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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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      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...

      WFMT Gets an Upgrade

      After being off-line for two months, WFMT's Fay and Daniel Levin Performance Studio is open for business. With a new mixing board, new recording equipment, and a sassy blue paint job (better for shooting photographs and video), the studio re-opened last week for a recording with composer Lita Grier, followed by a live broadcast of "Folkstage" more...

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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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      Prom 53: Budapest Festival Orchestra/Fischer review beauty that obscured Brahms's muscle

      Royal Albert Hall, London
      This all-Brahms programmed showcased the orchestra's plush sound, but insights came at the price of momentum

      Always an ensemble to do things differently, the Budapest Festival Orchestra has turned itself into a part-time choir. We discovered this at encore time. "We perform for you Johannes Brahms's Abendständchen," conductor Iván Fischer announced, after the BFO had played the composer's Third and Fourth symphonies. Clutching scores, the musicians hastily regrouped themselves on the platform.

      Abendständchen is one of Brahms's most beguiling works for unaccompanied chorus, and the orchestra sang it with remarkable precision and finesse.

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      Classical music students - the future's bright, just use your imagination

      Earlier this month, Julian Lloyd Webber gave a speech to music students at the Birmingham Conservatoire. Here, we reprint it in full.

      In 1977 I won a bet with my brother Andrew. This meant that he finally had to write me the cello piece he had been promising for years. The trouble was that he decided it should be a piece for cello and rock band - and the classical music world was a lot stuffier then than it is now. That was the time when melody, rhythm and harmony were taboo in contemporary classical music and I was warned by friends and colleagues alike that I would literally ruin my career by recording it. But I believed in the piece so I took the chance.

      And it didnt ruin my career. Variations (aka the South Bank Show theme) was unexpectedly successful. Perhaps because audiences were actually crying out for melody, rhythm and harmony. Perhaps because we had shown that pushing at boundaries need not be a bad thing. But more likely it was because I never left my classical roots behind because - much as I liked to experiment - I knew that my bedrock as a solo cellist would always be based on that five-hundred-year treasure trove called classical music.

      The life of a solo musician is tough and exhausting, both physically and mentally, but I would definitely make the same choice again. For in the end, there is something which sustains you through all the difficulties, something far stronger than ambition, wealth or fame. Let that great cellist, Pablo Casals, say it for me. After a particularly moving performance he was asked:

      Mr Casals, can you tell me, are we in heaven or still on earth?

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      Join Peter Van De Graaff for a trip to Montreal & Quebec City this September!

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      Join Peter Van De Graaff this October for the treasures of Cuba's rich culture of music, dance, art, and history!

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