Let’s recap the 2016 concert season

Dec 28, 2016

While technically still in 2015, New Year’s Eve last year was a warm First Night in St. Petersburg Florida, where I saw a few vocal concerts by local singers and a chorus in some old churches. Then I got stuck in traffic going back to Clearwater and watched the midnight beach fireworks from the rental car as I made my way back to the motel, so since the evening ended in 2016 it counts for this year.

All told I heard the BSO 26 times in the 2016 calendar year at Symphony Hall, all but 4 of them in conjunction with the café, that’s a record that may never be broken. The highlight of the BSO repertoire in Spring 2016 was probably Barbara Hannigan singing Hans Abrahamsen’s “Let me tell you”, which I still need to get on CD, although it’s not with the BSO.  Heard Nelsons conduct Shosty 8 twice, I did get that CD, which is now a Grammy nominee.  Also heard Perahia for the first time in a while, doing Beethoven 4.

There were 3 visits to Tanglewood this summer, the first was on the way back from a July weekend in Saratoga, where Chloe and Beth made their first ever visit. We camped out on the lawn and I went inside at show time to hear Yuja Wang play Ravel and Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue.  I was back the following weekend for the day to hear Ohlsson do Tchaikovsky, and then in August for a three day stretch, to witness my first solo recital of Nelson Freire at Ozawa Hall, followed the next night by solo Marc Andre Hamelin, who was filling in at the last minute for Daniil Trifonov.  Stuck around Friday night to hear Bronfman play Liszt 2nd concerto in the shed before heading for home.

The fall BSO season started off with Renee Fleming and Susan Graham doing a spectacular and very long concert performance of Der Rosenkavalier, followed a few weeks later by Dutoit conducting Bluebeard’s Castle.   Heard Helen Grimaud play both Brahms concerti in separate weekends, it had been quite a while since her previous BSO appearance.  And making his debut at age 92 was Menahem Pressler playing Mozart 27, probably the event of the fall season just because of his place in the pantheon.

Non-BSO symphony concerts consisted of a visit to New Philharmonia to see Tina Packer and other members of Shakespeare & Co reading scenes from Hamlet in between Shostakovich film score. In our trip to Rutgers last month we saw the university orchestra do a semi-staged version of L’enfant et les Sortileges, with some other French music in the first half of the program.

In opera, while I snubbed BLO yet again, I did manage to see a few staged operas this year during the summer. Odyssey Opera did Gluck’s “Ezio”, which shows how desperate I was to see an opera but it was fine.  Boston Midsummer Opera did two one-acts by Donizetti and Mascagni at the Arsenal center, which was a little hard to find but if they decide to stay there now I know where it is.  Mascagni’s “L’amico Fritz” was the better of the two.  Our July weekend in western Mass and upstate New York was mostly in support of Justin’s concert at Jazz in July, but it also included my first visit to Saratoga Opera to hear Il Postino, which was the highlight of the year.  On the musical front, the family joined me during a quick Cape trip to our first performance at College Light Opera Company in Falmouth, to see Gershwin’s “Of Thee I Sing”, it’s a venue I would like to return to next year.

On the solo front, I heard Jeremy Denk do a varied and eclectic Celebrity Series program, nice variety of unusual repertoire if not as much a standout as last year’s Rockport program.  Roberto Poli gave a benefit recital for BPA that included some memorably romantic Haydn.  Lisa de la Salle had a disappointing showing at Rockport, finishing off with Brahms’ Handel Variations that ended in a train wreck, but I liked her Rachmaninoff Etude encore enough to try it myself.  I heard one concert in Ashburnham,  a 4-person piano faculty concert at Rivers School, and Imogen Cooper at the Celebrity Series, along with masterclasses by Yale’s Melvin Chen and the aforementioned Mr. Denk.  On the non-professional side, All-Newton school put on a two-piano recital featuring many of my BPA cronies.

In chamber recitals I heard a great rendition of standard trio repertoire by Lars Vogt and the Teztlaffs with Celebrity Series, two NEC concerts at Old South meeting house, Sasha Korsantia playing the Dvorak quintet at NEC’s First Monday concert, a fabulous concert by Trio Solisti at Rockport (probably the standout of the year), Bruckner at a Tanglewood prelude concert, another Rivers faculty concert that included the Dumky trio and the Debussy violin sonata, an very compelling lecture/recital of the Shostakovich String Quartet #3 at Wellesley in a small overcrowded room,  a weird faculty concert of transcriptions and new music for the combination of cello and string bass at Tufts,  a great faculty program of American chamber music at NEC and most of another student NEC program of violin sonatas, and finally my first Winterreise with Thomas Ades and Ian Bostridge at Celebrity Series.  I prepped for the Schubert with the score and Hermann Prey’s recording for several weeks beforehand, not as in depth as I wanted but it was good to have some grounding in what to expect going into the live version.

On the personal front I did a recital of my own in September in Marlborough that I called a Schubertiade, with Schubert’s Op 42 A Minor Sonata in the first half, and then joined by Jagan-nath and David for the Op 99 trio. The recital was reasonably well attended, although ironically not by the people who said they were too busy for a spring concert but could come to one in the fall.  I made two appearances with Seele, first as my Beethoven Society debut in Melrose doing mostly Handel, followed by a Good Friday service/performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater.  I accompanied 5 summer sings for Masterworks, which may be a record, fortunately all stuff I knew well, plus a first-ever summer sing in the fall with NWC.  I was asked to fill in at Plymouth Church once this summer, for which I prepared a variety of Bach including some of the Goldbergs.  There was also a rare appearance at a Masterworks rehearsal for auditions.  I attended and played at 7 BPA soirees this year, from Gloucester to Eastham.  I also count 14 meetings for reading chamber music, including rehearsals for the aforementioned Schubert concert, but also a meeting at Kilmer’s house to play through the Brahms and Schumann quintets, which was years in the planning.  I also count 11 concerts involving MHS, primarily Justin’s jazz band and combo, and two visits to UMass to hear Justin during Jazz in July.

I don’t know what that adds up to but it sounds like a lot, although it’s probably about 20% of what I could do if I chose not to see my family at all. This fall was a little more restrained than normal just because of college visits or the potential for college visits, and I had to spring for a ticket to a few BSO performances even if it was a Café date just to make sure I wasn’t shut out of the beginning of the program (particularly with Yo-Yo Ma and with Rosenkavalier).  The first part of 2017 will probably be similar, more college visits to come have precluded me from committing to any Celebrity Series concerts in advance, but I hope to catch a few of them.  Going to the BSO so often means I don’t want to miss any even if I’m not playing at the café, and now I’ve worked out a strategy for the rush tickets that prevents that from getting too expensive.  The downside is you really only want to commit to driving into Boston once a week, so it prevents checking out otherwise worthy concerts that coincide on the schedule, but it’s the BSO so you can hardly complain.  I think only two concerts this year were out of state, it would be nice to expand on that next year and get back to the Met or another orchestra.  The 3-day visit to the Berkshires was great, and not completely loaded with concerts which allowed for time for outdoor activities and an afternoon performance of “Two Gentlemen of Verona” at Shakespeare & Co, although their decision to put in a show-stopping rap musical number toward the end makes me leery of going back.  The last couple weeks of December are generally pretty quiet on the concert front, so I’m ready to get started again with the new year.

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