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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The DCR Hatch Shell on the Esplanade

What could be better than spending a hot summer evening in Boston strolling along the Charles River?

The sailboats from Community Boating are a fixture along the Charles River basin. Frederick Law Olmstead helped to designed it.

Walk a short distance, and you will find your way to the DCR Hatch Shell on the Esplanade.

The construction of this outdoor music shell took place in 1941 with a $300,000 donation by benefactor Maria Hatch as a memorial for her brother Edward.

Here is a photo of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra (Charles Ansbacher, Music Director) performing a program of Mendelssohn and Mozart on August 26, 2009. The guest conductor is Hobart Earle. The program included the Mozart "Jupiter" symphony, but unfortunately the sky was not clear enough Wednesday evening to see Jupiter.

The water glistens as the Boston skyline is viewed at night from the Esplanade.

Violinist Mariana Green-Hill and violist Marcus Thompson performed the Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat by Mozart (photo above). I marveled in their joint cadenzas. They seemed to have the same idea about how it should go.

The Boston Landmarks Orchestra performs throughout the summer at the Hatch Shell and at other venues in Boston. Their next concert is on September 2nd at the Hatch Shell with a world premiere by Boston composer Thomas Oboe Lee. Lee is among the first composers I first heard when I arrived in Boston in 1973. His very first opus, a String Quartet, was performed in the"contemporary art room" at the MFA. It was one of the works in a new music series run by Rodney Lister and Conrad Pope called "Music Here and Now."

Thomas Oboe Lee comes from a musical family, and all of his siblings were given a middle name that corresponds to a musical instrument (I think his sister may have been named "Clarinet"). Tom, perhaps in protest, became a flutist.

The new Thomas Oboe Lee work that will be performed in a few weeks is his third Boston Landmarks Orchestra commission. Over the past seven years, the orchestra has performed and recorded 14 musical works, including pieces by Tolib Shahidi, Julian Wachner, Michael Weinstein, Jeremiah Klarman, and Stephen Feigenbaum (2x). Let's hope that the Landmarks Orchestra keeps maintains their policy of supporting the creation and performance of new music.

The DCR Hatch Shell is not the ideal situation for listing to music, since airplanes and helicopters will fly overhead, but you can't beat the ambiance or the price of admission. For those who prefer a little more luxury, comfy lawn chairs can be rented from the staff of the Landmarks Orchestra for $5.

A view of the Cambridge skyline and the Longfellow Bridge as seen from the Esplanade.

Here, guest conductor Hobart Earle says a few words to the audience after the orchestra's fine performance of Mendelssohn's Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream. He mentions that the composer was only 17 years of age when he wrote it. Earle is Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra in the Ukraine where he has held that position for 17 years.

Visiting the Esplanade brought back memories from when I use to attend the weekly outdoor summer concerts by the Boston Pops when I was a student in the 70s. where Arthur Fiedler would conduct. Fiedler and the Boston Pops predated me by about a half century. He first performed on the Esplanade with the "Pops" in the summer of 1929.

Before Keith Lockhart, before John Williams, there was Arthur Fiedler. The German-trained musician joined the ranks of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1915 as a violinist playing under Music Director Karl Muck. As a hobby, Fiedler would chase after fire trucks (yes kids, that's what we did before they invented the Internet).

Fiedler died at his home in Brookline from a heart attack at the age of 84 following a performance with the Boston Pops on the 10th of July, 1979. Soon after Boston dedicated the foot bridge over Storrow Drive to his memory and erected a large iconic computer-designed memorial statue.