Let’s say for the sake of context that I first became aware of the American composer David Del Tredici and his extensive string of extensive works based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” fantasies through a 1983 recording of “In Memory of a Summer Day,” the first part of a larger work, “Child Alice” (1977-81). It’s fair to say that I’d been waiting three decades to hear “Child Alice” in full. The opportunity came at last on Friday in a concert presented at Jordan Hall by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project to conclude its 20th-anniversary season.
The capacity crowd at Jordan Hall Friday night knew they were gathered for an Event. For only the second time, and probably the last time in his lifetime, composer David Del Tredici heard his complete Child Alice, the hugest and most elaborate of his many settings from Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. Thanks to the generosity of the Recording Industry’s Music Performance Trust Fund, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s superb show with soprano Courtenay Budd under the direction of Gil Rose was free.
Boston's Jordan Hall was host to a concert version of Tobias Picker's 1998 setting of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox on December 7. A good-sized crowd from very young to older folks had assembled to hear Gil Rose lead his two ensembles, Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Odyssey Opera, in a costumed semi-staged performance of this "family opera". Picker prefers to use this term to describe his morality tale, fearing that "children's opera" is a term frightened with an assumption of "dumbing-down".
If all the charm of the Jordan Hall performance is captured in digital form, it is sure to delight listeners of any age.
Disastrous winters live long in historical memory. For example, there is the blizzard that hit the Great Plains in January of 1888, which caught many who lived in the Midwestern territories unawares. Known as the Children’s Blizzard, the storm trapped students and teachers in their one-room schoolhouses where they remained for days. Many who ventured out into the storm succumbed to frostbite. Others froze to death. In conservative estimates, several hundred people died.
With deliberate gestures, Rose conjured fine playing from the orchestra, the musicians laying a sturdy frame of accompaniment.
Though the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s “Magyar Madness” certainly delivered on the first word by presenting four works of Hungarian or Hungarian-descended composers including two premieres at Jordan Hall on Friday, we’ll give BMOP a pass on “Madness,” as the alliterative sobriquet was oxymoronic considering the event’s rock-solidity.
Rose lavished attention on Bartók’s vivid orchestral effects.
Hungarian music, Liszt once wrote, “is divided naturally into melody destined for song or melody for the dance.” Saturday’s ambitious “Magyar Madness” program, presented by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, had representatives of both. It also had two alluring world premieres.
It was a night that showed BMOP’s importance not only in presenting new work but also in advocating for contemporary classics like this one, which deserves to be heard much more widely.
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project, having promised a night of “Magyar Madness” Saturday at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, delivered world premieres of two outstanding, if well-behaved, works by Boston-based composers of Hungarian birth or ancestry and of Generation X vintage. The madness was supplied by the old-timers, Béla Bartók and Gyorgy Ligeti.
Crazy or sane, violent or poetic, all the music in Saturday’s concert touched on Hungary’s distinctive culture as a place apart, isolated by geography and language, yet also bubbling with a mix of European and Asiatic influences.
Artistic director and conductor Gil Rose and his adept players showed that the old masters remain ever fresh, and today’s composers haven’t lost the knack of colorful, convincing music for orchestra.
Youngsters arrived in droves for the Boston premiere of Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr. Fox in Sunday afternoon’s Jordan Hall collaboration among the Boston Modern Opera Project, Odyssey Opera, and the Boston Children’s Chorus (Anthony Trecek-King, director). Albeit scrubbed of the assassination, murder, or suicide that characterizes the rest of the composer’s work in the genre, Fox is not an inevitable children’s opera.
The tale of Mr. Fox outwitting the blood-thirsty farmers out to destroy his family and community was illustrated engrossingly yet with little restraint from an orchestra that seemed to delight in the color and personality inherent in Picker’s score.
Neither the Boston Modern Orchestra Project nor Odyssey Opera is well known for its children’s programming, so it was a particular pleasure to see the dozens of pint-size opera-goers filing into Jordan Hall excitedly on Sunday afternoon. The occasion was Tobias Picker’s family opera, “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” with a libretto by Donald Sturrock adapted from the story by Roald Dahl.
Sunday’s performance sparkled under Gil Rose’s baton
Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) opened their season on Sunday afternoon with a typically generous and curious program, highlighting music for orchestra and electronics. Perhaps the most impressive takeaway – aside from the rich, musical diversity the afternoon’s three selections showcased – were the often almost imperceptible ways in which composers Ronald Bruce Smith, Anthony Paul de Ritis, and David Felder integrated the electronic and acoustic elements in their music.
The orchestral playing was commanding and, at times, exhilarating.