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      Carl's Morning Quiz

      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: Earlier this morning was our annual "Back to School" segment of the morning show which included the Brahms Academic Festival Overture. Brahms wrote the overture--rather than give a speech--when he was awarded an honorary degree from what university? Answer >>

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      Christopher Maltman Sings Beethoven, John Adams

      The Milwaukee Symphony welcomes familiar faces for their performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Under the direction of music director Edo de Waart, the orchestra features baritone Christopher Maltman, who earlier this month sang the role of Don Giovanni with James Conlon and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festivial; soprano Susanna Phillips, a Chicago favorite more...

      Pianist Amy Briggs on What’s New in Music

      Pianist Amy Briggs has a passion for pristine and rugged terrains, be it a trek in the Spanish Pyrenees or a virtuosic piano score that no one's ever performed before. As a working pianist and Director of Chamber Music and Lecturer in Music at the University of Chicago, Ms. Briggs knows her way around the standard repertoire of Brahms and Beethoven. But it is the music of our own time that finds its way more...

      Champion Plays Ravinia

      He calls Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin "a big friend of mine." His heroes are Vladimir Horowitz and star hockey center Sergei Fedorov. Russian pianist Denis Matsuev, who has "epic technique" according to the Boston Globe, is not shy about talking sports. In a 2009 Impromptu, he told WFMT that as a youth in Siberia, he could hardly be kept indoors. He played either soccer or ice hockey "about seven hours a day. Music was second." Speaking with a gentle Russian growl, he laughs more...

      Cedille Day on WFMT

      With over 30,000 recordings in WFMT's "record" library, the staff seldom focuses on a single record label for very long. When it happens, it's usually because an artist has an exclusive agreement with a label; and the programming staff is featuring that artist. On Friday, WFMT honors a record label that has made it its mission to enhance the cultural life of Chicago. Cedille Records Day celebrates the Chicago-based record label that for 25 years has been recording the gifted and diverse musicians and composers more...

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      Milhaud: L'Orestie d'Eschyle review an operatic curiosity worth investigating

      Phillips/Kempson/Outlaw/Eder/University of Michigan School of Music/Kiesler

      Though Aeschylus's triptych of tragedies has influenced opera composers from Wagner to Birtwistle, relatively few of them have been tempted to fashion a stage work of their own from the Oresteia plays. There is Sergei Taneyev's ambitious, evening-long version, while Iannis Xenakis's Oresteia compresses the whole drama into just 50 minutes, with a single baritone protagonist and children and adult choruses. Neither, though, is on anything like the scale of Darius Milhaud's L'Orestie d'Eschyle, which emerged over the course of a decade, when the composer was in his 20s.

      Milhaud's starting point was a French translation of Aeschylus by his lifelong collaborator, the playwright Paul Claudel. He began in 1913 by setting just a single scene of the first play, Agamemnon, as a relatively conventional musical interlude for soprano and chorus as part of a spoken stage performance. His treatment of the second part of the triptych, Les Choéphores (The Libation Bearers), which emerged three years later, is much more ambitious; it requires an orchestra supplemented by 15 percussionists, and alongside the complex, multi-layered choruses and solo numbers, it incorporates rhythmically notated speech that at times weirdly anticipates the style of Peter Hall's famous National Theatre staging of the Oresteia of the 1980s. The third part, Les Euménides (The Furies), which Milhaud completed in 1923, is on a different scale entirely its three acts last more than twice as long as the first two parts put together, and it requires an even bigger orchestra, including quartets of saxophones and saxhorns for music that, in its way, is sometimes as strikingly original as anything by Stravinsky from the same period.

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      Prom 54: ORR/Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner review the demands of Missa Solemnis were thrillingly met

      Royal Albert Hall, London
      John Eliot Gardiner brought tremendous force to Beethoven's massive work

      "You have to be attracted to the fire in Beethoven to do this work," John Eliot Gardiner remarked ahead of his late-night performance of the Missa Solemnis with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and Monteverdi Choir. This was an evening of anniversaries: the 50th of the choir's founding, the 25th of the founding of the ORR and 30th time Gardiner has conducted the work in public. Yet the Missa Solemnis also belongs with the first world war centenary. One of the many ideas posited by this immense work is that war is humanity's ultimate refutation of the idea of God. Time hasn't blunted its political relevance.

      It hasn't blunted the impact of Gardiner's familiar interpretation, either. Numinosity and urgency course through it in equal measure. Textural clarity, conferred by period instruments and a smaller choir than usual, remind us of the depth and range of Beethoven's orchestral writing. There is real awe in the strings as they usher in the Benedictus. The insistent brass, rarely absent from the score, suggest both God's infinite majesty and man's potential for violence. Contrary to opinion, Gardiner's speeds are not so much fast as extreme: in the Sanctus and the consoling Et Vitam Venturi fugue, he's slower than some.

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      William Tell review Noseda does justice to Rossini's freedom fighter

      Usher Hall, Edinburgh
      Teatro Regio Torino's sparkling concert-performance of the full Rossini opera proves there's more to it than the 'Lone Ranger' overture

      Rossini's last opera the whole thing, that is, not just the overture is a rarity that suddenly seems to be everywhere. There are new productions at Welsh National Opera and Covent Garden this season, and there was this, a magnificent concert-performance from Teatro Regio Torino and its music director, Gianandrea Noseda. Perhaps the themes of self-rule and justice are particularly topical at the moment; perhaps the word is finally out that there's a whole lot more to this score than the first 10 minutes.

      The plot is pure picturesque nationalism, and lively enough if you like that sort of thing. Set in Austrian-occupied medieval Switzerland, Guglielmo Tell is a Swiss freedom fighter who outwits the brutish Austrian governor Gessler by shooting an apple from atop his own son's head and navigating treacherous waters to freedom in a rowboat. Arnold, son of the Swiss leader, is in love with Matilde, an Austrian princess; the chorus alternates between righteous patriots and boorish oppressors. Mainly it's the music that keeps things rollicking along. This is Rossini at the height of his operatic powers: boisterously fluid and inventive, sparkling with dramatic sequences, colourful orchestration and lush choral writing. Premiered in Paris in 1829, the rumblings of grand opera are everywhere.

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