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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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      Readers recommend: songs about the coast | Peter Kimpton

      Crashing surf, rocky cliffs or serene sands, suggest songs in those fertile or mysterious places where land meets sea

      This week lets take a trip to the coast, and together walk along the shoreline for some musical beachcombing. All manner of stuff might wash up, from a beautiful shell or fossil to an old bottle stuffed with a rescue note, strangely sculptured driftwood, a giant jellyfish, oil pollution, a shipwreck, a mysterious person, but hopefully nothing as disturbing as an exploding whale. But above all let us search for songs that make mention of the place where land and sea meet. But in geological terms, where exactly is this? The difficulty in measuring it is called the coastline paradox. And the edge of the land, in prehistoric times, was probably perceived as the precarious edge of the world.

      This is fertile brief, for the coast is both the land and sea either side of the shoreline. And perhaps thats one of many reasons why mention of ports, beaches and cliffs inspire the imagination of explorers, storytellers, and songwriters. They represent a lookout and launch into the unknown, the border to a better life, an escape, an adventure in to either death, glory or riches. Britains jagged coastline is estimated at 11,000 miles in length. Has this shored up its independence, or made it more vulnerable? Britain also has some odd coastal places. The Broomway in Essex, for example, on a flatland almost indistinguishable between sea, land and sky, has claimed dozens of lives because of how easy it is to lose your way and be caught by the tides rushing in.

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      Röntgen: The Late String Trios review finely honed, Brahmsian fare

      Offenburg String Trio
      (Naxos)

      Julius Röntgen (1855-1932) was born in Leipzig where his father was leader of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and was something of a child prodigy as a violinist and pianist. In 1874 he met Brahms, who provided to be the decisive influence on his own music, but three years later he moved to Amsterdam to teach piano, where he remained for the rest of his life. Though he lived through one of the most stylistically turbulent periods in musical history, his own music remained firmly fixed in 19th-century late romanticism, and there was a great deal of it: over 600 works, in virtually every genre. Now there seems to be upsurge of interest, in his chamber music at least this is one of three discs of it that have appeared from different labels in the last couple of months. It contains the last three of the 15 string trios that Röntgen composed between 1915 and 1930, each of them in just a few days. Their finely honed style is unashamedly Brahmsian; they make no great claims to profundity, though they sometimes lapse into rather academic counterpoint. They are pieces, I suspect, that are more fun to play than to listen to; certainly the Offenburg Trio present them with great care and sensitivity.

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      Ming Tsao: Pathology of Syntax review strikingly spare works

      Arditti Quartet/Ascolta/Ensemble SurPlus/Ensemble Recherche
      (Mode)

      Ming Tsao is a Chinese American, born in 1966 and now professor of composition in Gothenburg. His teachers included Brian Ferneyhough, from whom he seems to have acquired a tendency to surround his works with impenetrable extra-musical baggage, which often belies the directness of the music itself. I'm still not clear what the string quartet Pathology of Syntax is "about", or how a poem by JH Prynne from which the title comes relates to what we hear; any more than the connection between the ensemble work (Un)cover and Beethoven's Piano Sonata Op 111 or between The Book of Virtual Transcriptions and Mozart's Oboe Quartet K370 seems essential information for understanding what, taken at face value, are rather strikingly spare works with little oases of quiet lyricism hidden among the tangled, fractured textures. The other pieces here reference a movie by Jean-Marie Straub, a collection of street observations by Walter Benjamin and Bach's Musical Offering, but I really don't think that information helps in getting to grips with them.

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