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      Carl's Morning Quiz

      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: Later in this hour we will hear pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy play a Beethoven Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A 2-part question today: how many Beethoven piano concertos are there? And what is the nickname of the last one? Answer >>

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      Why the American National Anthem isn’t even American

      Yup. You read that correctly. The American National Anthem isn’t American. Well, it has become American. But ironically, the tune to the “Star Spangled Banner” is actually a British pub ballad. How did a drinking song that originated in the country from which America sought its independence travel across the pond and become our National more... more...

      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...

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      Gioachino Rossini: Guillaume Tell review – hits the mark, despite the booing

      Royal Opera House, London
      Yes, the rape scene was ugly. But to show something is not to endorse it – and we have seen far worse in opera

      Booing: the one petard guaranteed to hoist opera into the headlines. The Royal Opera’s new Guillaume Tell, perceptively conducted by Antonio Pappano, with a top cast led by Gerald Finley, John Osborn and Malin Byström, has achieved it as never before – and mid-performance at that. The noise on first night, which started as a lone shout and turned into a heckling barrage, was so solid I wondered if it had come from a prearranged, European-style claque. This grandest of red-plush auditoriums, for several minutes, became a loutish playground. How the performers kept going, steadfast and professional to the end, is anyone’s guess.

      Despite attempts in opera circles to turn it into a talking point, booing is a dead issue. It’s a given, part of the freedom of expression valued by a civilised world, though hardly itself a civilised gesture. I don’t like it. Others do. The question here was why it happened at all. If a production is unpopular, the usual place to voice opinion is at the final curtain (it was, too), when the production team come on to take their bow. Here it was a nasty interruption. It happens, rarely, elsewhere. In Vienna the police had to be called mid-Trovatore when a row broke out about the singer. The cause at the ROH, as widely reported, was a dance interlude in which Austrian soldiers – dressed in generic Nazi-Fascist uniforms – first molested, then stripped, then gang-raped a Swiss villager.

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      JS Bach: Partitas; English Suite review – a rewarding and highly personal disc

      Rudolf Buchbinder (piano)
      (Sony)

      “Composed for music lovers, to refresh their spirits”, Bach’s six keyboard partitas were first published as a set in 1731. The Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder, now approaching 70, plays the contrasting No 1 in B flat and No 2 in C minor, plus the English Suite No 3 in G minor with its grand, almost “orchestral” opening prelude and well known Gavottes I & II. Usually associated with later Germanic repertoire (hear his Beethoven Sonatas at Edinburgh in August), Buchbinder emphasises bass figuration and an excess of baroque ornament takes a while to get used to on a modern Steinway. When you do, this is a rewarding and highly personal disc and the music dances.

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      Scarlatti: Piano Sonatas review – an inventive approach yields dividends

      Claire Huangci
      (Berlin Classics; 2 CDs)

      You can do so much with Scarlatti’s hundreds of keyboard sonatas – arrange them for the accordion or guitar, put them in all sorts of different order; here Claire Huangci groups them together, first as Suites on CD one, and then as Sonatas on CD two. Pure invention, creating a certain tonal monotony (seven successive sonatas in G major is too many). The “Sonatas” are more varied as their central movements are in different keys, but they tend to be paced so as to be “slow” movements. Huangci’s Yamaha piano has a harpsichord-like sound that suits her pert finger staccato: there is some stunning fast playing, and the gem-like brilliance of Scarlatti’s invention shines through.

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