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      Carl's Morning Quiz

      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: The Italian composer Amilcare Ponchieli was born on this Sunday's date--August 31--in 1834. His most famous melody has been used to accompany dancing hippos in Fantasia and sung as "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" by Alan Sherman. From what opera does that melody come? 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

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      Champion Plays Ravinia

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      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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      Berlioz: La Captive; Herminie; La Mort de Cléopatre review

      Larsson/Het Gelders O/Manacorda
      (Challenge Classics)

      In 1830 Berlioz won the Prix de Rome at his fourth attempt, securing the coveted award, which offered him two years' study in the Italian capital, with La Mort de Sardanapale, easily the most conventional of the cantatas he had submitted to the judges over the years. That work is rarely heard now, but two of his earlier efforts Herminie, composed for the 1828 competition, and La Mort de Cléeopatre from the following year feature among Lisa Larsson's selection of early Berlioz works for soprano and orchestra with the Dutch Gelders orchestra under Antonello Manacorda; the third is La Captive, a setting of Victor Hugo, which began life as a song with piano, composed in Rome in 1832, and which Berlioz orchestrated two years later. It provides an uncomplicated interlude between the two more highly wrought scenas, though Larsson's performances of both tend to play down their histrionics; she handles the exhibitionist stuff that Berlioz includes with aplomb, but makes much more of the introspective music that so failed to impress the Prix de Rome judges.

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      Prom 56: LPO/Jurowski review cosmic in scope and intention

      Royal Albert Hall, London
      Vladimir Jurowski made the most familiar of scores sound fresh, and Holst's The Planets was particularly exciting

      The London Philharmonic's Prom with Vladimir Jurowski was nothing if not cosmic in scope and intention. The programme was structured around two early-20th-century works that aim to redefine spirituality in personal terms. The evening opened with Holst's The Planets, with its astrological survey of human experience, and closed with Scriabin's Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, which extravagantly envisions mankind's evolution from chaos to divine transcendence. In between them, Schoenberg's Five Orchestral Pieces, ushering in a new age of sound rather than spirit, seemed vaguely mundane in comparison.

      The running order should perhaps have been reversed. Holst is a greater composer than Scriabin, and The Planets is a hard act to follow when done so well. This was Jurowski at his best, exciting yet thoughtful, and making this most familiar of scores sound marvellously fresh. A poised, multitextured Venus after the pulverising onslaught of Mars suggested the complexities of peace after the simplicities of war. The jubilation of Jupiter, hair-raising in its Dionysian elan, contrasted wonderfully with the controlled anguish of Saturn. The final fade to silence at the end of Neptune was breathtaking.

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      Les Troyens review Mariinsky without the magic

      Festival theatre, Edinburgh
      Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Opera make Berlioz's magnificent opera seem routine

      Many of the productions that Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Opera have brought to Edinburgh over the last two decades have been truly memorable; sometimes, especially in the Russian repertory, they have proved to be real revelations. But the company's staging of Berlioz's epic, the highest profile operatic event at this year's festival, is in no sense revelatory, and is memorable only for managing to make the uneven magnificence of Les Troyens seem so uninvolving and routine.

      Yannis Kokkos's production was first seen in St Petersburg in May, yet it already seems so tired and routine that it could be an age-old show that has been revived once too often. Kokkos's own designs commute between painterly naturalism, stylisation and something more abstract, with much use of a giant mirror, tricksy gauzes and the occasional video overlay. His costumes (a collaboration with Thibaut Welchlin) suggest Troy is a community perhaps in the Balkans today, and Carthage is somewhere prosperous in the Middle East.

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