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      Carl's Morning Quiz

      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: What famous but modest musician once said, "There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Answer >>

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      CSO Will Roll Out with a Bang

      The Chicago Symphony Orchestra makes a joyful noise this weekend, performing to capacity crowds. Riccardo Muti opens the concert season with four sold-out performances of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, and a free Tchaikovsky concert at Millennium Park. With orchestra and chorus declaring Friedrich Schiller's Ode to Joy more...

      Winners of Genius Grants “Inspire us all”

      People who win don't even know they've been considered, but on Wednesday they were identified by international news agencies as "21 extraordinarily creative people who inspire us all." Some are scientists; others are historians, poets, or lawyers. There's an artist, a jazz musician, and a cartoonist. They are the 2014 MacArthur Fellows, recipients of what's often called the genius grant, a $625,000 cash prize – no strings attached more...

      Fisching for Excellence in Chamber Music

      This week's Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert welcomes the 2014 Fischoff Competition gold medalists. They had walked away with the silver medal in 2012, before clenching the gold in 2014. In July, the Akropolis Reed Quintet was presented with the 2015 Fischoff Educator Award for their imaginative programming for children more...

      The Devil Gets a Second Act

      "L'histoire du soldat" ("The Soldier's Tale") is a curiosity. It's theater. It's a musical composition. It's a work rich in orchestral color, but has only six players. With a unique ensemble of actors, dancers and instruments, it's been a one-of-a-kind for nearly 100 years – until now. more...

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      Joyce DiDonato: Not just Joyce from Kansas

      Critics have hailed her alongside operatic legends. As Joyce DiDonato prepares for the Barbican's 'Artist Spotlight' series, she talks to Nicholas Wroe

      Earlier this month Joyce DiDonato opened Wigmore Hall's 2014/15 season with a programme that combined familiar, and very much less familiar, Italian and American music. "Don'tworry if you've never heard of Francesco Santoliquido" she told me a few days before the performance, "few people have. In the 30s he was a fascist in Italy, but in the early part of the 20th century he wrote this wonderfully rich and romantic music that reminds you of Puccini." When she introduced the songs on stage DiDonato drew attention to these "glimpses" of Cio-Cio San and Mimi before earning a laugh with her private name for Santoliquido: "Frankie Holywater". Then she brought the house down with her performance.

      DiDonato is both "just Joyce from Kansas", the unstuffy natural communicator whose habitual recital encore is "Over the Rainbow", and a proselyting archaeologist of the more obscure byways of music history. These personas share equal billing in the makeup of the most critically acclaimed and popular mezzo soprano of our day. As the Telegraph reviewer said of her performance in Maria Stuarda earlier this year at the Royal Opera House, "bel canto of this quality has not been heard at Covent Garden for more than a generation On the strength of this night alone, her name should rank in the operatic pantheon alongside the greatest legends of the past".

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      London Sinfonietta/Connolly/Collon review spontaneous Schoenberg

      Kings Place, London
      Sarah Connolly showed subtly shaded colours in the Wood Doves Song from Gurrelieder, while Nicholas Collon brought out the expressive detail of the First Chamber Symphony

      Towards the end of the extended applause that greeted this rare all-Schoenberg concert, the conductor held up his score and pointed to the composers name. Dont forget about the composer, the gesture reminded us. After all, wasnt it Schoenberg we were all here for? Not according to the straw poll I conducted in the interval, which confirmed the hall was packed not for Schoenberg, nor even for his daughter Nuria, sitting among the audience, but for Sarah Connolly, present to sing the Wood Doves Song from Schoenbergs Gurrelieder.

      And what a performance she gave. Despite an excellent live recording of Das Buch der Hängenden Gärten some years ago, its still surprising to find Connolly singing this repertoire. But it shouldnt be: her deep and subtly shaded colours are perfectly suited to a composer for whom the idea of expression relies on a constant sense of flux and growth. Connollys deep reserves of power, even so low in her register, kept a sense of the lines endless unfolding so that the interplay with the chamber orchestra (this was Schoenbergs reduced version with harmonium and piano) was spontaneous. Indeed, Nicholas Collons sensitive direction, here and in the First Chamber Symphony which followed, brought a freshness that highlighted the expressive detail without ever losing the sense of flow.

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      CBSO/Nelsons review an electric and thrilling programme of Beethoven

      Symphony Hall, Birmingham
      Having overseen an exceptional account of Beethovens Fourth Symphony, Andris Nelsons infused the Fifth with rare freshness

      Andris Nelsons and the City of Birmingham Symphony ended their European tour last week with a residency in Bonn, where their cycle of the Beethoven symphonies was the centrepiece of the Beethovenfest held there every September. Now they are repeating their performances for their home audience in Birmingham, with all nine symphonies played in chronological order and packed into four concerts in just six days.

      The second concert consisted of the Fourth and Fifth, given as an afternoon matinee. Both symphonies were electrically charged affairs and, after eight weeks of Proms in the cotton-wool acoustics of the Albert Hall, returning to the immediacy and precision of sound in the crowded Symphony Hall was a delight in itself.

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