On Pitch: A Patchwork Preview
Classical music in and around Harvard this year promises to be even better than last, especially because of the number of unusual pieces among the predictable traditional offerings. During the last couple of seasons, the orchestras, vocal groups, House societies, open rehearsals and performance seminars by noted composers have livened up the musical scene at the University, at the same time demonstrating how great an anomaly the term "classical music" has actually become. The best result of all this is that more concerts have drawn more people, largely because imaginative programs have supplanted some of the standard and decidedly overworked ones. Renowned soloists from all over will also be appearing at Harvard and in Boston, making the list of must concerts appealing to everyone's tastes impossibly long.
The Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra had an interesting schedule last year, including performances of contemporary pieces conducted and discussed by the composers. These performance seminars are an ideal way of spreading the appeal and variety of so-called classical music to a vast audience. The HRO starts its season this year after appearing at an international orchestra competition in Berlin, but you can judge its competence for yourself this Saturday night in Sanders Theater, when James Yannatos conducts a program of Debussy, Verdi, Copland and Schumann. The programs for the rest of the year aren't quite as wide-ranging, but watch for Shostakovitch's Symphony No. 5 in November and Schubert's Fifth Symphony in March.
The Bach Society Orchestra is, in my view, about the most reliably good music group on campus. Its programming is excellent and its performing solid. Bach Soc does not disappoint this year, either. Roy Kogan, a fine soloist who excelled last season, plays Schumann's Piano Concerto in October, Jennie Shames appears in the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, and the rest of the year includes Britten, Mahler, Chausson and some workhorse Beethoven. Bach doesn't figure in much, but that's the paradox of this orchestra -- it's supposed to play the Brandenburgs, but instead bombards you with great nineteenth and twentieth century pieces.
Elsewhere at Harvard, the Radcliffe Choral Society. Harvard Glee Club, Collegium Musicum and Graduate Chorale crowd the vocal scene. RCS, a choir of sixty women, is touring the British Isles next June, but before that, it will team up with the Glee Club, Collegium and HRO to perform Verdi's Requiem in April.
Before leaving the Harvard musical scene, you should also check out the enjoyable but unheralded Harvard University Band concerts, which bear no resemblance to the attempted imitations of Animal House parades staged at Harvard football game halftimes. There are also performance-analysis seminars by the Music Department and concerts at the Busch-Reisinger Museum. Longy School, Harvard-Epworth Church, First Church, The Fromm Foundation and the Harvard Group for New Music. The House music societies are excellent places to hear new and old works from the classical repertoire; Eliot. Dunster Adams and North are especially fine, and they're all free. Eliot and Winthrop feature concerts this weekend.
Across the river, the Boston Symphony Orchestra features the masterful conducting of Seiji Ozawa and a roster of renowned guest performers. Get a full schedule by calling 266-1492 and go to the season premiere this weekend to hear Brahms' Second Piano Concerto. The BSO also offers a series of Informal Open Rehearsals: not only a great way to hear the BSO perform with illustrious soloists but also a unique way to learn about the process of making music. The first open rehearsal is conducted by Andrew Davis on October 25th.
Finally, remember to watch for concerts and seminars by Boston University, The Museum of Fine Arts and especially The New England Conservatory. Adding it all up, it's impossible not to find half a dozen appealing concerts every week in and around the Harvard area.