Re-Learning the New. The Emerson String Quartet Performs works by Ives, Janáček, Barber and Shostakovich
Twentieth century music is generally associated with atonality and avant-garde experimentation; this is not necessarily an untrue association, and many of Friday evening’s composers are specially known for their forays into these movements. The music is not without its own narrative, its own tonal lexicon and rationale that somehow culminates in a cohesive thesis. All of Friday evening’s music was older than fifty years old, and it was striking to hear how much of this music has been adapted in to the collective idiom in the twenty-first century.
Reading too many I Saw You MIT posts making you feel angsty? If you feel like you’re still going through the same tensions of high school over and over again, you’ll probably fit right in with The Postelles and The Kooks, two bands whom, although grown-up now, are still rehashing the trials and tribulations of their young romances. They certainly don’t take those pains too heavily though, both bands pairing their cheekily tortured lyrics with upbeat rock and roll.
With all of the drama and lack of a permanent conductor at the BSO, the orchestra found an opportunity to do something completely out of the ordinary for their concert series from January 21–24. The entire first half of the program consisted of different sections of the orchestra performing pieces for chamber-size groups — without a conductor. A conductor was eventually contracted for the second half of the concert and worked with the orchestra for the week leading up to the first performance. The second half of the concert featured Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, one of the most controversial yet brilliant pieces of repertoire in classical music.
Last Thursday’s French-themed program at the Boston Symphony Orchestra featured a fashion show to complement the performance of Debussy’s La Mer. Project Debussy, part of an annual fashion competition based on the works of a composer, featured eleven Debussy-inspired designs by local fashion students. This Project Composer series adds a new dimension to the usual symphony-goer’s experience, as couture and music — at least classical music — is rarely explored together.
In the non-Prince music section of the Purple One’s fan site Prince.Org last week, a contributor asked quite a pertinent question about The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill album and its world-renowned female rapper-author:
The Boston Symphony Hall hosted a very special event last Saturday. It featured not Dvorak, nor Bach, nor Mendelssohn, but instead video game pieces from almost 25 years of Final Fantasy scores. Even though this event did not attract Symphony Hall’s regular audience, the place was sold out. Symphony Hall was overflowing with Final Fantasy fans, many of them dressed as original characters from the game. A number of fans brought their copies of Final Fantasy soundtracks or games so they could get an autograph after the show.
Last Wednesday, over a thousand Zelda fans descended on San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall in the heart of the city. The event? The 25th anniversary celebration of one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchise: The Legend of Zelda. “Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses,” is a musical tribute to the history of Zelda and the great scores composed by Koji Kondo. The concert, directed by Irish conductor Eímear Noone, works with local musicians in each town to put together an entire orchestra to play the show.
On Sunday, November 18, Yellowcard played before a sold-out crowd in the Boston House of Blues after performances from special guests The Wonder Years and We Are the In Crowd. The concert lasted nearly two hours and consisted of a twenty-song setlist, three of which were performed during the encore.
Bobby McFerrin is a virtuoso, and his instrument is his own windpipe and chest. He is not a powerful singer, but he is a beautiful singer. Although he practices many forms of music (directing classics, singing duets with Yo-Yo Ma’s cello, etc.), he truly excels at just a few of them. The same can be said about his most recent concert in Boston. As part of a multi-city tour for his upcoming album “spirityouall”, and through the felicitous auspices of the Celebrity Series of Boston, Bobby McFerrin paid a visit to Beantown last Sunday, and treated a full Symphony Hall to an afternoon of good music.
The MIT Wind Ensemble (MITWE) scored a coup last Friday when PBS aired the television world premiere of MIT-produced documentary Awakening: Evoking the Arab Spring Through Music. The documentary featured MITWE’s performance of Awakening, composed by MIT alumnus Jamsheid Sharifi ’83. The piece is intended to encourage listeners to contemplate the movement that swept Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and other Arab countries. MITWE director Dr. Frederick Harris commissioned the piece from Sharifi, a renowned New York-based composer, who felt personally connected to the Arab Spring because of his Middle Eastern heritage.
The Scottish synth-pop band Chvrches (usually stylized as CHVRCHES) released their first EP Recover this March to very positive reviews, and just recently embarked on their first U.S. tour. Taking the London-based musical project Still Corners along with them, the band paid Boston a visit last month to play some of their acclaimed songs and present forthcoming album material.
To my left, the stormy horizon was just visible from underneath the sweeping white canopy of the Bank of America Pavilion. The sun had just sunk out of sight, its last glow illuminating the clouds with dark red and orange colors. Before me, the stage lights followed suit, letting the stage sink into darkness. A cool breeze drifted in. Behind me, the voices of five thousand people faded to an expectant murmur…
In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi, the celebrated Italian operatic composer, and in support of the relationship between Eni and MIT, the La Scala Chamber Orchestra performed a special MIT-exclusive concert at Kresge Auditorium on Oct. 7. The concert performance was proceeded with brief introductory remarks by MIT President Reif and Eni’s Chairman
Last semester, I went to my first MITSO concert to write a report for 21M.011 Introduction to Western Music. I remember enjoying the concert very much and wishing that I had known about MITSO performances earlier. Since I had somewhat put western classical music in the back of my mind, I decided to start off my Columbus Day Weekend by attending the first MITSO concert of the 2013–2014 season, in hopes of refreshing my musical knowledge. While I was perhaps only partially successful in that regard, the student orchestra was once again nothing short of spectacular.
There was no doubt the entire room was awaiting the legendary Yo-Yo Ma to take the stage at Boston Symphony Hall as the sold-out room stood with thunderous applause as he walked onto stage. Yo-Yo Ma’s presence was undeniably that of a prodigious musician as his first bow strokes of the cello resonated powerfully in the hall. French conductor Stéphane Denève engaged animatedly with Yo-Yo Ma in the intense Cell Concerto No. 1 in E-Flat, Opus 107 by Shostakovich.
Greeting the crowd with good wishes for the 20th day of Oktoberfest, mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile took the stage at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, playing a set of Bach compositions intermixed with bluegrass, jazz, and gospel jams of his own and by others. Setting out on the evening’s program, he described the set list as “Bach, ill-advisedly broken up and played with bits of stuff in between.”
Yuja Wang, moving vigorously to music in a bright red dress and silver stilettos, was a ball of life in stark contrast against the still black Steinway; her rapidly movwing fingers pulling powerful strings of melodies from the grand piano. Her fervent movements threw her hair dancing and accented the notes she drew from an instrument that she had clearly mastered. In her musical interpretation, it was clear her Tweet quoting Mahler, “Tradition is tending the flame, it’s not worshiping the ashes,” was deeply embedded into her modern, energetic style.
Upon entering Boston’s House of Blues on October 16th, the attendees were given a short pamphlet entitled “The Ten Droid Commandments”. Besides instructing the audience on how to get the most out of Janelle Monáe’s conceptual concert, the pamphlet also contained Monáe’s special request for the audience — to never reveal the show’s secrets to their friends. Before the Electric Lady appeared on the stage to actually share the mysterious secrets, Roman GianArthur (one of the key figures in the production and arrangement of Monáe’s albums) opened the show with a stellar musical and vocal performance. In addition to performing some of his own songs, he also delivered several fantastic covers, including MGMT’s “Electric Feel” and Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady”. Similarly to Monáe, his continuous communication with the audience and the ability to instill the “jam” factor into each of his songs made his appearance nothing less than mesmerizing.
Rumor has it they sold out within the hour. As soon as they started their first song, it’s easy to see why. The Fratellis, an indie rock band hailing from Scotland, played this past Sunday at the iconic Paradise Rock Club as part of their We Need Medicine Tour, promoting their new album which came out in October of this year.
Opening for Panic! at the Disco is a daunting task. Fans trickled into the venue after braving the biting Boston chill while waiting in a line that, quite literally, wrapped around the block. It’s hard to please an overly excited, impatient group of people who are here for the main act and would likely be content to skip your performance entirely.
It’s been almost a year since the Canadian-Danish duo Rhye released their critically acclaimed debut album Woman. Despite the lack of any new official material, lead singer Milosh paid a visit to Boston with his touring band last week and performed most of the album’s songs.
The MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble played a charming ten piece set last Saturday night, highlighted by the world premiere of an original composition, “Solace,” by Adrian M. Grossman ’14 and the first performance of Charles Mingus’ “Portrait” (1963) as arranged by Peter T. Godart ’15. Mark Harvey took over as a guest conductor for two of his compositions: “De-Evolution Blues” (2005) and “Saxophrenia” (2002).
Iceland’s population is just around 320,000 (which means the island has fewer inhabitants than Alaska), but the nation has an astonishingly high propensity for music. The country boasts ninety music schools, about four hundred choirs, four hundred orchestras and marching bands, and a vibrant scene in rock, jazz, and electronic genres.
The stage of Symphony Hall — usually packed with over a hundred Boston Symphony Orchestra performers — seemed empty on Sunday evening, as it had nothing but one grand piano. But that all changed when Evgeny Kissin released the first chord of Franz Schubert’s Sonata No. 17. The sheer power of that first note, which filled the entire Hall, marked the beginning of a night of phenomenal piano music.
Over lunch on the day of their first Beethoven String Quartet Cycle concert, I asked the members of the Jupiter String Quartet what makes their string ensemble unique. They answered that unlike many other musical ensembles, all the instruments in the string quartet are from the same family, meaning each voice blends uniquely with the others. The Jupiter String Quartet’s third Beethoven Cycle concert last Friday was dramatic validation of their answer.
How would you feel if you went to a concert where a performer dressed as an aerobics instructor with tights, a wig, and glittery shorts asked you to repeat, “I am not a woman, I am not a man, I am both, I am neither, if you don’t like it, take a breather?”
One of the benefits of attending a concert by a new-ish band is that you get to hear their whole repertoire. For Foster the People, this included songs from their second album Supermodel, their first album Torches, B-sides from both albums, and everything in between.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra is one of the country’s five major symphony orchestras, and because they feature a new lineup of pieces and performers weekly, there is always something new to see. Earlier this month, the concert conducted by Stefan Asbury and Ken David Masur consisted of four pieces arranged strategically to depict the show’s central theme: vitality.
When you hear Igor Stravinsky’s name, what comes to mind? For most, it would be the Rite of Spring, a revolutionary work that sparked a riot the night of its premiere. For others, the name may conjure up visions of Petrushka or the supernatural Firebird Suite. What is definitely not associated with Stravinsky is Johann Sebastian Bach, the master of fugue and counterpoint, whose groundbreaking musicality was deeply rooted in the German Baroque tradition. That is, unless you know the story behind Stravinsky’s Concerto in E-flat for chamber orchestra.
World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma has done more than create music with his Silk Road Ensemble — he’s united the world with an innovative approach to cross-cultural exchange. His eclectic group, which performed at Symphony Hall as part of the Celebrity Series of Boston last Wednesday, consistently breaks down the borders of music. Featuring instruments, composers, and musicians from every corner of the globe, the Silk Road Ensemble performed six original pieces — at times scattered, but thoroughly vibrant and entertaining.
At the end of February, the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) held the last of four Northeast Quarterfinals of the season in MIT’s Kresge Auditorium. This was the ICCA’s 19th season of student a capella competitions, which have become increasingly popular due to the movie Pitch Perfect. And looking around, I could see the extent of a capella’s popularity — all of Kresge’s 1200 seats were filled with enthusiastic students and supportive families.
This past Friday, the Boston Camerata performed at Walker Memorial as part of the MIT Sounding Series sponsored by the MIT Center for Art, Science, and Technology. The night’s program was specifically commissioned for MIT and included some of the first performances (in the past 600 years or so) of newly reconstructed pieces from 14th-century French and Italian composers Guillaume Machaut, Johannes Ciconia, Francesco da Firenze, and others.
As part of the Celebrity Series of Boston, an initiative that brings famous performing artists to the Boston area, Arturo O’Farrill and Donald Harrison set the Berklee Performance stage aflame with flying fingers on the piano and alto sax, respectively. The pair and the Grammy winning Afro-Latin Jazz orchestra (founded by O’Farrill himself) had audiences shimmying in their seats during a performance that earned three standing ovations.
Nothing says summer quite like jazz: they are both relaxed yet spontaneous, fun, and lively. The annual Cambridge Jazz Festival took place this year on July 26. Located in University Park (just a couple of streets behind Simmons Hall), it was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The free festival drew the attention of people from all different walks of life — young children and longtime jazz aficionados alike all sat together in the grass enjoying the live music and the sunshine.
Boston Calling took place in City Hall Plaza this past weekend, and the entire area buzzed with energy and excitement the whole time. Surrounding the two stages were dozens of tents where local companies and vendors sold food, flower crowns, and handed out samples. People flowed in and out between performances, but there was also a constant, huge mass of people right in front of the stages, waiting for the next performer to come out. The energy increased greatly during performances, fed by both the performers’ and the crowd’s excitement to be there. The crowd danced and sang along with the performers, all whilst cheering, tossing around beach balls, and waving their arms and blue light sticks along to the music (in the attempt to join the camaraderie, someone even waved his crutch instead). Boston Calling is truly an event that captures the youthful and fun personality of Boston.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra opened its first concert of the season in a fashion that reflected the all-Russian program: quick and to the point. Upon entering, conductor Andris Nelsons was greeted with a standing ovation; however, the audience barely had time to sit down before the BSO began Shostakovich’s playful Ninth Symphony. It was easy to appreciate the lightness of the strings and winds juxtaposed with the fanfare of the brass. I found myself captivated by Nelsons’ conducting, which conveyed excitement and scrutiny to detail, and the way the orchestra responded in kind. Navigating through Shostakovich’s bright Allegro, his eerie Moderato, and his loud Presto, the musicians demonstrated their versatility in both technical and emotional depth.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra moves from strength to strength, following its successful season opener with another exceptional program — putting together a new composition by Sebastian Currier, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, and a particularly spellbinding rendition of Brahms’ Symphony No. 2.
Given that this was my first time at the Boston House of Blues, I was underwhelmed by the grimy building and the barely filled general admission section. Was this really the iconic Boston venue that had been graced by artists like Miley Cyrus, Chance the Rapper, and this time, the Cold War Kids?
The Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra is a vibrant group of 12- to 21-year-olds who devote their Saturday afternoons to practicing together and putting up roughly three performances a year. Many are currently in college as well, including MIT freshman Jueun Lee on the cello. Formed in 2012 as an offshoot of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, BPYO aims to provide opportunities for young musicians to grow.
After the captivating live rendition of “Goddess Eyes I,” Julia Holter smiled to the audience and remarked that the only thing she could see that night in the background of Allston’s dimly-lit Great Scott was the live stream of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders’ Democratic presidential debate on TV. The audience immediately burst into laughter.
Almost every single seat in MIT’s intimate Killian Hall recital space was filled last Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, for Grammy-award winning tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano’s performance.
Jazz is defined by its malleability. Every arranger brings his own style to well-worn standards, and Danilo Pérez is no different. The Panamanian pianist brought a distinctively Latin style to some respected standards from four jazz greats: Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Mongo Santamaria, and Ella Fitzgerald. He's collected a set of world-class musicians to realize his artistic goals, spawning Jazz 100, a celebration of the centennial birthdays of the four legends.
An evening listening to a solo piano recital by internationally renowned pianist Imogen Cooper is therapeutic for the soul. Cooper stepped out onto the stage, greeted warmly by applause. Her first piece, “The Virgin of Frydek” by Leoš Janáček, was performed with sublime tenderness, a sensitivity that is carried through her performance.
Thursday’s concert opened to the quaint charms of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. The prelude conjured the image of a forest in the natural, rural world and the flutes carried this atmosphere well. The main themes of the clarinet and flute parts were dreamlike and serene, a strange juxtaposition with Zander’s animated conducting during the more invigorating passages.
What Makes It Great? with Rob Kapilow and NEC Philharmonia — Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston NEC Jordan Hall Dec. 2, 2016
His homemade YouTube videos reflect one of the great things about MIT: the boldness to innovate and a humane compassion for the world.
The Danish String Quartet has drawn critical praise for its performances since its 2002 debut at the Copenhagen Summer Festival. Its four members--violinists Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen and Frederik Øland, violist Asbjørn Nørgaard, and cellist Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin--are renowned for their wonderful balance in their performances, a difficult feat to pull off. I confess that I am indifferent to string quartets but the Saturday evening performance warmed me up to the sound and timbre of strings.
Two guys walk into a bar. They might even be frenemies, as pianist Aaron Diehl joked to the audience, but they would have something in common—jazz-imbued music. If Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton and George Gershwin had met in history, the result would be spectacular.
The concert opened with the gorgeously sultry voice of Joanna Teters, after which Collier took the stage and jumped right into an energetic performance “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing.” Of course, the Stevie Wonder cover was Jacob Collier-ified with jaw-dropping harmonies and an array of instruments from tambourine to upright bass — every single one of which he ran around playing himself.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime musician with a profound sense of the strong connection between emotions and music as a communicative vehicle. Every magical moment, spontaneous or planned, is grounded in a deep understanding of music through the lens of emotions.
I am not religious, but when I heard this music, I could understand a little better how it feels for those who are. When Krauss’s voice rises on the line “In your love, I find release/ A haven from my unbelief,” it’s like you can feel a presence wrapping around you.
This was a performance to be reckoned with. The performers delivered all of the emotion and story-telling of an opera wordlessly, telling the history of a people with their instrumentation. While the piano concerto was dramatic and, for lack of a better term, very Beethoven-esque, it was blown out of the water by the majesty and conflict of “The Year 1905.”
Right from conductor Adam K. Boyles’ downbeat, MIT Symphony Orchestra (MITSO) delivered a brilliant performance, featuring Beethoven’s “Coriolan” Overture and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, as well as Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in E minor, by MITSO’s own Bertrand Stone ’18.
But as with real life, it doesn’t always end how you expect it to, sometimes in the form of a soloist giving a touching soliloquy, sometimes a triumphant explosion of sound, and sometimes, sad chords brought on another theme, but always flowing.
She was restless, though; and she looked as if she was searching for something. Only when she smiled a bit, turned, and without the mic delivered a note as high and strong as the ones with the mic, the playful twinkle in her eyes settled into a look of satisfaction of a performance well delivered.
Soon, the empty stage, with a beautiful, defunct organ for backdrop, would be graced by the presence of the most well-known and widely praised period-instrument quartet of the day. Quatuor Mosaïques, an Austrian ensemble that came together 30 years ago, distinguishes itself with its singular use of gut-stringed instruments, specializing in the music of the 18th century.