Treat Your Mom to the Symphony - French Music on Mother's Day

Treat Your Mom to the Symphony - French Music on Mother's Day

This is going to be an exciting concert. For the longest time I had wanted to present a concert of French music in which we would perform composers for the 18th and 19th centuries, especially composers of the revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. Interestingly, some of the well-known 19th century composers we will perform such as Fauré and Gounod were contemporary of trouble times. For example. Charles Gounod (1818-1893) was born at the end of the Napoleonic era, during the Restauration and was witness to three revolutions in France, 1830, 1848 and the Paris' Commune arising of 1871.  It is interesting to see how their music reflects those difficult times.What was the influence of those composers on their time as well.

Some composers such as Boieldieu, Grétry and Méhul were active during the French revolution.  We often tend to believe that the French Revolution was a period of total chaos, were the arts, letters, music, theatre were totally non-existing. it is easy to believe that such asrevolution would totally stiffle creativity. It was in fact not the case. The revolutionary elite was very well educated , and artistically very astute. It is true that the style of composition changed somehow during the most difficult years, especially during the Terror. To keep in with the notion of freedom, liberty, equality, and fraternity, the music had to reflect those high ideals. We will find compositions, hymns to the glory of the revolution, to the glory of the human spirit and freedom. Often those compositions were grandiose in nature,, calling for large orchestral forces, and choirs. Some of them were staged.

Most of those compositions served their revolutionary purposes, and quickly were forgotten. However, during that period, the opera scene was very active. IN fact many of the works performed by the Waltham Symphony for this Mother's Day Concert, are from operatic works. We have selected mostly overtures from those.

It would be too long to go into a dissertation on all of those. It is not difficult music to perform and to listen to. It is very French in its writing, in its understated mood. The instrumentation is typical for that period, with woodwinds by two, and a regular four horns, two trumpets and three trombones. The string section required is not very large. We have to remember that many of those operas were written for pit orchestras in theatres where space was at a premium. To this day in fact, the size of the pit orchestra is reduced compared to that of a full stage symphony orchestra.

Interesting music, too rarely performed.


Patrick Botti


Holiday POPS, our WSO tradition

I really want to welcome all of you for our upcoming holiday celebration, our annual Holiday POPS, on Saturday December 16 at 8 pm.

As usual the program will be varied, fun and entertaining. This year we welcome famed soprano and Waltham personality Molly Jo Rivelli. Molly Jo is fantastic and an absolute asset to the community. She is well known in the community as the director of the MJ Music School in Waltham. She is also very active in the Boston area, being a director at the Boston School for Performing Arts and soloing with many groups and orchestras.  The first part of the program will be mostly operatic with excerpts from works by Puccini, Handel, Mozart and Mascagni.

We will also welcome for a return performance three amazing young soprano soloists from Waltham, twin sisters Alexandra and Alfreda Anthony Raj and Lily Massa. We are very happy to also welcome Waltham's Our Lady's Academy Youth Choir. The choir is lead in a very expert fashion by Thomas Mark Fallon. Thomas is an internationally renowned contratenor singer with an outstanding pedigree. He has performed extensively in the US and Europe, singing under major conductors and with major orchestras. In addition to his singing career and his private voice studio. Thomas also teaches music at Our Lady's Academy and as noted conducts its youth choir.

Our Holiday programming is diverse and eclectic.  I believe in a programming concept that mixes well-known works from the symphony repertoire with Strauss Waltzes, Leroy Anderson Christmas arrangements, operatic excerpts from different periods and different composers and many others. Programming for a POPS concert is not as easy as people would think. It is like preparing a very complex dish where all the ingredients have to mix well with each other somehow and yet the taste of each of the dishes is special and unexpected. Before anything else it has to be fun for all. It is a family concert, where youth is present and often well represented on stage, let it be with a youth choir, or a junior string ensemble joining the orchestra for some Christmas Carols.

There would not be a Holiday concert without the usual sing-along and audience participation. We have at the WSO a well-established tradition of incorporating 20th century popular Christmas songs (Winter Wonderland, The Christmas Song-Chestnuts roasting on the open fire and others) with traditional Christmas Carols and seasonal tunes from other traditions. Our tradition of singing the Boston POPS version of Leroy Anderson's Christmas Festival will be respected again this year along with our very much awaited encore, Leroy Anderson's Sleigh RIde.

The concert is usually well attended. Make sure to come early as it is an open-seating configuration in the auditorium.

See you there and Happy Holidays to all.

I will expand in a future post on the art of programming. It is something that is not always taught in Conservatories and Music Schools and yet it is one of the most important things a conductor will have to accomplish throughout a career.

2015-2016 Season Begins

Thomas Stumpf performs Mozart's  Concerto No. 17  during the opening concert of the WSO concert season.

Thomas Stumpf performs Mozart's Concerto No. 17 during the opening concert of the WSO concert season.


The WSO Season Opener in September, filled the house!

The WSO joined in the 150th Anniversary Celebration for the Waltham Public Library. To commemorate the occasion, the WSO commissioned Waltham-born composer Dianne Rahbee-Goolkasian. In her work “Time Passes by,” she reminds us that Waltham was, before anything else, the Watch City of America. A constant woodblock beat throughout the work reminded listeners of the never-ending ticking of time and the relentless motion of clockwork mechanisms. Many well-known Armenian folk themes are presented in the composition. Some of them with direct connection to the Armenian holocaust; they were beautiful repetitive melodies and lullabies. As one audience member commented, it was a “beautiful and moving piece."

Wagner! I finally programmed one of his works with the WSO, “Der Meistersinger Overture.” This Prelude to Act I (as it is called) is from the only opera by Wagner that is a comedy. It is set in Nuremberg at the end of the Middle-Ages and based on the real guild of Master Singers, very important at the time. I love conducting that Overture! The audience members loved it too, especially enjoying a connection to the brass section who themselves reveled in the boisterous melodies.

Saint-Saens Bacchanale: The orchestra members pushed me to up the tempo even on the day of the performance.  To their credit, they were right!  The brisk tempos thrilled the audience, leaving them standing on their feet at the end of the performance.  The solos were absolutely magnificent, especially the beautiful and daunting oboe solo performed by principal oboist Amy Dinsmore. She has one of the most beautiful tones of which one can dream!

Mozart Concerto No 17 with pianist Thomas Stumpf: My good friend and long time musical accomplice, Thomas Stumpf lent us his virtuosic piano skills in a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in A Major, K453. His performance was magnificent and exquisite. The slow movement especially possessing rare beauty in the absolute technical precision and beauty of each phrase. Stumpf created a reverent, spiritual atmosphere through his intense, simple interpretation. Each note being carefully thought out, placed,  and balanced. This reflects Thomas's wonderful personality, which leaves pomposity at the door, does not take itself too seriously, and loves having good fun.  I knew he would be the best conspirator for performing this concerto. Bravo!

I look forward to seeing you all for the Dec. 6 Holiday Pops Concert. 

--Patrick Botti, Music Director