Composers On Vacation II: At The Beach

Claude Debussy's idea of beachwear

Claude Debussy’s idea of beachwear

Writing the last post suddenly reminded me of the old summertime staple that used to get a lot of spins on my classical-radio stops along the way:  American composer Virgil Thomson‘s charming little ditty “At The Beach,” recorded on a classical Nonesuch LP of “Cornet Favorites” by Gerard Schwarz in his trumpet-playing days, with William Bolcom at the piano….

 

 

Truth To Power I: Beethoven Egmont Overture

 

Now all of the evidence is finally out – a collection of videos from the final concert in the New England Conservatory’s ambitious season-long series of thematic presentations called Truth to Power. Some absolutely cracking performances by Hugh Wolff and the NEC Philharmonia at Symphony Hall, with Yr Hmbl Srvnt as the video director/producer struggling to catch up.

We produced – and I’ve posted – the videos in reverse order from the actual concert.  But now you can see how it began: With this blast of Beethoven.  Enjoy!

 

Frühbeck the Magician…

My first introduction to the work of the legendary Spanish conductor, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (1933-2014) was a scratchy old recording of Carmina Burana – which was, and remains, one of the great interpretations of the Carl Orff megahit.

CarminaBurana

The Original 1966 release of Carmina Burana from Fruhbeck de Burgos and the New Philharmonia Orchestra

Coming back to Boston decades later, I quickly came to understand – and even witness first hand – the special relationship between Frühbeck and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He guest-conducted the orchestra at both Symphony Hall and at Tanglewood every year from 2000 until just last November, and his performances tended to be Big Momentous Events – like conducting the Mahler Symphony No. 2 on Tanglewood’s Opening Night in 2002, opening the Symphony Hall season with the Verdi Requiem that same year, last summer’s All-Tchaikovsky Opening Night at Tanglewood with violinist Joshua Bell.  But if I had to pick the most memorable performance of his during my time overseeing the BSO broadcasts, it would have to be his utterly idiomatic and captivating concert performance of Manuel De Falla’s La Vida Breve, with an outstanding mostly-Spanish cast that even included cantaor (Spanish folk singer) Pedro Sanz; flamenco guitarist Antonio Reyes, and the show-stopping flamenco dancer Núria Pomares Rojas

Nuria Pomares Rojas

Flamenco dancer Nuria Pomares Rojas

Oh, and on the first half of the program?  The Suite Española by Isaac Albeniz, a piece that was originally a suite for solo piano that Frühbeck himself orchestrated half a century ago!  And to top it off, the next night he was back on the podium to close out the Tanglewood season with the traditional performance of Beethoven’s 9th.

Part of the Frühbeck de Burgos mystique with the BSO was the fact that he apparently held the record for the longest stint BETWEEN appearances with the orchestra:  He made one brief guest appearance with the orchestra in 1971, and wasn’t on the podium again until almost 30 years later!  But what a difference a few decades make: legend has it that at the traditional end-of-season poll of the BSO players at Tanglewood, Frühbeck received the highest rating ever of guest conductors after his “return engagement” in 2000.  No wonder he was asked back every year after that!

Unfortunately, no video of Frühbeck to share with the BSO, but plenty of audio, including last summer’s Tanglewood Opening Night performance with Joshua Bell, as well as another gem: the following night’s reading of Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 3, with Anne-Sofie von Otter as the shimmering soprano soloist, the PALS Children’s Chorus joining the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and BSO Principal Trumpet Thomas Rolfs “pulling out the old Posthorn” for an incredible sound on a sweltering summer night.

And thanks to YouTube, you can see a clip of Núria Pomares Rojas together with Frühbeck and the Mariinsky Orchestra in the 2nd act flamenco from La Vida Breve.  

And there’s lots of terrific video evidence of Frühbeck’s work with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, where he was chief conductor for the past two and a half seasons….including his own arrangement of Granada from the Suite Espanola

RIP, Frühbeck.

Remember My Name: Courtney Lewis To the New York Philharmonic

lewis_courtney_225x168Nice to see 29-year old Courtney Lewis of the terrific Boston chamber orchestra Discovery Ensemble get an appointment as the Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic.   Seeing the Belfast-born Courtney in action – in our WGBH Fraser Performance Studio, in live concerts, and in interviews – I’m convinced he’s a great talent, and a genuine Good Guy to boot.  It seems the NY Phil Music Director Alan Gilbert

 “We discovered Courtney Lewis after an extensive audition process, and he emerged as a very promising future colleague as our next Assistant Conductor,” – 

Bravo, Courtney, and good luck in New York!  You can read the entire press release here.

And click here to hear Courtney lead the band in their season-opening live broadcast concert from October 2012.

Discovery Ensemble in Concert

 

Kenneth Alford’s “Fore” Thought

Marking the birthday of British bandmaster Kenneth Alford (1881-1945) today with an insight into what inspired his most famous piece, the WWI-era classic “Colonel Bogey.”   New England Brass Band leader Stephen Bulla had a fascinating insight into where he got the idea for the two-note theme:

The “Fore” Thought behind “Colonel Bogey” by RoeDeo

 

So, naturally, a few “links” to share.   First, check out this charming flashmob performance by the British Army Band on the streets of Cardiff, Wales:

And here’s more of Bulla and the New England Brass Band in action, from that Fraser Performance Studio appearance…

Click this link to hear the entire performance:  The New England Brass Band In Concert The New England Brass Band

A Winter’s Journey II: Eschenbach and Wakao play “Das Wirsthaus”

So it’s the middle of January. Inspired by the ATC tale in yesterday’s post, a few more “Winterreise” entries this week. This time, it’s pianist and conductor Christoph Eschenbach in our WGBH Fraser Performance Studio, recalling his difficult childhood in war-torn Europe, and launches into a performance with Boston Symphony Orchestra Associate Principal oboist of a transcription of “Das Wirtshaus” (The Inn) from Schubert’s song-cycle “Winterreise.” Cathy Fuller is the WCRB Classical New England host.

Happy New Year!

Soprano Courtney Huffman and baritone Andrew Garland in Bach's wonderful "Coffee Cantata."
Soprano Courtney Huffman and baritone Andrew Garland in Bach’s wonderful “Coffee Cantata.”

A grand time had by all with Boston Baroque and conductor Martin Pearlman, ushering in 2014 with a live all-Bach concert at Sanders Theatre we’re sharing live with the nation via PRI.  Hard to believe that it’s my last radio production for the foreseeable future, so had to snap some “stage-side” shows to mark the occasion.    The audio for the entire program may be found below, thanks to the wizardry of online producer (and broadcast co-host) Brian McCreath, engineer Antonio Oliart Ros, and producer Alan McLellan.  Thanks, friends….let’s hope this great tradition continues!

Violinist Christina Day Martinson and recorder player Aldo Abreu are the soloists with Martin Pearlman leading Boston Baroque
Violinist Christina Day Martinson and recorder players Christopher Krueger and Aldo Abreu are the soloists in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 with Martin Pearlman leading Boston Baroque

 

Bows for conductor and soloists...

Post-Brandenburg bows for conductor and soloists …

WCRB's Cathy Fuller chats live with Martin Pearlman

WCRB’s Cathy Fuller chats live with Martin Pearlman