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      Carl's Morning Quiz

      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: "Play, you gypsy fiddler!" Gypsy music shows up quite often in classical music. Songs, operatic choruses, and instrumental musi--many composers have written music with a gypsy flavor. Who wrote a composition for violin and orchestra titled "Gypsy Airs" or "Zigeunerweisen?" Answer >>

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      Spanish Fever at Grant Park

      February-March 1875, Paris – Within the span of one month, the Parisians saw the premieres of Lalo's Symphonie espagnole and Bizet's Carmen. For the audience, there was something different, something exotic about those pieces – eventually people would be whistling them in the streets. more...

      Ongoing Debate: Does Music Have Meaning or Not?

      Do you think music has meaning? Music can move you; music can make you want to move. For most listeners, it's a simple transaction. There are those who look deeper into our relationship to music, however, and wonder why it affects us so. Igor Stravinsky was one of them. Not always inclined to subtlety more...

      David Robertson Puts Youth in Spotlight

      On Monday evening, David Robertson returns to the Chicago stage, this time with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. There is the notion that some conductors work with youth orchestras while hoping to move on to professional orchestras – not so with David Robertson. He has the big career more...

      Summer Migration, Payoff for Chicago

      If you've ever seen a nature documentary about the Serengeti, you might have some sense of the migratory patterns of classical musicians. There are music centers, like watering holes, to which players journey in order to refresh, commune with others, and nurture the young. The Aspen Music Festival is one of those places. One only has to read the biographies of Chicago's top musicians more...

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      Prom 18: BBCPhil/Tharaud/Mena review Birtwistle, Ravel and Mahler

      Royal Albert Hall, London
      Mena's Mahler was unindulgent but still gorgeous

      Night's Black Bird is the first of seven works by Harrison Birtwistle coming up at the Proms in the composer's 80th birthday year, and it's a dark-hued, opaque gem. Inspired by a lute song by the arch-melancholic English Renaissance composer John Dowland, and written in 2004, it is a pungent depiction of night in which the comforting, enveloping aspects of darkness are somehow evoked in the same sinking, sliding music as its potential terror.

      Much of it involves the kind of low, textured sounds whose nuances should by rights get flattened in this huge space. But Birtwistle's layered writing sounded silky and vital here as played by the BBC Philharmonic under Juanjo Mena, and the woodwind pealed out their bird calls spikily, as though they were the only elements of this piece not half hidden.

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      National Youth Orchestra of Scotland review brave and exuberant

      Sage, Gateshead
      The young players touched on swing and bebop before scaling Richard Strauss's massive An Alpine Symphony

      The National Youth Orchestra of Scotland has a very distinct personality from Britain's other young ensembles. The intake is greater, ranging from ages 12 to 25, and it is the only youth orchestra to offer specialist courses in jazz.

      The swing element could be keenly felt here in the exuberant opener, William Walton's wonderfully erratic Johannesburg Festival Overture, which the composer described as a "non-stop gallop slightly crazy, hilarious and vulgar". The young players obeyed those instructions to the letter.

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      Why music struck a chord with Beckett

      As a festival of Beckett's work opens, its director Sean Doran reveals how the playwright's love of music from Haydn to Beethoven to Schubert underpinned his drama

      "Music always wins" may be an unexpected statement to come from a Nobel prizewinner for literature. But those who knew Samuel Beckett also knew that his was a life embedded in music, both making and listening to it, usually in the company of friends. The writer uttered his three-word resignation when composing his radio play Words and Music, itself probably triggered by an occasion at the piano with his Romanian composer friend Marcel Mihalovici. Both were labouring over Mihalovici's operatic version of Beckett's play Krapp's Last Tape, for which Beckett had agreed to write the libretto. Re-engaging with his own words at the behest of music was a struggle. But it led him to the creation of two highly innovative radio plays where music itself became a central character: as well as Words and Music there was Cascando; his composer cousin John Beckett writing the original music for the former, and Mihalovici for the latter.

      Music was always going to win out for a schoolboy sent to lessons with two German spinsters in a place called Stillorgan where the young Beckett grafted at the piano, and word had it that his style of playing was "intense". His cousin Morris Sinclair recalled evenings accompanying Beckett on the violin and remembered "well with what conviction and elan he would play the last movement of Beethoven's Pathétique. The intensity of his absorption was almost ferocious." In the late 1960s, when his sight was beginning to fail, Beckett wrote a humorous description of himself: "... bought a little German piano (a Schimmel) in the country and take it out on Haydn and Schubert ... my nose so close to the score that the keyboard feels behind my back. Get it by heart in the end and lean back."

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      Godard: Piano Concertos

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