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      Carl's Morning Quiz

      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: This opera had its premiere on this date in 1850 in Weimar, Germany. It is based on a medieval German legend. The beginning of Act III contains two of the most famous excerpts in all of opera--the exciting prelude and the opening chorus. Name the opera and the composer. Answer >>

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      Christopher Maltman Tweets and Sings Beethoven, John Adams

      It is well established that opera singers can sing like canaries. Now we're finding they tweet like them, too. Baritone Christopher Maltman used Twitter to share something of the on-stage and off-stage energy during his concerts with the Milwaukee Symphony earlier this year 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 more...

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      Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 review remorselessly technical

      Pierre-Laurent Aimard
      (Deutsche Grammophon)

      Pierre-Laurent Aimard's first recording for Deutsche Grammophon six years ago was Bach's Art of Fugue. It was a disappointingly ordinary performance from a pianist who is such a dazzling interpreter of 20th-century repertoire, and though Bach obviously means a great deal to him, these performances of the first book of the 48 Preludes and Fugues suggest that he so far has not found a way of communicating that enthusiasm for the music in his performances. Technically, of course, his playing is immaculate; everything is clear, every rhythm precise, every texture perfectly balanced. What's missing is any character or warmth; there's certainly humour in some of the preludes, but none of that is evident in what become rather remorseless technical exercises, while the deliberate way in which Aimard defines each of the fugues, as though putting their subjects into quotation marks to make a didactic point, becomes rather wearing. When there are so many fine performances of this imperishable music of all vintages already available on disc, from Edwin Fischer right through to Peter Hill's recent Delphian set, this one can't be recommended.

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      Bax: Phantasy; Four Orchestral Pieces; Overture, Elegy and Rondo review

      Dukes/BBC Philharmonic/Davis

      All three of these rarely heard works come from the first half of Bax's career as a composer. The earliest is the lightweight but charming set of Four Orchestral Pieces from 1914, recorded here for the first time, and also known as the Four Orchestral Sketches or the Four Irish Pieces all three names are used on the manuscript. The latest is the far more substantial Overture, Elegy and Rondo, which was completed in 1927. Though stylistically the two works have their differences the wispy French influences on the four pieces, especially Ravel, were replaced by a more muscular, clearer-cut style by the mid-1920s both works reveal the same sure-footed handling of the orchestra, which these carefully manicured performances under conductor Andrew Davis show off beautifully. Between them comes the Phantasy for Viola and Orchestra of 1920, composed for the virtuoso Lionel Tertis, and Bax's reaction to the political turmoil in Ireland at the time, moving from lament to triumph and quoting the Sinn Fein marching song at its climax. Not a major work, but a very interesting one, as the soloist, Philip Dukes, makes the most of what he's given.

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      Szymanowski: Violin Concertos; Mythes review a fresh perspective

      Skride/Skride/Oslo PO/Petrenko

      Baiba Skride's performance of Szymanowski's First Violin Concerto provides a sharp corrective to anyone accustomed to thinking of it as faux modernism, as a rather soft-edged exploration of exotic colours and chromatic harmonies. The tone of Skride's performance is set even before she makes her first appearance, as Vasily Petrenko launches the glinting, nocturnal introduction, with every instrumental strand vivid and distinct and with no suggestion of a vague, impressionist wash. When the violinist does enter, the crisply-etched profile of her playing ensures that the performance never lingers, nor is it allowed to be purely decorative. It brings a totally fresh perspective to the work, making it much closer in spirit to Szymanowki's Second Concerto, in that Skride is purposeful, once again giving real musical backbone to what can seem rather routine and meekly neoclassical. In the set of violin-and-piano Mythes, in which she is partnered by her younger sister Lauma, she attacks these essentially evocative pieces with unexpected ferocity.

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      new releases

      Reminiscences: Wagner, Liszt & Strauss

      Claves 50-1303

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      Behind the Lines

      Deutsche Grammophon 479 2472

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      Khachaturian: Film Music

      Naxos 8.573389

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      Fibich: Orchestral Works

      Naxos 8.573197

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      Faure: Requiem

      Choir of King’s College KGS-0005

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