|“On Willows and Birches,’’ premiered by Ann Hobson Pilot with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is available at www.bso.org. It was recorded at Symphony Hall on Oct. 3, 2009. (Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/File 2009)|
Concerto for harpist gets digital release by BSO
Nudging its recent archives open a little further, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has released a download-only version of “On Willows and Birches,’’ a concerto by John Williams for the orchestra’s former principal harpist, Ann Hobson Pilot. The recording was made at Symphony Hall on Oct. 3, 2009, not long after Pilot and the orchestra premiered the 16-minute piece on opening night of the 2009-10 season. (It was also played at Carnegie Hall.) Former assistant conductor Shi-Yeon Sung leads the BSO in the recording, though James Levine had conducted the premiere.
The concerto was a gift to Pilot and a recognition of both the significance and length of her career: She was the first African-American principal player in a major orchestra, and her retirement after the 2009 Tanglewood season capped a 40-year stint with the BSO. While the orchestra has been releasing recordings in both download and CD formats on its own BSO Classics label since 2009, the Williams is one of a handful of works released only in digital form.
“Given the success of ‘On Willows and Birches’ at the time of its premiere, and the fact that it is a concert work composed by John Williams, known primarily throughout the world for his film work, we hope, of course, that it will be of great appeal to the BSO’s fan base,’’ wrote Kim Noltemy, the orchestra’s marketing director, in an e-mail. “We are releasing more and more of our recordings by downloads through our own website, as that is the most economical way to go about many recordings these days.’’
The piece is in two movements. The first, “On Willows,’’ is gentle and atmospheric, with the harp’s rippling melodies set against a diaphanous accompaniment from the orchestra. The second movement, “On Birches,’’ moves more decisively, striding forward where the earlier music floated. The orchestration is more vigorous too, vaguely reminiscent of Ravel in his bolder moments. The harp is set off more clearly, with a series of cadenzas offering proof, if it were needed, of what a fabulous player Pilot was.
“On Willows and Birches’’ is available exclusively through the BSO’s website, though it will be available on iTunes and
New BMV season Boston Musica Viva, the venerable new-music ensemble, has announced its 43d season, the first under new executive director Alison LaRosa Montez. The first concert, on Sept. 30, offers an intriguing mix of the brand new (David Rakowski’s “Thickly Settled,’’ a world premiere), the recently new (Mark Berger’s String Trio No. 2 and David Froom’s duo “Circling,’’), and the no-longer-new-but-still-dazzling (Lukas Foss’s “Time Cycle,’’ which BMV performed in its first season in 1969).
Among the other world premieres is a new concerto by Bernard Hoffer for the group’s cellist, Jan Müller-Szeraws (on Nov. 18) and “Bhakti-Purana’’ by Shirish Korde (April 27), whose opera “Phoolan Devi: The Bandit Queen’’ BMV premiered last year. Also on the schedule is the group’s 19th family concert, an annual riposte to those who think that new music and kids don’t go together. This year’s iteration features “The Tortoise and the Hare’’ by Patrick Greene and Michael Gandolfi’s “The Piper’s Tale.’’ (Feb. 12)
Rameau redux WGBH-FM (99.5) will broadcast Boston Baroque’s performance of Rameau’s opera “Les Indes Galantes’’ this Sunday at 3 p.m. The performance - under music director Martin Pearlman - was recorded in May at Jordan Hall and was the capstone of Boston Baroque’s season. The performance will also stream at the WGBH website. The recording is part of a full weekend of opera performances on WGBH, not only on the radio but on channels 2 and 44 as well.
David Weininger can be reached at email@example.com.