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      10 Operas About Poisonous and Medicinal Plants

      As everyone is poised for the corpse plant at the Chicago Botanic Garden to bloom, why not enjoy some music about poisonous and medicinal plants? Operas would be a lot less interesting if poison didn’t seep its way into their plots. Check out this list of 10 operas about poisonous and medicinal plants, taken largely from the research more... more...

      5 Women on Being Modern Women in Dance

      The 9th Chicago Dancing Festival presented its first ever Modern Women program, highlighting the important contributions of women in dance both past and present: Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Kate Weare, and Pam Tanowitz, Crystal Pite. I spoke with women from each of the five companies on the program about women’s roles in dance, both as dancers and as choreographers. more...

      Barenboim and Berlin orchestra confirm Tehran concert plan

      Israeli-Argentinian conductor Daniel Barenboim is hoping to take one of Germany's top orchestras to Iran to perform a concert there, the Berlin State Opera said Thursday, drawing angry protests from Israel. Barenboim, 72, who is general music director of the German capital's flagship opera house, the State Opera, "is in talks with Iran about a possible concert in Tehran by the Staatskapelle Berlin," the house said in an emailed statement. more...

      29 Composers and their Canine Companions

      It's National Dog Day! Have you ever heard the saying, "Behind every great composer is a cuddly canine?" No? Well these photos prove that every composer from Bernstein to Busoni had a four-legged friend as a constant companion. more...

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      The Magic Flute at Edinburgh festival review – unforgettable and exhausting

      Festival theatre, Edinburgh
      The Magic Flute as a silent film works like a manic dream in Barrie Kosky and theatre company 1927’s visually stunning production

      The Magic Flute has always stood apart. Mozart and his librettist Emanuel Schikaneder wanted the work to have a vaudeville anarchy, a knock-about humour spliced with magic, enlightenment, wisdom and more than a little cruelty. It’s a tough call for a modern director. Few succeed. Schikaneder’s theatre in the suburbs of Vienna promised flying machines, trapdoors, thunder, as well, apparently, as fires and waterfalls. Match that. At the 1791 premiere, the actor-impresario played the bird-catcher Papageno and Mozart conducted. Match that too. Three months later Mozart was dead. Schikaneder battled on, eventually succumbing to poverty and insanity, dying 20 years later.

      In the Australian director Barrie Kosky, composer and librettist have found their man. Working with the Komische Oper Berlin and the UK theatre company 1927, Kosky has delivered a quixotic enterprise that buzzes and whirrs and spins with manic energy and joy. It is a tour de force. The audience at Thursday’s opening night at the Festival theatre, Edinburgh oohed and aahed, clapped, gasped and guffawed. There was no let-up. The visual ingenuity stunned and delighted. The experience was unforgettable if exhausting.

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      Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Segal: Musique de Nuit review – entranching fusion follow-up

      (No Format)

      The Malian kora player and French cellist raised dust with 2011’s Chamber Music, which pulled two seemingly incompatible instruments into a startling, neoclassical fusion. Musique de Nuit maintains the momentum. While there is a formal air to pieces such as Prélude and the title track, improvisation is at the heart of the duo’s interplay – Sissoko’s rooftop in Bamako, not the studio, was the venue for half the recording. The lines between cascading kora and stately cello are wonderfully blurred at times, as the pair take turns to supply rhythm and melody, ranging across Malian mbalax on Super Étoile, Brazilian flavours on Samba Tomora and deep tradition on Diabaro, to which Babani Kone contributes wailing griot vocals. Entrancing stuff.

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      Vaughan Williams & Goetz Piano Quintets in C minor CD review – let’s hear it for the double bass

      Fabergé Quintet, Yoko Kikuchi (piano)
      (ES-DUR)

      The lowest of the stringed instruments, the double bass has few opportunities in chamber music. Schubert’s Trout Quintet (violin, viola, cello, bass and piano) is a rare exception. The Fabergé, all members of NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg, have exchanged the usual second violin for a bass, making a wonderful mellow sound in Vaughan Williams’s early Piano Quintet (1903), one of a number of works he withdrew, and which was only published in 2002. It has the romantic warmth of Brahms, with echoes of old folk songs and modal writing. The work is paired with another Piano Quintet in C minor, by the short-lived and little known Hermann Goetz (1840-76) – an altogether darker and more unsettling work. Let’s hear if for the double bass.

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      new releases

      Collage: Works for Cello & Piano

      Centaur CRC-3436

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      Rachmaninoff: Variations

      Deutsche Grammophon 479 4970

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      Joyce & Tony: Live at Wigmore Hall

      Erato 0825646107896

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      Distant Voices

      Yamaha Entertainment

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      Faure & Strauss: Violin Sonatas

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