It was with relief that I greeted the final number on the program. Undercurrent, set to music by Henryk Gόrecki, woke up, enlivening me, the audience at large and also seemingly the dancers who had previously drifted through a series of works that I found bland and somnolent. Undercurrent raised levels of power and energy with repeated prancing steps, first danced by groups of women and later by the company’s men.
Veteran opera critic Conrad L. Osborne delivers a lifetime’s worth of keen perceptions and stern judgements, all in quirky yet compulsively readable prose.
The string quartet literature is notable for throwing super-complex challenges at the players; after all, this is the most cohesive medium for ensemble playing, and quartets play together for years or decades and can polish their communication and coordination skills to the highest degree. For that reason, composers have striven their utmost to present path-breaking difficulties and daring quartets to conquer them. One sub-history of 20th/21st century music has been the interplay between quartet composers and the groups performing their music. The avatar of all of this is late Beethoven, whose Große Fuge pushed the boundaries of playability in its day, and whose late quartets were composed with the skills of the Schuppanzigh Quartet in mind.
Gary Ferrer’s Nothing Here is Real is an entertaining mash-up of what he refers to as “mentalism”—magic effects, including one it-almost-doesn’t-happen card trick, and cheery, crowd-pleasing patter designed both to engage the audience and turn its collective mind where he wants it to focus.
The first weekend of the 112th Bethlehem Bach Festival is behind us. Fortunately for those of us who weren't there for it the Festival has long adopted the policy of repeating the program over the following weekend, now coming up. Both weekends come close to selling out, but it should still be possible to purchase tickets for all events.
Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony are in fine form here, satisfying guides, as always, in their approach to the ironies and tragedies of the Shostakovich symphonies. Indeed, now that we know him well in Boston, it has become clear Nelsons is consistent there in the way he approaches music of this kind. But he illustrates, you might say, along with special romantic insights, the sins of his virtues. Nelsons is what Sir Thomas Beecham would have called a “ritardando” conductor. One notices this not so much in tempo variance as in the tendency to prepare for and draw out a cadence. Nelsons is not slow. But one is nearly always aware of a certain smoothness in transitions from phrase to phrase and a roundedness in the brass sonority he encourages from the BSO.
Benjamin Britten’s 1946 chamber opera, set in c. 600 BC when a wildly debauched Rome was under Etruscan rule, is accidentally prescient. As presented by New Camerata Opera, the work, intelligently directed by Bea Goodwin, makes the most of the abuse of male power, retelling a legend that has as much (maybe more) significance today than it ever did.
The evening provided a thoroughly engaging look at the creative process as it concerns choreographers, dancers, costume designers, music and a related exhibit that examines both antiquity and its relationship to the revered Ballets Russes.