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Classical Notes

James Sommerville conducts, Stile Antico returns, Radius wins

James Sommerville, BSO principal horn, will conduct New England Conservatory’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra in February.


James Sommerville, BSO principal horn, will conduct New England Conservatory’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra in February.

Most local music fans know James Sommerville as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s superb principal horn. But he has another musical career: Sommerville has been music director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra (in Ontario) since 2007 and is a frequent guest conductor with other orchestras in his native Canada.

Now Sommerville is set for his first full concert on a Boston podium. He will lead New England Conservatory’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra on Feb. 12, in a program that includes Jennifer Higdon’s “blue cathedral,” Ravel’s G major Piano Concerto (with soloist Hannah Byun, a senior at the Walnut Hill School), and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Sommerville replaces BSO assistant conductor Marcelo Lehninger, who withdrew from the engagement because of a scheduling conflict. (Interestingly, Lehninger led a Hamilton Philharmonic concert in November that included the Ravel concerto.)

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Sommerville told the Globe at the time of his Hamilton appointment that he felt as though he’d learned a lot about conducting from his then-25-year career as an orchestra player. “I feel like I've fulfilled some kind of apprenticeship just by paying attention,” he said.

Christmas music past

Appearances by the Renaissance vocal group Stile Antico have, happily, turned into a regular occurrence, thanks to the Boston Early Music Festival concert series. They will return to St. Paul Church in Cambridge on April 5. For those who can’t wait, and for those who want to leaven their holiday playlists with some centuries-old fare, NPR’s classical music blog, Deceptive Cadence, has posted recorded excerpts from Stile Antico’s previous Boston concert, last December.

Most of the selections, which were recorded by WGBH, are British, including works by Byrd, Sheppard, and Tallis. The excerpts from Tallis’s Missa “Puer Natus Est” were some of the most beautiful ensemble singing in recent memory. The concert was also notable for the fact that the sounds of a rock band at the nearby Democracy Center could be heard at several moments. The performance wasn’t disrupted, however, and no trace of them seems to have made its way onto the recording.

Radius wins award

Radius Ensemble, the chamber group in residence at the Longy School of Music at Bard College, has won a 2013 CMA/ASCAP award for adventurous programming. The awards, established by Chamber Music America and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, recognize ensembles and presenters for innovative programming of music from the last 25 years. The program for Radius’s next concert, at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, hints at the inventiveness that garnered the award: The group will play a series of bird-themed works by Schumann, Ravel, Libby Larsen, Joan Tower, John Howell Morrison, and Mason Bates.

Also a winner of a CMA/
ASCAP award is Miller Theatre, a leading presenter of new music in New York. Among its various offerings is its series of composer portraits, a few of which migrate up to the Gardner Museum each season. The next Boston-bound portrait is of the Soviet-born composer Sofia Gubaidulina (March 21).

David Weininger can be reached at globeclassicalnotes@gmail
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