NORTHAMPTON - In opera, anything can happen as long as you sing about it.

In Eric Sawyer and John Shoptaw’s new opera Our American Cousin, the events immediately surrounding President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination were examined operatically through the eyes of the actors in the play the president came to Ford’s Theater to attend that fateful evening.

The opera premiered Friday evening at the Academy of Music Theater.

The Republican Full review

It sounds like the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question, history category: What was playing at Ford’s Theatre the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated? The answer, for those not up on their Civil War-era minutiae, is Our American Cousin, a rather slight comedy of manners by British writer Tom Taylor.

The Boston Globe Full review

BMOP/sound, the nation’s foremost label launched by an orchestra and devoted exclusively to new music recordings, announces the release of its fourth CD Gunther Schuller: Journey Into Jazz. Representative of the “Third Stream” genre, a revolutionary style of music brought forth into the mainstream by Schuller in the 1950’s, the three pieces on this album unite the structural complexities found in contemporary classical music with the improvisational elements of jazz.

All About Jazz Full review

Eighteen years since he and librettist John Shoptaw “tossed around” the possibility of writing an opera about the night President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, composer Eric Sawyer is about to see the full realization of that idea.

The opera Sawyer and Shoptaw wrote, entitled Our American Cousin after the Tom Taylor Broadway comedy Lincoln and his wife were attending at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., that fateful night, receives its world premiere fully-staged performances on Friday and Saturday at the Academy of Music in Northampton

The Republican Full review

Backstage at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. on the night of April 14, 1865, Ned Emerson is rehearsing his sneeze.

Fellow actor Harry Hawk receives bad news. The man he paid to perform his service in the Civil War, ended just five days earlier, has died in combat.

Actor John Wilkes Booth, a familiar face, though not in the cast that evening, approaches Jack Mathews with a sealed letter and a request to deliver it to John Coyle, editor of the National Intelligencer, the following day.

Amherst Bulletin Full review

It’s hard to believe that Pulitzer prizewinning composer John Harbison, who turns seventy this year, composed a full length ballet nearly a quarter of a century ago and it has yet to be staged. Ulysses (1984/rev, 2003), has been played piecemeal by various orchestras over the years; Andre Previn and the Pittsburgh Symphony recorded its second act, “Ulysses’ Bow,” for Nonesuch; but it wasn’t until 2003 that an orchestra performed the work in its entirety.

Sequenza21 Full review

MICHAEL GANDOLFI’S music has some of the rigor of the mid-20th-century atonalists, but it also draws on the richness of melody and timbre prized by the neo-Romantics. You would not put his work firmly in either category, and that’s probably for the best, since much of its appeal is in the ease with which it moves between those poles. One moment you’re taken with its braininess, its structural logic and textural intricacy; the next you’re struck by the flow of fresh ideas, vivid orchestration and rhythmic vitality, all of which give it a visceral punch.

The New York Times Full review

Four out of five stars

John Harbison’s Ulysses has been a long delayed release, but, anxiously awaited, it was composed in 1983 and is also the inaugural release from the new music recording label BMOP/sound. Indeed it is a wonderful first CD by the new label.

Amazon Full review

The Y2K doomsday scenario and all its associated satire had grown tiresome long before 1999 was up. Neverthless, this hasn’t stopped composer Michael Gandolfi revisiting the topic with his latest release Y2K Compliant.

MUSO Full review

[5/5 stars]

This is a wonderful collection of pieces. Although all 3 pieces are unique, they compliment each other well musically and thematically. A set of music that provides a welcome hour of enjoyment. Overall the CD has a variety of styles that each work for the individual pieces.

Amazon Full review

RECOMMENDED

The music of American composer Michael Gandolfi (b. 1956) is the subject of another winning release from BMOP/sound (see the newsletter of 15 April 2008). Many will remember this composer for his large, extended orchestral work The Garden of Cosmic Speculation released last year, but here we have three of his smaller-scale pieces. If anything, they show he can do even more with less, and is a master colorist in the best sense of the term.

Classical Lost and Found Full review

Centuries of upheaval have made the Armenian diaspora one of the world’s largest; by some estimates, almost three times as many Armenians live outside the country as in it. Charting Armenian music and inspiration, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s season finale, “Armenia Resounding,” balanced perspectives from within and without.

The Boston Globe Full review

Four out of five stars

This is modern music and sounds it. For the listener it is an undertaking. Containing themes of religion, diverse cultures, historic events, life’s passage and Lee Hyla’s personal understanding and weaving of these themes.

Not like his previous collection of pieces in the Trans CD. This is a little less accessible than Trans going back to a more modern musical vision he had with earlier works.

Amazon Full review

The news these days about the classical music recording industry is almost always bleak, so it’s a pleasure to report a bright spot on that landscape: the Boston Modern Orchestra Project has finally launched its own record label called BMOP/sound.

The Boston Globe Full review

Classical compositions about technology can often be dry, rather charm-less affairs. But the Boston composer Michael Gandolfi has written a piece about computers that’s full of bright, quirky sonorities and bustling rhythms. It’s called Y2K Compliant, and, as the title implies, it’s a satirical response to all the doomsday predictions of the Y2K bug back in 1999. The piece was premiered in 2000 and it’s now just out on a CD by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

WNYC Full review

Many of us remember a 1986 Nonesuch recording of an exciting orchestral piece by American composer John Harbison (b. 1938) called Ulysses Bow (later released on First Edition, but no longer available). However, upon reading the album notes, we discovered much to our chagrin that it was only the last half of a full-length ballet. With this enterprising release from BMOP/sound, we now have the complete score.

Classical Lost and Found Full review

The MATA Festival is celebrating its 10th season, partly by showing off how far it has come since its early days as Music at the Anthology, a new-music series resident at the Anthology Film Archives. Since the Anthology days the festival has traveled a circuit of churches and small halls, but for the last couple of years it has been ensconced at the Brooklyn Lyceum, an old public bath converted into a concert hall.

The New York Times Full review

In the Times, Allan Kozinn provided a typically sagacious and deftly written account of the first major concert of the MATA—Young Composers Now! series at the Brooklyn Lyceum (on April 1). The concert closed with the New York premiere of Lisa Bielawa’s Double Violin Concerto, which was played with saintly elegance by Carla Kihlstedt and Colin Jacobsen, backed by Gil Rose and the excellent Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

The New Yorker, Goings On Blog Full review

I caught the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) at the MATA Festival Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

1. Gil Rose and BMOP played a varied concert with conviction and panache Tuesday night. While there were wonderful soloists on the program, the ensemble really held the spotlight the entire night in the best possible sense - always blending well and making the most of lines, accompaniment and ensemble.

Sequenza21 Full review

On Saturday night the New England Conservatory’s teal and gilt Jordan Hall enjoyed the premiere of no fewer than four new works by living, breathing composers and performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, which parties where symphony orchestras fear to tread. Bucking both contemporary and traditional expectations, provoking appreciation and conversation, this was a night of risks that paid off handsomely.

The Boston Herald Full review

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