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      Carl's Morning Quiz

      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: Later in this hour we will hear pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy play a Beethoven Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A 2-part question today: how many Beethoven piano concertos are there? And what is the nickname of the last one? Answer >>

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      Why the American National Anthem isn’t even American

      Yup. You read that correctly. The American National Anthem isn’t American. Well, it has become American. But ironically, the tune to the “Star Spangled Banner” is actually a British pub ballad. How did a drinking song that originated in the country from which America sought its independence travel across the pond and become our National more... more...

      How One Man Built the Great American Orchestra

        The names inscribed on the façade of Chicago’s Orchestra Hall – Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Wagner – are familiar to every concertgoer. But another name that is proudly displayed not once, but twice alongside this pantheon of musical masters may be less familiar to you: Theodore Thomas. Theodore Thomas founded what would later more... more...

      Countertenor David Daniels on Finding His Voice, Finding Himself, and Being Married by Justice Ginsburg

      David Daniels is “the most acclaimed countertenor of the day, perhaps the best ever,” to use the words of the New York Times. Though many know him best for portraying some of opera’s greatest heroes from Julius Caesar to Orpheus, he is also passionate about civil rights. more...

      QUIZ: What American Composer Are You?

      Take this quiz to find out which dean of American music you're most like! Are you sparse and minimal like Philip Glass? Or do you prefer the sis-boom-bah John Philip Sousa? Do you prefer Samuel Barber's sonic landscapes of America, or Scott Joplin's Ragtime portraits of American life? more...

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      Ernani review – superbly captures Verdi's fire and fury

      Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

      Gwyn Hughes Jones dominated a rip-roaringly good concert revival of Verdi’s cult thriller

      First performed in 1844, Ernani, Verdi’s fifth opera, has something of the status of a cult thriller. Set in Renaissance Spain, it explores the consequences of a moral code that values honour above everything else – even life itself. The bandit Ernani, the implacable grandee De Silva, and Carlo, the Holy Roman emperor in waiting, are slugging it out for the love of De Silva’s ward, Elvira. But Ernani has also pledged his life to De Silva in exchange for his assistance in rescuing her from Carlo, who has taken her hostage, and the old grandee is soon demanding his oath be taken literally.

      George Bernard Shaw admired “the fierce noonday sun” of the score, one of the young Verdi’s finest. The Chelsea Opera Group’s concert revival, conducted by Robin Newton, superbly captured the music’s fire and fury, and its sense of violent emotion held in check by social and political ritual. It was sung at thrilling full throttle – anything less won’t do – and dominated by the performance of Gwyn Hughes Jones in the title role. His voice is massive and a bit gritty, and he didn’t make his task any easier by opting to include a tricky extra aria that Verdi added – at Rossini’s request, for a performance in Parma shortly after the premiere – which is rather high for him. But the urgency and passion of his singing were gripping.

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      The Immortal/Mark Simpson review – a blazingly original oratorio

      Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

      Simpson’s new occult-obsessed oratorio, with Melanie Challenger’s libretto about the founder of the Society of Psychical Research, asks the existential question: is anybody there?

      Mark Simpson says he composed the music for The Immortal, a blazingly original 40-minute oratorio steeped in the world of Victorian occultism, in a form of trance. If the purpose of art is to pose existential questions, then the piece, commissioned by the Manchester International festival and performed by the BBC Philharmonic, Manchester Chamber Choir and Exaudi, is concerned with what might be the most fundamental question of all: is anybody there?

      Related: Q&A: composer Mark Simpson

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      Gioachino Rossini: Guillaume Tell review – hits the mark, despite the booing

      Royal Opera House, London
      Yes, the rape scene was ugly. But to show something is not to endorse it – and we have seen far worse in opera

      Booing: the one petard guaranteed to hoist opera into the headlines. The Royal Opera’s new Guillaume Tell, perceptively conducted by Antonio Pappano, with a top cast led by Gerald Finley, John Osborn and Malin Byström, has achieved it as never before – and mid-performance at that. The noise on first night, which started as a lone shout and turned into a heckling barrage, was so solid I wondered if it had come from a prearranged, European-style claque. This grandest of red-plush auditoriums, for several minutes, became a loutish playground. How the performers kept going, steadfast and professional to the end, is anyone’s guess.

      Despite attempts in opera circles to turn it into a talking point, booing is a dead issue. It’s a given, part of the freedom of expression valued by a civilised world, though hardly itself a civilised gesture. I don’t like it. Others do. The question here was why it happened at all. If a production is unpopular, the usual place to voice opinion is at the final curtain (it was, too), when the production team come on to take their bow. Here it was a nasty interruption. It happens, rarely, elsewhere. In Vienna the police had to be called mid-Trovatore when a row broke out about the singer. The cause at the ROH, as widely reported, was a dance interlude in which Austrian soldiers – dressed in generic Nazi-Fascist uniforms – first molested, then stripped, then gang-raped a Swiss villager.

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