Back when I was a teenager, I was obsessed with the music of Alan Hovhaness, and was also uninhibited to an extent that is a bit embarrassing in retrospect. During that period, after attending a concert of the New York Philharmonic, I forced my way back to Leonard Bernstein’s dressing room, and asked him whether he ever intended to perform anything by Hovhaness.
Some compositions by Anthony De Ritis, professor and chair of the Department of Music in Northeastern's College of Arts, Media and Design, may not appeal to all classical music fans. But that's just fine by him.
"There are people who truly hate the concept that a DJ and a symphony orchestra could meet," De Ritis explained. "People who think an orchestra should not reflect the popular music of today often dislike such combinations. But others see this as a fresh starting point, one which can get a whole new generation interested in classical music."
As the Globe's Jeremy Eichler pointed out in his review of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project's season-ending concert — called "Apollo's Fire" — referring to the program note by the BSO's Assistant Director of Program Publications Robert Kirzinger, the term "classical music" has become so all-inclusive that it doesn't have much at all to do with ancient "classical" art. But two recent live performances, by BMOP and the Mark Morris Dance Group, have focused on music that refers to ancient classical themes.
On Friday, May 18, The Boston Modern Orchestra Project gave its Jordan Hall audience a theme-based concert, four 20th-century works works, tied by our understanding of Apollo as "Apollon Musagè," from his role as leader of the muses. One of the muses is, of course, Terpsichore, and this is the muse underpinning the first set of pieces, 5 Greek Dances by the Greek composer, Nikos Skalkottas.
One doubts that the world will ever wholly manage to come to terms with the music of Hovhaness. The sheer volume of his output – over five hundred works including seven operas and sixty-seven symphonies, and that excludes his music before 1940 much of which was destroyed by the composer – rivals the prolixity of seventeenth century composers such as Bach or Vivaldi.
It has been a big year for Gil Rose, founder and conductor of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, which two weekends ago (!) mounted a pleasing evening of classically-themed pieces collectively dubbed "Apollo's Fire."
Composer, pianist, teacher Eric Moe is a busy man. Not only does he compose, quite often on commission; teach composition and theory at the University of Pittsburgh; and occasionally lend his keyboard talent to the cause of other composers, he is also codirector of the Music on the Edge, a new-music series that brings many of the leading lights of contemporary music to the city.
Let summer officially begin! Boston's last major "regular season" orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), closed the books on its 2011-12 season on Friday night with a program of music inspired by Greece and Greek mythology. Dubbed "Apollo's Fire," BMOP presented a mix of older contemporary fare (read, all-20th century) featuring pieces by Nikos Skalkottas, Elliott Carter, Igor Stravinsky, and Lewis Spratlan, all conducted by music director Gil Rose.
We don't tend to think much about the "classical" in classical music, the art form's links to ancient Greek culture. But as Robert Kirzinger reminded listeners in a program essay for Friday's Boston Modern Orchestra Project concert in Jordan Hall, the phrase classical music itself — while today almost meaningless in its catch-all nature — still acknowledges its implicit debt to more ancient pasts.
Rounding out its concert season, Boston Modern Orchestra Project under the direction of Gil Rose presented a concert entitled "Apollo's Fire" in Jordan Hall on Friday night. The four works on the concert took their inspiration from Apollo and the Muses, either explicitly or implicitly; the other link in this program – one not expressed in the program notes but one I found to be omnipresent – was the idea of dance. The evening began with a pre-concert talk presented by The Score Board, largely in conversation with Lewis Spratlan.
Friday night's concert of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project was all about the Greek debt.
Ours to them, that is. The program at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall, titled "Apollo's Fire," celebrated the continuing power of ancient mythology in Western thinking and art of the 20th and 21st centuries.
People who like the sound of straight-toned voices singing intricate counterpoint at close intervals had a feast at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall on the evening of Good Friday, as the Boston Modern Orchestra Project presented works with "Passion" in the title by David Lang and Arvo Pärt.
A most uncommon acknowledgment of Good Friday recalling the crucifixion of Jesus Christ occurred at Jordan Hall. It involved the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, a slate of guest soloists, and the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum. Two reenactments of the passion, one allegorical, by David Lang and the other, from Biblical texts, by Arvo Pärt, adopted a similar, now familiar musical language of minimalism. Both passions were fittingly in minor modes commonly associated with all things sorrowful.
To mark Good Friday, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project brought together two contemporary Passion settings: David Lang's "The Little Match Girl Passion" and Arvo Pärt's "Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem."
It did not look much like a BMOP concert – only a few instrumentalists were present. But it was an appropriately grave lineup for the darkest day of the Christian calendar.
The Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard presented the first of two explorations of some of electronic music's seminal large-scale works Friday evening at Paine Hall, engaging Boston’s preeminent new music ensemble, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, to tackle challenging works by Charles Wuorinen, Gérard Grisey and Jonathan Harvey.
Say hello to Hans Tutschku before the concert, and he will direct you to the "sweet spot" of the room. This past weekend was Tutschku's second "festival" of the year, where space and technology would share the limelight. Last fall, he curated "Sound in Space Festival: The Art of Interpretation of Electro-acoustic Music" at the Fenway Center in Boston. This spring, Tutschku was curator of a two-day festival "Jour, Contre-jour" with the Fromm Players at Harvard, held in the university's John Knowles Paine Concert Hall Friday night and last night.
Kick & Ride proves an apt title for composer Eric Moe's recent BMOP Sound release, highlighting his use of drum set and percussion throughout the three compositions represented. The high energy works, characterized by Moe in the liner notes as "cantankerous sisters," indeed deliver shots of dramatic flair and suspenseful anxiety that could nearly persuade a listener to skip that all-important morning cup of coffee.
When a composer has written well over 500 works, one can assume that there will be some unevenness in his production. Despite the fact that a number of Alan Hovhaness's pieces have entered the standard repertoire and that recording projects turn up interesting, little-heard music by the composer on a regular basis, Hovhaness's production is indeed uneven. Remarkably, those 500 works are just the tip of the musical iceberg.
Warning: Consuming Kick & Ride (the Boston Modern Orchestra Project's newest recording that features three drum-heavy works by Eric Moe) while in anything even hinting at a bad mood could lead to broken mugs at Starbucks, holes in apartment walls or shoving matches on a downtown 6 train platform.
On Friday, January 27, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (a.k.a. BMOP) presented Strange Bedfellows: Unexpected Concertos, showcasing instruments don't get to be concerto soloists as often as their ubiquitous cousins, like violin or piano. Here, the spotlight was on viola, electric guitar, mandolin, theremin and French horn. All but one of the pieces were written in the last six years, and together they showed that contemporary classical music is thriving — don't let anyone tell you different!