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      How One Man Built the Great American Orchestra

        The names inscribed on the façade of Chicago’s Orchestra Hall – Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Wagner – are familiar to every concertgoer. But another name that is proudly displayed not once, but twice alongside this pantheon of musical masters may be less familiar to you: Theodore Thomas. Theodore Thomas founded what would later more... more...

      Countertenor David Daniels on Finding His Voice, Finding Himself, and Being Married by Justice Ginsburg

      David Daniels is “the most acclaimed countertenor of the day, perhaps the best ever,” to use the words of the New York Times. Though many know him best for portraying some of opera’s greatest heroes from Julius Caesar to Orpheus, he is also passionate about civil rights. more...

      QUIZ: What American Composer Are You?

      Take this quiz to find out which dean of American music you're most like! Are you sparse and minimal like Philip Glass? Or do you prefer the sis-boom-bah John Philip Sousa? Do you prefer Samuel Barber's sonic landscapes of America, or Scott Joplin's Ragtime portraits of American life? more...

      Our Country, ‘Tis of Thee: How Marian Anderson Broke Boundaries for Singers of Color

      Younger generations of Americans take it for granted that the United States has been legally desegregated. But, before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, segregation was the norm, including in concert halls across America. more...

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      Monstrous fun: the community opera with a cast of hundreds

      Jonathan Dove’s Monster in the Maze involves a huge cast of professionals and amateurs, adults and children, and it’s being performed in three countries, in three languages. Can the Simons (Rattle conducting, and Halsey choral directing) tame the beast?

      There are 350 singers on stage in the Philharmonie, Berlin. There are children, teenagers and adults. They are singing and acting their hearts out for Simon Rattle. The orchestra is made up partly of the Berlin Philharmonic and partly of students, many as young as 10. There are four horn-players whose feet don’t reach the floor. The music is by Jonathan Dove and Was lauert da im Labyrinth? (The Monster in the Maze) has been specially written to give as many people as possible the chance to perform within the hallowed walls of the Philharmonie.

      Meanwhile, exactly the same scene is taking place in London where the same piece, in its English version, The Monster in the Maze, is being acted, sung and played by the full forces of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Discovery programme - the LSO Community Choir and Youth and Children’s Choirs in association with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. They’re rehearsing for a performance at the Barbican on 5 July.

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      Marc-André Hamelin; Erik Satie: Memoirs of a Pear-Shaped Life reviews

      Cheltenham music festival
      Marc-André Hamelin brought extreme virtuousity and vibrant resonance to his morning recital; Meurig Bowen’s celebration of Satie neatly encapsulated the surreal life of the troubled eccentric

      Canadian Marc-André Hamelin has effectively defined himself by espousing the repertory of pianist/composers such as Liszt and Alkan and making the extreme virtuosity they demand look simple. In this Cheltenham music festival morning recital, it was this ease of technique that made his playing of Debussy’s second book of Images so fluid, with tone colours graduated to create a vibrant resonance.

      Yet it was with Mozart and Schubert that Hamelin framed his programme. The Sonata in D major, K576, had super-slick passage-work throughout, with the F sharp minor heart of its central Adagio standing out for intensity of expression. The four Schubert Impromptus, D935, were similarly polished in delivery and a reminder of the indebtedness of all who followed to this composer’s example. Hamelin’s affinity with the later giants was manifest in two of his own compositions. In the Pavane Variée, receiving its UK premiere here, the theme appears with chorale-like dignity before getting the keyboard-fireworks treatment, while the Variations on a Theme by Paganini was both glittering homage and a panoply of humorous references.

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      LSO/Rattle review – Zimerman and Rattle have forged a very special musical partnership

      Barbican, London

      Krystian Zimerman’s account of Brahms’s D minor Piano Concerto combined technical perfection with astonishing energy; Rattle and the orchestra brought off the Dvorak that followed with tremendous panache

      The London Symphony Orchestra could not have come up with a much better indication of what the future might hold in the Simon Rattle era than securing Krystian Zimerman as the soloist for the music director’s first concert since his appointment. Any performance by Zimerman is a special occasion, and these occasions have become even more precious over recent years as his appearances in the UK seem to grow less frequent. But as this unforgettable account of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No 1 in D minor showed, he and Rattle have forged a very special musical partnership.

      The greatest interpreters make you believe you are encountering even the most familiar work for the first time, and Zimerman offered exactly that kind of journey of discovery through the vast span of the Brahms concerto. But this was not just a reading of the score in which every detail was deeply considered and immaculately presented. That technical perfection was only the starting point for a performance of astonishing energy and sometime ferocious intensity, with the central Adagio refracted through myriad keyboard colours to provide cooling respite, and Rattle following Zimerman every step of the way. There was some real pianissimo playing from the LSO too, and that’s something they’ve never contemplated under their current principal conductor.

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