fisher Hall

Pre-concert lecture, A Tale of Three Cities: Petrograd, Paris, Moscow, by Harlow Robinson at 6:45, Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse

London Symphony Orchestra

Valery Gergiev, conductor

Vadim Repin, violin

All-Prokofiev program


Symphony No. 2 in D minor, Op. 40

Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19

Symphony No. 7 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131

Michael Miller March 28, 2009
Now that Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra have completed the first half of their traversal of Prokofiev's symphonies and a selection of his concerti for piano and violin, one can catch one's breath, assimilate some of the rarely-heard music that has been played, and ponder this exciting new partnership of orchestra and conductor. It is, after all, Gergiev's first tour with the LSO as principle conductor, and, since Prokofiev, ever versatile, explored so many different strategies of structure, texture, and orchestration, these concerts are a remarkable opportunity to become familiar with Gergiev's way with the London musicians. Not that "familiar" is quite an appropriate word: Mr. Gergiev has a unique gift for surprising his audiences—for making them gasp in admiration at some unexpected turn or gesture. His concerts are always an adventure. Read more.

John Harbison, Winter's Tale (1974, rev. 1991)
First complete performance of the revised version
[See Michael Miller's review of Bridge Production of Shakespeare's play.]

Opera in two acts
Based on the play by Wiliam Shakespeare
Libretto by John Harbison

Boston Modern Orchestra Project, conducted by Gil Rose, March 20, 2009
Concert performance in celebration of the composer's 70th birthday featuring

Leontes - David Kravitz, baritone
Hermione - Janna Baty, mezzo-soprano
Paulina - Pamela Dellal, mezzo-soprano
Florizel - Matthew Anderson, tenor
Perdita - Anne Harley, soprano
Time - Dana Whiteside, bass
Antigonus - Christian Figueroa, tenor
Camillo - Paul Guttry, bass
Polixenes - Aaron Engebreth, baritone

Charles Warren March 30, 2009
John Harbison is a composer of international importance and deserves, and gets, performances and honors everywhere.  But it is especially appropriate that Boston honor him, on this the occasion of his seventieth birthday, because he has given so much to the city as teacher, founder and leader of musical groups, promoter of music’s importance, encourager of young musicians, and, yes, composer.  Boston’s many musical organizations, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, have turned to Harbison over the years for new pieces and been supplied with plenty that have meant a great deal to audiences here—chamber ensemble works, vocal works, symphonies.  In the concert of March 20th, the formidable Boston Modern Orchestra Project, led by Gil Rose, presented in concert version Harbison’s early opera Winter’s Tale, based on the Shakespeare play.  And though at the end the audience reception was very warm for all concerned, the greatest applause went to the composer. Read more.

The Mendelssohn Bicentennial: Crescendo presents rarely heard gems from frère et soeur 

March 21, 2009, First Congregational Church, Great Barrington, MA

S. Lachterman April 1, 2009
It is perfectly fitting that on J. S. Bach’s birthday (March 21) a tribute should be paid to two composers who lived a century later: Felix Mendelssohn (his bicentenary year), and his gifted sister, composer Fanny Hensel. By the early nineteenth century, Bach, who was viewed as an antique keyboard pedagogue, was to await Felix Mendelssohn’s revival of the St. Matthew Passion in 1829 for posthumous acclaim. Yet, both Felix (Mendelssohn-Bartholdy) and Fanny (Mendelssohn Hensel) wrote remarkable and beautiful choral works, assimilating an extraordinary palate of antiquarian musical idioms and styles. Their mastery of such Catholic and Lutheran idioms was largely owing to their common tutelage by Carl Friedrich Zelter, who imparted his love of Bach and Palestrina to this gifted musical pair. Read more.

Thomas Beecham: An Obsession with Music

by John Lucas 

Boydell Press, Melton, Woodbrige, Suffolk, Rochester, NY, 2008: 384 pages

Huntley Dent March 30, 2009
The inimitable Beecham. A London impresario who competed with him called him 'the bold bad baronet.' Toscanini was more pithy and called him 'pagliaccio,' a clown. In return Beecham dubbed him 'Toscaninny.'  At the turn of the century Beecham was willing to lose $5 million of his family's fortune, amassed by selling the world's most popular laxative, to personally fund a national opera for England. He bestrode the British musical scene with unflappable autocracy, yet it was also the  country he scandalously abandoned during the worst years of the Blitz. On returning from America, where he observed the war from a coddled distance, Beecham endured the last months of V-2 rocket attacks. His main concern was whether the blackout rules allowed him to smoke his cigar on the street at night. Read more.

Alice Tully Hall Opening Nights: Coming Home

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

Tuesday, February 24 at 7:30 PM
Alice Tully Hall


Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (formerly attr. Johann Sebastian Bach), Trio Sonata in C major for Flute, Violin and Continuo, BWV 1037
Felix Mendelssohn, Fugue in E-flat major for String Quartet, Op. 81, No. 4
Anton Webern, Six Bagatelles for String Quartet, Op. 9
Hugo Wolf, Italian Serenade for String Quartet
George Tsontakis, AnTHem for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Piano (CMS Commission, World Premiere)
Yan Maresz, Entrelacs for Flute, Clarinet, Cello, Bass, Piano, and Vibraphone
William Bolcom, Shakyamani for Piccolo/Flute, E Flat/B Flat Clarinets, Two Violins, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Piano, and Percussion (CMS Commission, World Premiere)
Ludwig van Beethoven, Septet in E-flat major for Winds and Strings, Op. 20

Charles Wadsworth, Wu Han, pianos; Jaime Laredo, violin; Paul Neubauer, viola; David Finckel (inidsposed), Gary Hoffman, Fred Sherry, cellos; Edgar Meyer, Kurt Muroki, double basses; Orion String Quartet (Daniel Phillips, Todd Phillips, violins; Steven Tenenbom, viola; Timothy Eddy, cello); Tara Helen O’Connor, Paula Robison, flutes; Jose Franch-Ballester, David Shifrin, clarinets; Milan Turkovic, bassoon; Radovan Vlatkovic, horn; Ayano Kataoka, percussion

Michael Miller March 22, 2009
Any one who did not experience the Upper West Side in the late 1960s, when Lincoln Center was nearing completion, or who has forgotten, might read Saul Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet. There was an apocalyptic feeling in the air—more palpable than anything the Bush administration tried to conjure up— as one negotiated panhandlers, muggers, hippies, and refuse, as one made one's way up and down Broadway. These public phenomena have not vanished, but New York had reached a peak of dysfunctionality, and western civilization seemed to be self-destructing at a fierce boil: cities were decaying around the country, reading and writing seemed doomed to obsolescence, tv was king, and a lot of people were worried about the cultural partnership of drugs and music. In a few sentences, Bellow conjures up what all this felt like on the street. Exposed glass walls seemed no more than an invitation to vandals, and check points were beginning to appear in the seedy lobbies of public buildings. Read more.

Paul Griffiths, The Substance of Things Heard - Writings about Music 

Eastman Studies in Music, no. 31, University of Rochester Press, Rochester; Boydell & Brewer, Suffolk, UK, 2005, $65.00

Michael Miller March 7, 2009
There is nothing more transitory than music. James Levine—ironically at his press conference launching the Boston Symphony Orchestra's new recording series—made an intriguing observation which reminded me most poignantly of that. A significant impulse in the recording project arose from their amazing performance of Brahms' German Requiem on Saturday, September 27, 2008, which, as he observed, arose from "A live excitement arising partly from the feeling everybody had had about the first one, which was good, but we knew we could make it better."  He also referred to the Daphnis and Chloé release as "a real, sophisticated souvenir of what you heard in the concert." A souvenir... I unfortunately was not on hand for the Ravel, but I retain a living memory of the Brahms as one of the truly great performances I have heard. Mr. Levine has made it clear that pains were taken over the recording, and I'm thrilled that a recording is available at all, but I ask will it live up to my memory? For that matter, which is more potent: a memory of an aural experience or a digital recording? Years ago I heard Sr Adrian Boult conduct the BBC Symphony in a performance of Schubert's "Great" C Major Symphony, and it impressed me as one of those rare pinnacles. A year or so later I managed to get hold of a well-made open-reel recording of the concert, and I could hear very little of what had thrilled me so much in the Albert Hall. Ever since listenable broadcast and recordings have been available, the music-lover has been conflicted between the evanescent revelations of the musical event and the desire to capture it for repeated listening—to possess it forever. Isn't the sensual experience of listening to a technological artifact a more reliable form of recollection than our emotion-laden memory? Or is it simply a distraction from our human recollection? Read more.

Tristan und Isolde

Richard Wagner

Libretto by the composer

Lyric Opera of Chicago,  January 27, 2009

Lyric Opera Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis conductor

Tristan --  Clifton Forbis

Isolde – Deborah Voigt

Brangäne – Petra Lang

Kurwenal – Jason Stearns

King Mark – Stephen Milling

Production designer – David Hockney

Lighting designer – Duane Schuler

Chorus Master – Donald Nally

Stage Director – José Maria Condemi

David Kubiak February 25, 2009
The history of opera in Chicago is old, and like that of the city itself varied and colorful. Performances are attested as early as 1850, and no less than six companies mounted productions in the first part of the twentieth century, in different venues, most notably Louis Sullivan’s great Auditorium Theater, now given over to musicals and university commencements, but the place where Tamagno and Sembrich, de Reszke and Fremstad, Caruso and Tettrazini once sang.  Women have always been important in Chicago operatic management.  Mary Garden was director of the resident company in 1910-11, when the French repertoire had pride of place; in 1954 socialite and amateur singer Carol Fox founded with Lawrence Kelly and conductor Nicola Rescigno what is now the Lyric Opera of Chicago, which gives its season in the massive Civic Opera House on Wacker Drive, built by utilities magnate Samuel Insull and opened on the eve of the Great Depression.  It was meant to be an egalitarian midwestern theater, where all the boxes are at the back.  Visitors are warned to opt for seats in the front portion of the orchestra or risk feeling that they are watching the stage from another planet. William Mason expertly heads the company today; his association with the Lyric began in the 1950’s when he sang the shepherd boy in Tosca. Read more.

Eugene Onegin

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Libretto by Tchaikovsky/Shilovsky

Metropolitan Opera, January 30, 2009
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Jirí Belohlávek conductor

Eugene Onegin - Thomas Hampson
Tatiana - Karita Mattila
Lensky - Piotr Beczala
Olga - Ekaterina Semenchuk
Prince Gremin - Sergei Aleksashkin
Larina - Wendy White
Filippyevna - Jane Shaulis
Triquet - Tony Stevenson
Captain - David Crawford
Zaretsky - Richard Bernstein
Dancer - Sam Meredith
Dancer - Linda Gelinas

Production - Robert Carsen
Designer - Michael Levine
Lighting Designer - Jean Kalman
Choreographer - Serge Bennathan
Stage Director - Peter McClintock

Michael Miller February 15, 2009
Robert Carsen and Michael Levine's Eugene Onegin is twelve years old, but one couldn't say that it is dated, exactly. On the other hand, some aspects of it go against the grain of Tchaikovsky's Pushkin adaptation, or at least raise a few questions. Tchaikovsky and his collaborator, using Pushkin's words, created one of the most successful libretti in all opera. The language is a joy to hear, and, while Tchaikovsky the composer repeats many phrases for musical and expressive reasons, the libretto remains a marvel of concision, especially for the nineteenth century. It compellingly romanticizes its original for Russian opera audiences of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, who saw both love and peasants differently from Pushkin's generation. Tchaikovsky had more sympathy for Tatiana's pure, naive infatuation, and for him Onegin was not so much a Byronic hero as a heartless cad. Read more.

Orfeo ed Euridice (Vienna version, 1762)
C. W. Gluck (1714-1787)

Libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi

Metropolitan Opera
January 24, 2009

Orfeo - Stephanie Blythe
Euridice - Danielle de Niese
Amore - Heidi Grant Murphy

Joshua Greene - Harpsichord

Conductor - James Levine

Production - Mark Morris
Set Designer - Allen Moyer
Costume Designer - Isaac Mizrahi
Lighting Designer - James F. Ingalls
Choreographer - Mark Morris

Michael Miller February 11, 2009
This production first appeared in May of 2007 with the American countertenor David Daniels singing the part of Orpheus (which was originally sung by a castrato alto), consistent with the choice of Gluck's original 1762 version by James Levine and Mark Morris. They also decided to exclude any interpolations from the 1774 Paris version, like the popular "Dance of the Furies." In this year's revival  the mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe sang Orpheus, compromising "authenticity" to take advantage of what this versatile Met regular could bring to the role. (Since castrati are no longer available today, authenticity to Viennese operatic conventions of the 1760's can be only relative. The mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux, who recently sang some castrato repertoire at Carnegie Hall—and whose 2003 Orpheus at the LA Opera has been warmly praised—has possible gone farther than anyone in recreating their style and spirit.) However, whatever purism there may be in this production lies mainly in the concentration and flow of the 1762 score. Maestro Levine, of course, appreciates this keenly and makes the most of it. What's more, his affection for its dramaturgical honesty and his delight the clean lines of its scoring were always apparent. This was Levine at his best, and the Met Orchestra played with exceptional precision and agility. Read more.

Simon Boccanegra

by Giuseppe Verdi


Boston Symphony Orchestra
James Levine conducting

Thursday, January 29, 8 pm, Saturday, January 31, 8 pm, Tuesday, February 3, 8 pm


José Van Dam, bass-baritone (Simon Boccanegra)

Barbara Frittoli, soprano (Amelia Grimaldi)

Marcello Giordani, tenor (Gabriele Adorno)

James Morris, bass-baritone (Jacopo Fiesco)

Nicola Alaimo, baritone (Paolo Albiani)

Raymond Aceto, bass (Pietro)

Garrett Sorenson, tenor (a Captain)

Diane Droste, mezzo-soprano (Amelia’s Maidservant)

Tanglewood Festival Chorus, John Oliver, conductor

Huntley Dent February 16, 2009
Strained relations. Wagner's Ring cycle was once famously described (by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, I believe) as a family quarrel. At least it's more than that, which might not be true of the plot to Verdi's troubled, vexing, and beautiful Simon Boccanegra.  Like several other operas in the Verdi canon, it comes to us as a late revision of a failed early work. Yet even though the revision called upon the considerable talents of Arrigo Boito, who coaxed the aged composer to write Falstaff and Otello by supplying him with irresistible words, Boccanegra is indecipherable. If your child can solve Rubik's cube, give him this story to  untwist.  More of that anon. Read more.

Music of the Other Germany
American Symphony Orchestra, Leon Botstein conductor

Sunday, January 25 at 3 pm, Avery Fisher Hall
Marjorie Owens, soprano

Hanns Eisler (1898-1962): Auferstanden aus Ruinen, Hymne der DDR (1949)

Rudolf Wagner-Régeny (1903-69): Mythological Figures (1951) – US premiere
I. Ceres

II. Amphitrite

III. Diana

Paul Dessau (1894-1979): In memoriam Bertolt Brecht (1957) – US premiere

I. Lamento

II. Marcia: "der Krieg soll verfluchtet sein."

III. Epitaph

Udo Zimmermann (born 1943): Sinfonia come un grande lamento, in memory of F. García Lorca (1977) – US premiere
I. Antiphon I

II. Psalm

III. Antiphon II

Hanns Eisler: Goethe Rhapsody (1949) – US premiere

Siegfried Matthus (b. 1934): Responso: Konzert für Orchester (1977) – NY premiere

I. Ostinato

II. Notturno

III. Ciacona

Michael Miller February 15, 2009

Leon Botstein attracted an impressive crowd to Avery Fisher Hall on the afternoon of Sunday, January 25, to hear him conducted the ASO in a program of extremely obscure music: orchestral works from "the other Germany," that is the German Democratic Republic (1949-1990), or East Germany. It is most unjust that this music is as neglected as it is today, since every work on the program was soundly constructed and interesting, even astonishing at times. All were worth a second or a third hearing, or even more. Fortunately most of the works on the program are available on CD.


You can stay in a chic Berlin hotel in which every detail of domestic design from the Communist era is faithfully reproduced, even as far as portraits of long-departed leaders of state. In the Ostel you can immerse yourself in the objects and the atmosphere of the GDR. You can even buy East German products in the Ostel's online shop to bring a bit of the GDR home with you. To support such an enterprise there must be considerable popular interest, certainly more than in East German high culture, the spirit of which is vividly represented by the music on Dr. Botstein's program. Read more.

Vivica Genaux, Mezzo-Soprano 

Members of the Venice Baroque Orchestra

Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall
Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 7:30 PM


Luca Mares,violin; Giuseppe Cabrio, violin; Alessandra di Vincenzo, viola; Francesco Galligioni, cello; Alessandro Sbrogiò, double bass; Ivano Zanenghi, lute

Antonio Vivaldi

Concerto in G Minor for Strings and Continuo, RV 152


"Sposa son disprezzata" from Il Tamerlano (Bajazet), RV 703

Johann Adolph Hasse

"Nelle cupe orrende grotte" from Senocrita


Concerto in D Major for Lute, Strings, and Continuo, RV 93

Riccardo Broschi

"Qual guerriero in campo armato" from Idaspe


Concerto in G Minor for Strings and Continuo, RV 156

George Frideric Handel

"Cara speme" from Giulio Cesare


Concerto in A Minor for Cello, Strings, and Continuo, RV 419


"Dopo notte" from Ariodante



"Lascia ch'io pianga" from Rinaldo


"Fammi combattere" from Orlando

Michael Miller February 10, 2009
The Alaska-born mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux has made Venice her home for some years now, and she is deeply involved in the baroque music world in Europe. For this reason her American appearances are all too rare, although we can look forward to hearing her sing Isabella in Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri with the Pittsburgh Opera in April and May and Arsace in Rossini's Semiramide at the Caramoor Festival in the second half of July. She came to Carnegie Hall fresh from a recording engagement in Florence: Vivaldi's Ercole sul Termodonte with David Daniels and other distinguished baroque singers with Europa Galante under the great Fabio Biondi. This past summer, Christian Steiner brought her to the Tannery Pond Concerts in New Lebanon, New York, where I first had the opportunity to hear this remarkable singer, scholar, and musician. Read more.

Berkshire Bach Society:

Bach (and Handel) at New Year's,
12/31/08 (Mahaiwe Arts Center, Great Barrington); 1/1/09 (Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield)

G. F. Handel, Concerto Grosso in B minor, Op. 6, No. 12

J. S. Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G major (BWV 1049)

J. S. Bach, Violin Concerto No. 2 in E major (BWV 1042)

Eugene Drucker, violin solo

J. S. Bach, Violin Concert No. 1 in A major (BWV 1041)

Joseph Silverstein, violin solo

J. S. Bach, Concerto in D minor for 2 Violins (BWV 1043)
Joseph Silverstein & Eugene Drucker, violin

J. S. Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2  in F major (BWV 1047)

Berkshire Bach Ensemble, Kenneth Cooper, harpsichord/director,
with Joseph Silverstein & Eugene Drucker, violin

Michael Miller January 17, 2009
If Tanglewood, Jacob's Pillow, and the theater festivals are great rituals for many seasonal residents and regular visitors, the Berkshire Bach Society's annual New Years concert'ss are the most cherished winter ritual. It is the most uplifting and comforting experience to hear the Brandenburgs at this time of transition—also a time of uncertainty this year. Some years Kenneth Cooper and the Berkshire Bach Ensemble offer just the Brandenburgs themselves, in other years two or three are combined with some other congenial and festive works by Bach, but there is always a surprise as well. It might be a variation of scoring or an unusual interpretation, or it might be the unscheduled Handel Concerto Grosso, played with an untraditional oboe and bassoon in the mix.Read more.

Remembering Ormandy – In Case You Were There, Too

The Original Jacket Collection: Eugene Ormandy (Sony Classics)

Huntley Dent January 28, 2009
Even before this 10-CD commemorative set was issued, I noticed a wash of nostalgia for Eugene Ormandy among baby boomers. He was inescapable for that generation, the progenitor of hundreds of LPs, only a sampling of which are contained here. Ormandy became Leopold Stokowski’s associate conductor at the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1936 and succeeded him two years later, beginning an unparalleled run of 44 years as music director before retiring in 1980, a reign no one will ever duplicate, or would want to. During that time Ormandy led the orchestra between 100 and 180 times a year. That, too, is a staggering statistic given that modern music directors, in their eagerness to spread themselves globally, are essentially long-term guests who drop in to visit their home orchestras for as little as a quarter of the regular season. Read more.

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Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809), portrait by Thomas Hardy, 1792
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