Classical Notes

BLO names David Angus new music director

British conductor David Angus made his Boston Lyric Opera debut in April, leading a performance of Mozart’s “Idomeneo.’’ British conductor David Angus made his Boston Lyric Opera debut in April, leading a performance of Mozart’s “Idomeneo.’’ (Boston Lyric Opera)
June 25, 2010

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Filling a post that has been vacant for two years, the British conductor David Angus has been named as the next music director of Boston Lyric Opera. He will begin at the start of the 2010-11 season; his initial contract is for three years.

Angus has conducted widely in the UK and also serves as music director of Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, N.Y. He made his BLO debut in April this year, leading performances of Mozart’s “Idomeneo.’’

“When David conducted, it became very clear that his interaction with the orchestra and with the chorus was really wonderful, and it resulted in a positive artistic energy that I think was noticeable coming from the pit,’’ said Esther Nelson, BLO’s general and artistic director.

Sandra Kott, the orchestra’s concertmaster, said she is excited about the choice: “He’s a very good musician, and clearly knew what he wanted from the orchestra. He was also one of the most collegial conductors I’ve played for in a long time.’’

Angus will lead just one production next year — Britten’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream’’ in April 2011 — but he will lead at least two productions in each of the following two seasons.


Giving voice to a century
The 20th century was, among many other things, the time when America finally got itself on the classical music map. There had, of course, been composers in America earlier, but it was only in the last century that the country produced not just a handful of composers largely beholden to their European colleagues for inspiration, but a great assembly of voices and factions offering different — and sometimes competing — visions of what American music was.

Despite the importance of this remarkable chapter in music history, conductor Scott Parkman thinks we haven’t been listening closely enough. Parkman formed American Century Music last year out of a conviction that despite the lasting prominence of American art in some media — film, television, jazz — its art music has yet to be examined in any sustained depth. Under his direction, the organization intends to produce concerts devoted solely to 20th-century American music. Its first is today in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library.

Parkman was trained as both a conductor and a percussionist, and his training, he wrote in an e-mail exchange, focused heavily on the core European repertoire. “However, I’ve been curious for some time as to why early and mid-20th century American composers’ music rarely appears in concert halls,’’ he wrote, mentioning William Schuman, Roger Sessions, David Diamond, and Walter Piston. “The repertoire by [these] composers is enormous, lots of it very good, and much of it underperformed.’’ It’s true that recordings and isolated performances of many of these pieces exist; however, Parkman wrote, “I’m more interested in live performance and putting together interesting programs that allow the different compositional voices of the century to communicate.’’

As an example of that conversation, today’s concert is composed of wind music by New England composers, written between the early 1940s and the mid-1950s. Arthur Berger’s neoclassical Quartet for Winds sits in close proximity to the jazzy atonality of Donald Martino’s “A Set for Clarinet.’’ The program is rounded out by quintets by Walter Piston and Amy Beach.

American Century Music has no fixed roster of musicians, and, Parkman explained, is wedded to no particular musical format. Rather, he wrote, “it is designed to work with many different musicians as well as collaborate with established ensembles, orchestras, and performing arts centers. Thus, ACM has the capacity to perform the entire gamut of repertoire, with programs that can present a concert of a singular genre or those combining several different ones.’’

If that sounds like an ambitious plan, consider that Parkman has already scheduled two more BPL concerts this summer — one featuring music of Piston, Elliott Carter, and George Antheil (July 16), the other composed of string quartets by Barber, Ives, and Arthur Foote (Aug. 20). A performance at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington is scheduled for Nov. 14. And Parkman hopes to expand the organization’s reach to include educational activities as well.

Cage in church
Speaking of American composers, John Cage is one whose music is more likely to be written about than heard in a concert hall. And a church is about the last place you expect to encounter it. But his String Quartet in Four Parts is at the center of an unusually ambitious program by a group called the Zoria Chamber Players at the stately Chapel at West Parish Garden Cemetery in Andover. The quartet’s tranquil, meditative spirit should actually be a good fit for what violinist Clara Kim, Zoria’s founder, called “a top-notch gorgeous venue.’’

Music by Janacek and Mendelssohn fill out their program.

129 Reservation Road in Andover; 978-475-3902,

Biava Quartet to disband
The Biava Quartet first appeared at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival in the summer of 2004, and has played there several times over the course of its 12-year career. So it’s fitting, perhaps, that the quartet has chosen Rockport as the site of its final concert. The Biava has decided to disband, and tonight’s performance of works by Milhaud, Schoenberg, and Elena Ruehr at the Shalin Liu Performance Center will be its last. According to a representative of the festival, the decision was an amicable one based largely on the desire of some quartet members to start families without the pressures of touring. All four plan to continue their musical careers.

Tonight’s concert is sold out, though returns may be available.


Jeremy Eichler can be reached at David Weininger can be reached at

Correction: Because of a reporting error, the original version of this story erroneously stated that Clara Kim is a member of the chamber orchestra A Far Cry.