Critic’s Choice for 2019-2020

September 5, 2019 at 11:07 am

By Aaron Keebaugh and Jonathan Blumhofer

Daniil Trifonov will perform a recital for the Celebrity Series March 15, 2020. Photo: Dario Acosta

Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Music of Warshaw, Schillinger, Carpenter, and Weill. October 4

The Boston Modern Orchestra has long been shedding light on forgotten and underplayed modernist works. Their season opener will feature little-heard music written in and inspired by the Roaring Twenties. Joseph Schillinger’s First Airophonic Suite, to be heard on the program, was one of the first large-scale pieces to use a theremin, an instrument that Dalit Warshaw incorporates in her recent concerto Sirens, which will receive its world premiere. The orchestra will also perform two jazz-age scores by John Alden Carpenter—Krazy Kat, inspired by the popular comic of the era, and Skyscrapers, a ballet that captures in the music the cityscapes of both New York and Chicago. Kurt Weill’s 1929 suite from the Threepenny Opera rounds out the program. Gil Rose conducts. (AK) bmop.org

A Far Cry. American Noir. November 1.

The Criers invariably construct fascinating programs. This one promises a gripping pairing of works by mid-20th-century immigrants to the United States—Igor Stravinsky, Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold—alongside pieces by some of their native-born contemporaries (George Walker, Vivian Fine, and Samuel Barber). (JB) afarcry.org

Los Angeles Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor. Celebrity Series. November 23

The most memorable event of last season was Gustavo Dudamel leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic in fresh interpretations of mid-20th-century masterworks. The dynamic conductor and the orchestra return to the Celebrity Series this fall with the Boston premiere of John Adams’s piano concerto, Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?, which will spotlight Yuja Wang as soloist. The rest of the program promises to bring equal intensity as Dudamel leads Ginastera’s Variaciones Concertante and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. (AK) celebrityseries.org

Boston Camerata. The Play of Daniel. January 25, 2020.

Five years ago, the Boston Camerata presented director Anne Azéma’s production of The Play of Daniel, a bold new take on the medieval liturgical drama that cast many of its chants in zesty, period appropriate dance rhythms. The heart of the production, though, was its tale of faith and deliverance, elements that still make Daniel a timely human drama.  In January, Azéma and her troupe will revive The Play of Daniel in a single Boston performance. (AK) bostoncamerara.org

Daniil Trifonov. Celebrity Series. March 15

With his sparkling technique and probing musicianship, Daniil Trifonov is the living continuation of the legendary Russian piano school. When he returns to the Celebrity Series this March for a solo recital, he will bring a program that mixes romantic bombast with Baroque introspection. Settings of Bach’s music by Brahms, Liszt, and Rachmaninoff will be heard alongside The Art of Fugue, music where power and grace merge. (AK) celebrityseries.org

Ryan Turner will conduct Emmanuel Music in Kurt Weill’s The Firebrand of Florence May 20. Photo: Emmanuel Music

Boston Symphony Orchestra; André Raphel, conductor.  Music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, William Grant Still, and Uri Caine. March 19-21.

Last season’s concert of music by (mainly) African-American composers was brilliantly played and rapturously received, though, owing to its one-night-only, “special concert” status felt a bit dutiful. Happily, this year the orchestra’s repeating and broadening the concept into a full, three-night subscription series, playing Coleridge-Taylor’s Petite Suite de Concert, Still’s Symphony no. 1 (Afro-American), and capping things off with Caine’s The Passion of Octavius Catto. There’s still work to be done to truly integrate this repertoire into the canon, but programming like this is a valuable first step. (JB) bso.org

Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana. Odyssey Opera. April 11.

Odyssey Opera’s season-long survey of Tudor-themed stage works brings Britten’s 1953 coronation opera to Boston for a rare live performance. Anna Caterina Antonacci sings Queen Elizabeth I and Gil Rose conducts; the remainder of the cast remains TBA. (JB) odysseyopera.org

Angela Gheorghiu. Celebrity Series. April 26

Angela Gheorghiu, a supreme Tosca and Violetta, possesses a voice of impressive range and dark color. In April, the celebrated Romanian soprano will make her long awaited Boston recital debut with a program of songs and arias by Pergolesi, Rameau, Bellini, Tosti, and Brediceau. (AK) celebrityseries.org

Boston Chamber Music Society. World premiere of Joan Tower’s Viola Quintet. April 26

Recent seasons have witnessed performances of several of Joan Tower’s best-known orchestral works. But her chamber music, with its varieties of color and texture, remain largely unexplored in Boston. The Boston Chamber Music Society will shed new light on Tower’s chamber music in April with the world premiere of her Viola Quintet, “Purple Rain.” Written for the BCMS, the fifteen-minute score continues the composer’s fascination with the viola in a more intimate context. Rounding out the program will be Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen and Dvořák’s Piano Quintet, Op. 81. (AK) bostonchambermusic.org

Kurt Weill’s The Firebrand of Florence. Emmanuel Music. May 30.

Kurt Weill’s stage works rarely come to Boston, which makes Emmanuel Music’s season-closing presentation of Weill’s The Firebrand of Florence so special. Written in 1945 and with lyrics by Ira Gershwin, the infrequently-performed operetta follows the adventures of the 16th-century jack-of-all-trades Benvenuto Cellini. Ryan Turner conducts. (JB) emmanuelmusic.org

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