Musically Speaking from New England’ preeminent chamber ensemble

Five successful years for the Commissioning Club

Mozart Oboe Quartet in F major, K. 370
Debussy Sonata for Cello and Piano, L. 135
Godfrey Ad Concordiam: Quintet Variations for Oboe, Strings and Piano (BCMS commission)
Mendelssohn Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66

Beethoven’s real teaching…was not to preserve the old forms, still less to follow in his early steps. We must throw wide the windows to the open sky; they seem to me to have only just escaped being closed forever. The fact that here and there a genius succeeds in this form is but a poor excuse for the laborious and stilted compositions which we are accustomed to…

Claude Debussy (writing as Monsieur Croche, The Dilletante Hater)

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Five years is a long time to sustain a successful venture, never mind the thirty-five years that BCMS has shared its extraordinary music-making with the greater Boston area. We are grateful that since BCMS Season 31 we have had a community of supporters who felt that BCMS should be more than a museum of the past; that we should take our place sponsoring the creation of new work that shows the versatility of our Member Musicians, and assures the continuation of our art in our time and beyond. For those reasons our Commissioning Club members have contributed to the creation of new works by George Tsontakis, Pierre Jalbert, Harold Meltzer and David Rakowski.

Our commissioned works have gone on to have life beyond our initial performances: most recently, George’s Portraits of El Greco (Book 1) was featured in Colorado and Ohio; and Harold’s Piano Quartet premiered in New York at National Sawdust by our musicians and on a fine new recording available at our boutique table and online. Pierre’s Street Antiphons, co-commissioned by Da Camera of Houston, SOLI (San Antonio), and Voices of Change (Dallas), was performed just last week at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center!

This week we hear a new work for oboe, string trio, and piano by Daniel Strong Godfrey entitled Ad Concordiam in celebration of our thirty-fifth anniversary season. He is new to the Boston area, having settled near Concord, MA. About his new work, he says:

As a title for my quintet, Ad Concordiam has overlapping meanings, as does its translation from the Latin: toward (in search of, in tribute to, aspiring to) harmony (or agreement, or unity, or…Concord). Having recently moved just next door to Concord, Massachusetts, and having frequented it often since attending high school nearby, I have always found it to be a central locus of my values and my sense of place. When it comes to values, Concord represents historically the ideals that motivated the formation of our union and that established, through the transcendentalists, a new standard for intellectual and moral integrity. I can’t claim that Ad Concordiam is “about” concord—or Concord—in light of the above, but only that this sense of place and these values, which recently seem under threat in our world, have been very much on my mind during its composition.”

“The quintet is in four parts (Moderato–Lietamente–Scorrevole–Veloce), mostly defined by tempo, played without pause from beginning to end. The contemplative melodic fragments introduced by the oboe at the outset appear throughout the work, but combined, recombined, and expanded into longer themes. Hence the subtitle “Quintet Variations.”

“I find, though, that the music does come together more readily when it reflects a state of mind, a view of the world, that feels deep and personal—but when it (the music) is then allowed to emerge from that inner environment on its own terms. In this case, the title Ad Concordiam is one way to identify the fearful, hopeful, uncertain yet aspirational state of mind that seemed to prevail as I composed.”

(Click here to join and learn more about the Commissioning Club.)

The April program also includes works that reflect a variety of combinations, periods and styles that have become the hallmark of BCMS programming. Mozart’s Quartet for Oboe and Strings in F major, K 370 (1781) opens the program, followed by Debussy’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, our fourth work in observance of the passing in 1918 of the man regarded as the first modern composer.

The Cello Sonata is a product of Debussy’s high ideal of promoting the best of French music, opening with a Baroque gesture he may have encountered in music of Rameau, and seeking harmonic and expressive freedom in a reference to Albert Giraud’s poem “Pierrot Lunaire,” while rooting the structures in those one might encounter in a sonata by Beethoven. He seems to follow his own advice by accompanying the sounds of his serenading puppet (Pierrot) with guitar-like strumming, and by incorporating every conceivable instrumental effect in his Finale.

Our program closes with Mendelssohn’s Second Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66 (1845). Its significance to our program enhanced by the fact it will be the final appearance of violinist Harumi Rhodes who has been a Member Musician for the past nine seasons. She may be back as a guest but will probably appear more in our region as the new violinist of the Takács String Quartet. Stay tuned.



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Early Beethoven, Late Debussy, and Dvořák Decisive

Beethoven String Trio in D major, Op. 9, No. 2 (1797-98)
Debussy Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor, L. 140 (1917)
Dvořák Piano Trio in F minor, Op. 65 (1883)

Beethoven’s real teaching…was not to preserve the old forms, still less to follow in his early steps. We must throw wide the windows to the open sky; they seem to me to have only just escaped being closed forever. The fact that here and there a genius succeeds in this form is but a poor excuse for the laborious and stilted compositions which we are accustomed to…

Claude Debussy (writing as Monsieur Croche, The Dilletante Hater)

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Sat. 3/10, 11:30 a.m.: Debussy & Dvořák
Sun. 3/11, 7:30 p.m.: Beethoven, Debussy & Dvořák

Beethoven’s String Trio in D major, Op. 9, No. 2 (1797-98) is one of five that predate his string quartets. Each of these, regarded as among his greatest, is unsurpassed by the more innovative and formally expansive works to come. It is in four movements, the slow movement second, the third–a proper Minuet and Trio. A Rondo closes the work. Of the three Op. 9 trios the D major is performed less often than the other two. Each of the trios, comprised of one of each instrument, requires greater virtuosity of the individual players because fewer players means a more frequent exchange of lead and following roles.

Our monthly Claude Debussy observance of the 100th year since his passing continues with the playing of his Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor, L. 140 (1917). Although shorter in length and volume in comparison to the trios, its impact has grown exponentially in the years since it was first heard. It was the third and last of a larger unfinished project he calledSix sonates pour diverse instruments, par Claude Debussy, musicien francais, with emphasis on his nationality and pride being apart from advancing the Germanic musical tradition. His dislike of where that tradition had taken music (not to mention the world at that time) is evident in his writings and in his search for historical inspiration in the works of Rameau, Couperin, and more recent in French Impressionist painters. The sonata is a notable departure from the principle of trading melodic spotlight and accompaniment roles that have governed sonata writing throughout the great works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. Few if any of these have held the actual building-blocks of music, such as scales and arpeggios, up to the light as objects of beauty in themselves, not just as means to melody, drawn inspiration and flair from a casual gypsy fiddler, nor been, at times, so down and dark. This sonata is the product of illness in the time of war, and remains the best document of and distraction from the pain and mood of his times. The Sonata, dedicated to his wife Emma Bardac, was the last work he performed in public on May 5, 1917 before his death on March 25, 1918.

Dvořák’s Trio in F minor Op. 65 dates from the momentous year of 1883, the year Wagner died but did not lose his power to influence others; the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, and nine years prior to Dvořák’s arrival in New York City to bring us European training and culture. Issues of nationality and cultural identity are foremost in Dvořák’s thinking at the time of its conception, premiere and publication. As demand for his music increased, so did the pressure in Viennese musical circles to conform to their musical tastes and expectations, relying less on Czech folk tunes and forms. More than one observer has noted the resemblance between the rising fourth and octave opening of this trio and that of Piano Quintet Op. 34 in F minor (1865) by his advocate and mentor, Johannes Brahms. That is not the only resemblance or tribute in this work that places the Scherzo movement second, compresses canonic writing, or derives new themes from endings of previous phrases. Viennese audiences would have immediately recognized the clear, classic placement of the big events in each movement. Dvořák brought new life from outside to a tradition whose days were numbered. Perhaps he was that rare genius who succeeded in Vienna, and in America where that life was extended by founding our greatest music schools while championing music of the outsider both here and there.



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Sat. 3/10, 11:30 a.m.: Debussy & Dvořák
Sun. 3/11, 7:30 p.m.: Beethoven, Debussy & Dvořák

Playful entrances, colorful exits, and the lightness of being

Beethoven Serenade in D major for Flute, Violin and Viola, Op. 25 (1795-6)
Debussy Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp, L. 137 (1915)
Walton Piano Quartet in D minor (1918-1921, revised 1974)

Beethoven’s real teaching…was not to preserve the old forms, still less to follow in his early steps. We must throw wide the windows to the open sky; they seem to me to have only just escaped being closed forever. The fact that here and there a genius succeeds in this form is but a poor excuse for the laborious and stilted compositions which we are accustomed to…

Claude Debussy (writing as Monsieur Croche, The Dilletante Hater)

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Our second Sanders Theatre program of 2018, on Sunday, February 18 at 3 pm, is also the second opportunity to play some of the late, great chamber music of Claude Debussy (1862-1918). Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp (1915) was one of the three completed sonatas intended as part of a final project of six. The other two, for violin and piano, and for cello and piano, will be heard in our March 11 and April 8 Sanders Theatre concerts at 7:30.

Like many other composers who preceded him, Debussy sought to challenge received wisdom about what makes a complete chamber ensemble. What instruments can closely imitate each other yet allow for a diverse, satisfying color palette? How much bass is needed to support harmony or generate color, and how is it defined? What instrument can reconcile the opposites? How many movements should there be, (three, four, five, eight?) and at what speeds? Sonata is an original and ethereal musical response to each of these questions by a composer influenced by French Impressionistic painting and its dazzling effects of light on ordinary objects. For musical precedents in French history he would easily have recognized the shedding of new light on the traditional Trio Sonata format: two high instruments bound together with harpsichord underlining and figuring out the bass. In this tone scape, however, the fundamental nature of the bass voice is upended and thereby diminished.

Beethoven’s six-movement Serenade in D major, Op. 25, opens our program with a perky Entrata announced by the flute. That the piece is scored for upper register voices, above the alto/ tenor range, with the viola as the lowest instrument, will not escape notice. This is a playful and virtuosic piece whose quiet and thoughtful moments are easily dispelled by the lightness of touch, tone, and texture.

Concluding our program is the four-movement Piano Quartet in D minor originally begun by the sixteen-year old William Walton in 1918, the same year Debussy passed; revised and later republished in 1974, nine years before Walton’s own death at age 80. Like the early piano quartets of Brahms and Richard Strauss, this one shows promise of things to come: a lot of the jaunty rhythmic propulsion and swagger of the fast movements, and the nostalgic bittersweet tonality swings between major, minor and modal are present in his most performed and enjoyed music–Viola Concerto and the oratorio Belshazzar’s Feast. Although Sir William Walton is considered by many to be the most significant British-born composer between Ralph Vaughn Williams and Benjamin Britten, he says he really didn’t like music very much, and enjoyed being out of date, not up with the latest fashions and trends. He was a successful film composer, too. At full cry some of his orchestral music once fooled this listener into thinking it was John Williams!

This is the second time in five years we’ve programmed Piano Quartet in D minor because we feel it deserves to be heard much more. It is in every way the antidote to the formulaic, ‘laborious and stilted compositions’ that Debussy decried.



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Chamber music in 3D—rooted, informed and opened to the sky

Dohnányi Serenade in C for String Trio, Op. 10 (1902)
Debussy String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10 (1893,4)
Dvořák String Sextet in A major, Op. 48 (1878)

Beethoven’s real teaching…was not to preserve the old forms, still less to follow in his early steps. We must throw wide the windows to the open sky; they seem to me to have only just escaped being closed forever. The fact that here and there a genius succeeds in this form is but a poor excuse for the laborious and stilted compositions which we are accustomed to…

Claude Debussy (writing as Monsieur Croche, The Dilettante Hater)

Our first program of the New Year features three composers who drew from the exclusive past to create a more inclusive future. Ernő Dohnányi, Claude Debussy, and Antonín Dvořák each came of age as musicians and composers in times and places where the dominance of Viennese and Germanic public taste and traditions in chamber music had ceased being unquestioned. How to prove personal mastery, create timeless music, court international public taste, yet remain true to one’s own national identity was on the minds of each.

Two seasons ago, when we performed the new and great String Trio by John Harbison in six movements, we learned of his admiration for Mozart’s K. 563 Divertimento for string trio, which he refers to as the ‘once and future king’ of the genre. To honor tradition and to make the string trio his own, John adopted the overall six-movement serious vs. popular scheme as had Mozart, and wrote music that best matched of his experience of the ‘serious’ vs. the popular–the canon, and the blues.

For Dohnányi’s Serenade in C, Op. 10 the historic model that seems most adaptable to his purpose was Beethoven’s Serenade in D major, Op. 8 for string trio. It also begins as it ends–with the same short, jaunty March–includes a set of variations, and ethnic music. In Beethoven’s Serenade the ‘outsider’ music is in a movement entitled Allegretto alla Polacca, i.e., Polish. Dohnányi actually is the Hungarian outsider, (the very one often invoked by the Viennese as in the Brahms’s Gypsy music we played to conclude our November concert), the outsider looking in!

Debussy’s String Quartet appears in our Sanders series for the first time, marking the 100th anniversary of his passing and the changes in sound and taste he brought to music. Much of his life spanned the creation of societies and movements in France determined to promote the resurgence of greatness in French music, visual arts, literature, and to challenge the political, artistic and social dominance of Germanic taste. Debussy sought and reflected influences from outside music, outside Europe, and outside the era of the great Germanic tradition to throw wide the windows to the open sky. While accepting the four-movement scheme and a home key in which to anchor his quartet, he broadens the harmonic palate by using scales, harmonies, note patterns and rhythms used in Asian and/or Early music which allow for more evocative, dream-like impressions, exalted moods and earthy scenes. He is acknowledged today as the single greatest influence on all who followed.

Dvořák’s String Sextet, Op. 48 (1878) follows the two sextet masterworks by his mentor Johannes Brahms (Op. 18, 1862 and Op. 36, 1866), who championed the publishing and playing of Dvořák’s music beyond his native Prague. In seeking success on the world stage dominated by Viennese tastemakers, Dvořák’s earliest struggle was to insist that his first name, Antonín, be abbreviated to the more ambiguous Ant. rather than shortened to the more Germanic Anton. Of the three composers on our program, his is the only one to identify the folk Slavonic origins of his movements–the Dumka (2) and the Furiant (3).

Today’s pieces, new to an established tradition, have stood the test of time by being as rooted in that tradition as they are informed by those on the outside, who opened it to the limitless sky.



Finding Their Way: Schumann, Brahms, and Schoenberg

“In every era there presides a secret alliance of kindred spirits. Ye who belong together, close your ranks ever more tightly, that the Truth of Art may shine more clearly, diffusing joy and blessings over all things.”

Robert Schumann for the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, 1853 

There comes a time in the life of every artist when the path that must be taken is recognized—seen dimly, or presented boldly—in the work of a kindred spirit. Our third program of the thirty-fifth anniversary season highlights music and other actions that resulted from perceived kinships.

This season also marks both the conclusion and continuation of two cycles we have over three years. The Brahms Violin and Piano Sonatas, played one each over the last three years in Sanders Theatre, will reach their conclusion with the performance of the Scherzo from the F.A.E. Sonata on our new Arlington Street Church Series on Saturday morning at 11:30. The performance of Schumann’s Piano Trio in F major, Op. 80 (1847) on Sunday evening at Sanders Theatre, will take us into the second annual playing of one of his three piano trios in the fall.

Schumann’s statement above, from a magazine essay entitled Neue Bahnen (New Paths), was written the same year he recognized genius and heaped praise on the young Brahms, introducing him to a wider audience and to his own private insecurities:

“The public praise that you have deigned to bestow upon me will have so greatly increased the expectations of the musical world regarding my work that I do not know how I shall manage to do even approximate justice to it.”    (Johannes Brahms)

Brahms’s Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25 (1861), a clear favorite with our audiences and others, is said (by the great violinist Joseph Joachim) to have been started and played in private as early as 1857, but required further gestation before its final version that we all know and love. It was not, however, well received by many of Brahms’s most trusted musical advisers who considered its themes insignificant!

For Arnold Schoenberg, the path toward composition with twelve equal tones (atonality, serialism) is paved right through this piano quartet and its companion in A major that concluded our concert last May. Schoenberg chose to arrange it for orchestra—a time-honored way of studying a ‘curiosity’ by copying it out in detail by hand.

Coming late in his career after abandoning tonality for atonality and serialism around 1920-1923, Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte for reciter and piano quintet, Op. 41 (1942), Schoenberg’s setting of Lord Byron’s poem of the same title, gives him the opportunity for a new path, bending his technique back towards allowing hints of tonality within atonal works. After a little more than fifteen minutes of serialism, the Ode ends triumphantly in E-flat major!

(Left) The Coronation of Napoleon, by Jacques-Louis David. (Right) Napoleon abdicated in Fontainebleau, 4 April 1814, by Paul Delaroche

The work was written during the height of WW2, when larger than life personalities inspired their populations to think first of their own national interest. The message of Byron (to Napoleon) and Schoenberg (to others) was that of the Way of Art: speaking Truth to Power.

Reflect. Enjoy.


On the G String: Beethoven, Prokofiev, Dvořák

Beethoven Piano Trio in G Major, Op. 1, No. 2 (1794-95)
Prokofiev Quintet for Winds and Strings in G Minor, Op. 39 (1924)
Dvořák Bass Quintet in G Major, Op. 77 (1875, revised 1888)

Our second Sanders concert of the thirty-fifth season offers music from the bread (and butter) of the repertoire, to circus!

Ludwig van Beethoven’s three piano trios, his first published works, owe much to his early contact with Franz Joseph Haydn, the ‘father of chamber music’ and the ‘creator’ of the piano trio genre among others. Beethoven was in Vienna to study with Haydn at the time and to start his professional career by presenting all three trios in concert. (It was for a cello passage at the end of the third trio that Beethoven accepted the player’s suggestion to mark it sulla corda G.)

In this second trio Beethoven follows Haydn’s four-movement scheme, opening with a slow, stately Adagio that proceeds into the fast tempo of the first movement Allegro. Hidden in plain sight in the seriousness of the introduction is the catalog of material with which he will construct all four movements: mostly prominently, the interval of the third, rising and falling often to complete a triad. The slow second movement Largo is in the unrelated and brightened key of E major–a third away from G. Within the first eight measures it contains a surprising winding melodic passage in the pianist’s right hand that this writer recognizes will become part of a viola solo in his Op. 132 string quartet! The Scherzo (used by Beethoven to replace the more traditional Minuet) restores us to G major while its Trio takes us to B minor (a third away) with a motif that anticipates a later use as the fateful opening to Symphony No. 5. The closing Presto Finale is launched with a bubbly triadic-based theme in the violin part worthy of Haydn.

Sergei Prokofiev also showed early promise that caused him to seek greater opportunity, inspiration, and exposure outside his native Soviet Union. Following travels to New York, Tokyo, San Francisco and Brittany Prokofiev settled in Paris in 1920, where Stravinsky had become the most notable Russian composer through his avant-garde ballet scores such as The Rite of Spring, and theater piece The Soldier’s Tale. In 1923 Prokofiev was commissioned to write music for a new ballet about circus life called Trapeze. Given post-war finances and the need to limit the size and portability of the accompaniment, the six-movement work that resulted, Quintet for winds and strings, was scored for a diverse ensemble of five winds and strings that places together the highs of two families–violin and viola/ oboe and clarinet, with a universal bass that might be found in classical or pop music. It is the only piece in the repertoire for these five instruments. In an artistic and musical environment where the repetitive, primitive, rhythmic, ironic and jazz had become commonplace, Prokofiev’s use of the most abrasive and shocking elements in music was probably more at home with his audience than with ours. Nevertheless, this work has proven a favorite of BCMS audiences every time we’ve performed it.

When a single stringed instrument, such as viola or cello, is added to the standard string quartet, whether by Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, or Brahms, the resulting texture is richer and darker. Adding a single bass opens the possibility of a lower octave with its enriching overtones. Dvořák’s five-movement Bass Quintet in G Major, Op. 18 (1875) was revised in 1888 and republished by Simrock, Brahms’s publisher, as a four-movement work, Opus 77 in that year. With the promotion and endorsement of Brahms, Dvořák’s music was receiving wider international exposure and appeal even as Dvořák sought to retain the local flavor of his Czech origins.

****BCMS at Somerville High****

Both works with bass appear on our Sanders program as part of BCMS’ appeal to new audiences. On the Friday afternoon prior to our Sanders performance, we will be performing for music students from throughout Somerville at Somerville High School. Our performance there is to promote BCMS Teaching Artists, a new BCMS community program that sends a young professional ensemble of string players (The Denovo String Quartet and double bassist Jury Kobayashi-Baxter) to Somerville High for weekly sectional coaching sessions with their string orchestra under the direction of the school’s music teacher and orchestra director Andrew Blickenderfer.

Several students in the orchestra are products of earlier El Sistema training, some are new to music, and others new to the Somerville community and the country. Our goal is to augment Somerville’s community-building, music-sharing program with our help, and to encourage each member to feel the importance of his and her unique contribution to the world.

By coincidence, both works with bass were last performed by BCMS on the same program in November 2003 that opened with Beethoven Piano Trio Op. 1, No. 3!



Seconds, please!

Our thirty-fifth anniversary season at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre opens with three significant works, from very different places and times, written by masters in their prime. Each is the second and final musical statement in its format within the composer’s corpus, less often heard, and not as popular as the ‘firsts.’ Each shows the same confidence and brilliance of the earlier works, and adds something new to the way a composer begins a piece.

Mozart’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat major, K. 493 was to have been the second of three contracted by Hoffmeister, his publisher, and a fellow composer. But the first was not received as expected and the parties mutually agreed to cancel the contract for the remaining two. The reasons may have been stylistic—the first was too virtuosic, or too deep for the intended audience; or economic—that it did not sell well at a time when the publisher needed a sure winner. The E-flat piano quartet had already been completed before the cancellation. Its creation would not be subject to public taste or market pressure. Mozart readily found another publisher. If anything, Hoffmeister’s reputation as composer, publisher and colleague has suffered for not recognizing, supporting or promoting the qualities that make both quartets popular to this day. It opens with a sustained E-flat chord above a driving bass of repeated octaves in the piano bass. Could this be the origin of rock and roll?

Mozart and Mendelssohn were each introduced to the world as the greatest musical genius of his time. They also share the distinction of meeting Goethe as children nearly sixty years apart. As Goethe tells it, Mendelssohn bore “the same relation to the little Mozart that the perfect speech of a grown man does to the prattle of a child.” Current opinion, based on their entire opus and the test time, recognizes Mozart’s primacy and Mendelssohn’s debt to him. Mozart’s six Quintets for string quartet and extra viola dating from 1773 to 1791 served as a formidable model for the transparency of Mendelssohn’s first viola quintet, Op. 18 in A major (1826-32). His String Quintet No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 87, started nearly twenty years later in 1845, employs a robust, orchestral tremolando accompaniment texture to open the first movement. When this stormy accompaniment appears again at the start of his final chamber work String Quartet in F minor, Op. 81 (1849), it is seen as a significant new direction in his writing.

Faure’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, Op. 45 (1885-6) closes our program coincidentally in the same dark key as Mozart’s first piano quartet. Like the preceding works on the program, it begins with a strong chordal opening in which the components of the chord are repeated or broken. (In the Mozart it is with octaves in the bass; in Mendelssohn the tremolando of the lower strings.) In the Faure the piano part is a bariolage, i.e., rapid alternation among all the notes of the accompanying chords, a technique associated more with string music of Bach or Vivaldi, as is an Alberti figuration with keyboard. In each case the effect is to create a cloud of harmony through which the principal theme emerges from the lowest registers of the strings, well within the spacing of the hands of pianist’s hands in the quartets, as though fighting for melodic independence from the established harmony. The coming independence and interaction of equals is well worth the wait.

I’ll have seconds, please!!



Announcing our new teaching artist program

We are pleased to announce the start of the BCMS Teaching Artist Program at the Somerville High School, a cooperation with the Somerville Public Schools Music Department that will provide weekly sectional rehearsals led by five BCMS teaching artists for the high school’s string orchestra during the academic year. Additionally, BCMS will perform a free concert on Friday, October 20 at the high school’s auditorium for the Somerville community at large to generate additional interest in the cooperative program and the school’s music offerings; the five teaching artists will perform for the students at the end of each semester; and all string orchestra students will receive complimentary tickets to attend our regular concerts and open rehearsals at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre.

The five teaching artists—members of the Denovo Quartet (MaeLynn Arnold and Michael Hustedde, violins; Amberley Lamphere, viola; Daniel Dickson, cello) and double bassist Jury Kobayashi-Baxter—were chosen by a committee whose members included BCMS Artistic Director Marcus Thompson, Somerville Public Schools Music Director Richard Saunders, and the high school’s String Orchestra Director Andrew Blickenderfer, among others. The weekly TA-led sessions will start in September 2017.

The Somerville High School String Orchestra is made up of students who choose to participate in an offering that introduces them to the joys and challenges of making music as it introduces them to their peers. All orchestra members are Somerville residents. Nearly two-thirds of them come from homes in which English is the second language, and several are in their first year at an American public school. Few have had formal musical training; participation is open to anyone eager to spend 4 hours per week making music together. All stringed instruments are furnished by the school. In addition to being enjoyed and appreciated for its own sake, music becomes a means for building a supportive, inclusive, student community.

On learning of the musical and community building mission of the orchestra, members of the BCMS staff and board visited the school several times in late 2016 to meet with key members of the school’s music faculty. After both sides recognized the orchestra’s most urgent need was to have weekly sectional rehearsals led by qualified musicians, BCMS proposed creation of the Teaching Artist Program to help meet that need and to help realize several goals of our own mission: to foster the understanding and appreciation of the chamber music art form, making it more accessible to all.

The program allows BCMS an opportunity to promote a new residency program to engage an emerging local ensemble of quality, and a potential audience at an age when habits of civic and cultural engagement are formed.

Currently the program is funded in part by the BCMS Foundation, a separate, supporting organization of the Boston Chamber Music Society, and a grant from the Hamilton Company Charitable Foundation. We are seeking additional funders to fully support the program with the aim of growing it into a multi-year project.

BCMS teaching artists, from left to right: members of the Denovo Quartet (Amberley Lamphere, violist; MaeLynn Arnold and Michael Hustedde, violinists; Daniel Dickson, cellist) and Jury Kobayashi-Baxter, double bassist.

About the Denovo Quartet
Since its debut at the Deer Valley Music Festival in 2015, the Denovo Quartet has quickly established a creative presence in the greater Boston area as performers, collaborators, and pedagogues. Mentored by the Muir Quartet at Boston University, the Denovo Quartet has been featured on numerous recital series performing both classic and contemporary repertoire. Recent engagements include performances at the Alcyon Chamber Music Series, Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Brookline Library, Hopkinton Center for the Arts, Musical Chairs House Concert Series, Parish Center for the Arts, and upcoming concerts at Northeastern University and the New England Chamber Music Society. Members of the quartet are prize-winners in several national competitions and have performed in master classes for such renowned musicians including William Preucil, Stephen Clapp, Christian Tetzlaff, Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, Midori, as well as the Emerson, Tokyo, Arianna, JACK, and Atrium Quartets. They each hold graduate music performance degrees from Boston University and are experienced instructors in private lessons, chamber music and orchestra settings in the greater Boston area, including Sudbury, Concord, Arlington, and Concord, NH.

About double bassist Jury Kobayashi-Baxter
Mr. Kobayashi-Baxter obtained his undergraduate degree in music performance from the University of Toronto where he studied under both Tim Dawson and Paul Rogers and his graduate degree from the Longy School of Music where he studied with Pascale Delache-Feldman. While at Longy, Jury has continued his growth in many different avenues of music, which includes being involved with jazz ensembles, early music ensembles, as well as his new passion taking conducting lessons. During his first year at Longy School he won the Benjamin Franklyn Creativity Foundation Legacy Award. Jury has been able to continue his journey towards blending his love of acting, teaching and music through his involvement with the El Sistema Side by Side Program through the Longy School of Music and with the orchestra program at the Josiah Quincy Public School in Boston. He will continue his graduate study in early music at Longy School in Fall 2017.

Fabulous Founding Flutist, Fenwick

By Marcus Thompson


Despite all the f’s with which he and his life come to mind, BCMS founding flutist Fenwick Smith (1949–July 19, 2017) was probably the quietest person I have ever met. He was a gentle soft-spoken man of few well-chosen words. Had he never played a note in our series he would still be recalled and revered as one of the most visible and prolific artists on the Boston scene for decades.

That he was a noted recording artist and a former member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Flute Faculty of New England Conservatory, and Boston Musica Viva will be properly noted and appreciated in the days ahead. He still holds the record for annual faculty recitals played at Jordan Hall over more than three decades.

What might be less known is his generosity to friends, colleagues and students; his mastery of handwork—from building his own house to making his own flutes—and the ease and quiet humility with which he shared brilliant insights into music with BCMS colleagues and high school students at Boston Arts Academy alike. He was also an entrepreneur: in the mid-1990s he acquired a commercial building that housed an old Masonic temple on its top floor, then spent years in renovation to turn that space into a sumptuous, state-of-the-art recording/rehearsal studio in a city where these are still in short supply.

Up close he was known to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the flute repertoire. In my earliest contact with him, when he still wore his salt and pepper hair in a long braid, we performed and recorded George Edwards’ quintet Kreuz und Quer with Boston Music Viva almost a decade before BCMS. Between 1983 and his retirement from our concert stage in 2011, Fenwick performed with BCMS works by Bach, Telemann, Mozart, Schoenberg, Rorem, Crumb, Jolivet, Duruflé, Debussy, Copland, Diamond, McKinley, Roussel, and Villa-Lobos, among others. He was ‘at home’ in everything he played from very early to recent. He seemed to know and have played everything!

On one occasion I stumbled upon a beautiful and obscure work for flute, viola, and piano that I was hearing in a taxi on a public radio station while on a concert trip to Pittsburgh. My immediate instinct was to ‘alert’ and ‘inform’ Fenwick of my discovery until I learned that the performance was his recording, and that I was playing with him! He also introduced me to duos of Joseph Martin Kraus and François Devienne that we played soon after on WGBH while representing BCMS. We are all grateful for wisdom, beauty, and grace Fenwick brought to all our contacts.

Pictured below is one of my fondest memories with him: a BCMS Winter Festival performance at MIT with pianist Randy Hodgkinson, of Andrew Imbrie’s Serenade for Flute, Viola, and Piano.


First Fruits: early offerings of three giants

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”     Psalms 1:3


Our Season 2016-17 finale program based on some the earliest works of three different masters of late Viennese style shaped by and drawing from the same stream of emotion, gesture and expression. As such, they each reflect aspects of the tradition of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven as they appear in works of many other composers not unlike the aural equivalent of a hall of mirrors.

The first work on the program is the shortest. Cast in a single surviving movement, Gustav Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A Minor dates from his student days at the Vienna Conservatory between 1876 and 1878 when he would have been sixteen to eighteen years of age. It reflects the influence of his teacher, Robert Fuchs, whom Brahms numbered among the five young composers he championed. From this small beginning Mahler would go on to become one of the leading symphonists of his time, both in number and scale.

New to our repertoire and to possibly many Boston listeners will be String Sextet in D Major, Op. 10 (1915) written by Erich Wolfgang Korngold at age eighteen. Even among string sextets we have performed at BCMS–the two by Brahms, Strauss’s Capriccio (from his opera), Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (BCMS’s 1994 CD of the latter two available here)the Korngold stands out as a work of genius in its imagination, awareness, and passion. Its first movement starts mid-sentence with a solo viola invitation to other players to join in and take flight. We find out later in the movement that he is, in fact, quoting the opening motif of Brahms’s second sextet, the one we performed last January at the Fitzgerald Theatre. The slow second movement best reflects the post-Wagner, early Schoenberg world where emotional depths are explored on a mythic scale with surprising harmonic extension and resolution. (Schoenberg’s Sextet, Verklärte Nacht , dates from 1899.) This movement astonishes as the product of the inner life of a child! The third, marked Intermezzo, places us in the midst of the sound world of Der Rosenkavalier (premiered 1911). The marking of the finale says everything we need to know about the movement: As fast as possible (Presto); with fire and humor! (We rarely see characterizations like this in chamber music. More likely in opera!)

Caricature of the Wunderkind Korngold from the Neues Wiener Tagblatt

Caricature of the Wunderkind Korngold from the Neues Wiener Tagblatt

Korngold’s most significant later work would not be heard in the familiar world of theater and concert hall that supported the work of his predecessors and contemporaries. He was to become the inventor of the musical narration of a new artistic medium: commercial film-–in Hollywood. He became a legend and started a tradition of a different kind.

The final work, Johannes Brahms’s Second Piano Quartet in A Major, Op. 26 (1861), written at age 28, before his great symphonies, reflects many of the intimate structural and melodic practices of Haydn and Schubert on a symphonic scale. To this writer it is the earliest work in which Brahms finds his later voice. Each of the three Brahms Piano Quartets has found favor among our listeners for many seasons.

Concert Dedication to Ida Levin

There are many aspects of this programming that make this concert an appropriate occasion to remember the contributions to BCMS of violinist Ida Levin, who passed away last fall following a serious illness.

Ida performed in the Brahms A Major Piano Quartet when it was last played at BCMS. In her many written communications it was she who suggested we do a program of music by Hollywood composers, many whose families she knew growing up in California. That request became our Exiles in Hollywood Winter Festival Forum topic and program concluding with a performance of Korngold’s Piano Quintet led by Ida. Her list of works that we ‘must’ tackle includes the Korngold String Sextet. She was its most ardent champion.

With this concert we recall, honor, and express gratitude for her artistry, intellect, loyalty, and presence.