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Month: October 2017

Beethoven’s Third and Fourth Symphonies…Levine and the BSO

In October 1803, Beethoven’s student Ferdinand Ries wrote a publisher about the new Third Symphony: “In his own opinion it is the greatest work he has yet written. Beethoven played it for me recently, and I believe that heaven and earth will tremble when it is performed. He is very much inclined to dedicate it to Bonaparte.” Ries was speaking metaphorically, and, metaphorically, he was right. In the world of music, the Third did shake heaven and earth. As the longest, most complex, most intense, most personal symphony ever written, it met the inevitable incomprehension in its first performances, but within two years some critics were calling it the greatest symphony ever written and a model for the future.

Jan Swafford

About Jan Swafford

Jan Swafford (born 1946) is an American composer and author who teaches composition, theory, and musicology at the Boston Conservatory and writing at Tufts University. He earned his B.A. from Harvard College and his M.M.A. and D.M.A. from the Yale School of Music. He has written respected musical biographies of Charles Ives and Johannes Brahms, as well as the introductory Vintage Guide to Classical Music, and is often heard as a musical commentator on NPR and in Slate.

Swafford’s own music, which is highly lyrical and moves freely between tonality and atonality, has been called New Romantic in style. There are equal if less overt contributions from world music, especially Indian and Balinese, and from jazz and blues. The titles of his works reveal a steady inspiration from nature and landscape. The composer views his own work as a kind of classicism: a concern with clarity, directness, and expression, or as he puts it, “music that sounds familiar though it is new, works that sound like they wrote themselves.”

Notable are his orchestral works Landscape with Traveler (1979-80), After Spring Rain (1981-82) and From the Shadow of the Mountain (2001), the piano quintet Midsummer Variations (1985), the piano quartet They Who Hunger (1989), and the piano trio They That Mourn (2002), the last in memoriam 9/11. His music has won a number of awards including an NEA Composer Grant, two Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fellowships, and a Tanglewood Fellowship.

Swafford is currently working on a piece for solo cello and a biography of Beethoven.

Bibliography

Swafford, Jan (1992). The Vintage Guide to Classical Music. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0679728054.
Swafford, Jan (1998). Charles Ives: A Life with Music. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393317190.
Swafford, Jan (1999). Johannes Brahms: A Biography. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0679745822.

Wild, but Not Crazy Enough: Scorsese’s Shutter Island

It’s good news that somebody, let alone a director of Martin Scorsese’s calibre, has finally recognized the highly cinematic creepiness of the Boston Harbour Islands. The opening scenes of Shutter Island reminded me of school excursions to those islands, which have the feel of a mid-ocean archipelago, rather than land sheltered by a harbour. Thankfully, no school excursion ever went as badly as the one on the film. I always got off the island.

Alan Miller

About Alan Miller

Alan Miller is a graduate of the Sydney University Faculty of Architecture and holds a BFA in film from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. A fanatical cyclist, he is a former Sydney Singlespeed Champion. Alan Miller reports on cycling, film, architecture, politics, and other sports in his letters from Sydney. He won the 2011 Architects’ Journal Writing Prize.

A Singer’s Notes, 13: Youth Is Not Wasted on the Young – of Così Fan Tutte, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and Romeo and Juliet

Cosi Fan Futte is an opera I have sung often so I looked forward to going to The Dangerous Liaisons that Shakespeare and Co. has had up for some time now. The brittleness of the spoken play and the precipitous action constantly crowding scene into scene requires exquisite skill from the actors in this play. Mozart’s opera seems expansive and almost sweet next to it. Making the epistolary prose of Laclos into a working drama of reasonable length is not an easy task. The action has an awful purity which is only softened at the very end and given an almost romantic turn as the true lovers die in close succession.

Keith Kibler

About Keith Kibler

Twice a Fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center, Keith Kibler’s doctorate was earned at Yale University and the Eastman School of Music. He is one of the region’s most sought after teachers with students accepted at the New England Conservatory, the Juilliard School, Peabody and Hartt Conservatories, the Tanglewood Institute, and the Aspen Music School. Keith Kibler is an adjunct teacher of singing at Williams College.

Gil Rose talks to Michael Miller about contemporary music, BMOP, and the Opera Boston premiere of Madame White Snake

Gil Rose is best known for his leadership of two high-profile Boston organizations, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), one of the major supporters of contemporary music in America, and Opera Boston, which specializes in musically outstanding performances of operatic masterpieces which have been neglected by the mainstream houses. I know I’ll be eternally grateful to him and Opera Boston for my first opportunity to see Weber’s Die Freischütz, universally regarded as a seminal work in the history of opera and a great one, but rarely performed today. Just last year there were Shostakovich’s The Nose, and Rossini’s Tancredi, and now Opera Boston’s first commission of a new opera, Zhou Long’s Madame White Snake.

About Michael Miller

Michael Miller, Editor and Publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, was trained as a classicist and art historian at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the art world for many years as a curator and dealer, and contributed reviews and articles to Bostonia, Master Drawings, Drawing, Threshold, and North American Opera Journal, as well as numerous articles for scholarly and popular periodicals. He has taught courses in classics, the English language, and art history at Oberlin, Rutgers, New York University, the New School, and Williams. Currently, when he is not at work on The Berkshire Review and New York Arts, he writes fiction, pursues photography, and publishes scholarly work. In 2011 he contributed an introductory essay to Leonard Freed: The Italians / exh. cat. Io Amo L’Italia, exhibition at Le Stelline, Milan, and wrote the revised the section on American opera houses in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is currently at work on a libretto for a new opera by Lewis Spratlan, Midi, an adaptation of Euripides’ Medea set in the French West Indies, ca. 1930.

Renée Fleming, James Levine, and the Boston Symphony in Berg, Richard Strauss, and Mahler

Before getting into the program in detail, it’s worth noting that here again the BSO and New York Philharmonic programs overlap. While Levine in the Berg Three Pieces is returning to repertoire with which he has been closely associated for many years—music inspired by the composer of the main work, Gustav Mahler—Gilbert approached the same work as part of his ongoing exploration of the Second Vienna School, which has enriched his programming throughout the year, and, I’m sure, will continue throughout his career.

About Michael Miller

Michael Miller, Editor and Publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, was trained as a classicist and art historian at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the art world for many years as a curator and dealer, and contributed reviews and articles to Bostonia, Master Drawings, Drawing, Threshold, and North American Opera Journal, as well as numerous articles for scholarly and popular periodicals. He has taught courses in classics, the English language, and art history at Oberlin, Rutgers, New York University, the New School, and Williams. Currently, when he is not at work on The Berkshire Review and New York Arts, he writes fiction, pursues photography, and publishes scholarly work. In 2011 he contributed an introductory essay to Leonard Freed: The Italians / exh. cat. Io Amo L’Italia, exhibition at Le Stelline, Milan, and wrote the revised the section on American opera houses in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is currently at work on a libretto for a new opera by Lewis Spratlan, Midi, an adaptation of Euripides’ Medea set in the French West Indies, ca. 1930.

The Short, Fast Life of Jonathan Van Allen

Jonathan Van Allen’s family and staff had no time to grieve. The day after he was killed in an early morning, one-car accident they had to put on an elegant wedding reception at a restaurant that would soon be Jonathan’s third in South Berkshire County.

Nancy Salz

About Nancy Salz

Nancy Salz is a freelance writer living in Stockbridge, MA. She writes primarily on the arts for the Berkshire Review, the Advocate Weekly and other publications.

Walton’s Violin Concerto and Holst’s “The Planets” at the San Francisco Symphony with Dutoit and Barantschik

1939 must have been the year neoclassic front ranks gave up on William Walton. Here was the “English Stravinsky”, who had burst forth with silvery elbow-wit in “Facade” and scandalized church officials in “Belshazzar’s Feast.” More recently, his First Symphony had transformed telegraphic rhythm into sheer motorized power, gleaming and heartless. (only the finale, composed late and omitted at the premiere, had hinted at something more sensual and cinematic) The earlier Viola Concerto had parsed-out like the cleanest Hindemith, moving because of its beauty, but bereft of the senses.

About Steven Kruger

Steven Kruger is a former classical concert agent. For a number of years he supervised the roster of conductors at Shaw Concerts in New York City, representing such artists as Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Neville Marriner, David Atherton, Rafael Fruhbeck De Burgos, Jose Serebrier and Robert Shaw.

Born in New York City in 1947 to a German immigrant father and an American mother, Kruger is a descendant of Bach biographer Phillip Spitta. He was educated at Phillips Exeter and Princeton, and received his degree in Philosophy, but turned to music administration after a brief career as a military officer and as a stockbroker.

Early in his exposure to music, Kruger developed a special fondness for the British Symphonists, and as a concert agent was able to play a part in the revival of such composers as Elgar, Bax, Walton and Vaughan Williams during the late 1970s.

He continues today as an advocate for these and other great 19th and 20th century symphonic composers, such as D’Indy, Magnard, Schmidt and Tubin, who were at one time eclipsed by the mid-century fashion for academic music.
Now retired and living in California, Steven Kruger regularly
attends The San Francisco Symphony and reports upon those and other Davies Hall symphonic events. Since 2011, he has written program notes on a continuing basis for the Oregon Symphony, including their recent CD, “Music for a Time of War,” and has become a regular reviewer for Fanfare.

Vintage Beethoven, and a Rare Bruckner Varietal at Bard College, February 6, 2010

Leon Botstein’s performance of Beethoven’s Eroica was one of transcendent clarity, color, and musical balance. I believe the members of the American Symphony Orchestra were aware of how well they played, and how convincingly Mr. Botstein’s interpretation was executed.

Seth Lachterman

About Seth Lachterman

Seth Lachterman lives in Hillsdale, New York, which abuts the Berkshires in Massachusetts. While dividing his past academic career between music (composition and musicology) and mathematics, he has, over past three decades written original and critical works on the Arts. His essays have appeared in The Thomas Hardy Association Journal, English Literature in Transition, and poetry in The Raritan Quarterly. As a charter member and past president of the Berkshire Bach Society, he provided scholarly program notes for the Society’s concerts for over two decades. His Bach essays and reviews have been referenced in Wikipedia and have appeared in concerts at Ozawa Hall and the College of St. George, Windsor Castle.  Simultaneously, he has been a principal at Encore Systems, LLC, a software and technology consulting company. A president emeritus of Walking The Dog Theatre of Hudson, New York, he has invented a new technology for insuring privacy in text messaging and for social networking. In 2012, he founded UThisMe, LLC. to launch this new technology. Seth writes regularly for Berkshire Review of The Arts. When not listening to music, Seth Lachterman reads philosophy with a current interest in Heidegger.

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