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      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: The recently retired principal horn player of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Dale Clevenger, was born on this date in Chattanooga, TN in 1940; Dale is 75 today. Who was the Music Director of the CSO who hired Dale as principal horn? Answer >>

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      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...

      Our Country, ‘Tis of Thee: How Marian Anderson Broke Boundaries for Singers of Color

      Younger generations of Americans take it for granted that the United States has been legally desegregated. But, before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, segregation was the norm, including in concert halls across America. more...

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      John Luther Adams: a force of nature

      The US composer writes music about the sea, the wind, and the landscapes they, and we, inhabit: ‘It’s a way of making us more present in the world.’

      “I’m one of the last Romantics”, composer John Luther Adams tells me through jetlag-protecting shades in a hotel in Heathrow, self-medicating on fruit and coffee, en route from New York to Scotland. “But my Romanticism is informed by quantum physics and the science of ecology.”

      His claim to Romanticism might seem strange from a composer whose music sits within and between the worlds of Cageian experimentalism, environmental activism, American minimalism and teeming orchestral soundscapes. Romantic composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries – Wagner, Debussy, Vaughan Williams – wrote tributes to the sea, using nature as a metaphor for human dramas and narratives. But in the hands of Adams and his Pulitzer prize-winning Become Ocean – a piece memorably described by Alex Ross as the “loveliest apocalypse in musical history” – his music becomes more than a metaphor for natural forces: it is an elemental experience in its own right. Between Ocean is an epic 40-minute vision of the Pacific Ocean that crashed and swelled and lapped and tore at the beach in front of his Alaskan home (where he lived for nearly 40 years, sleeping every night with the windows open to maintain a sometimes frightening physical closeness with the sea), its musical power as ineluctable as a force of nature, so that when you listen to it, you feel overwhelmed and awed by the sheer flux and foment of the musical elements into which you are plunged.

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      Pete Townshend: 'Music has always suffered from being tied to politics or religion'

      As he releases a version of Quadrophenia performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Who’s guitarist explains that his band were never really anti-establishment

      Time can play strange tricks on even the most rebellious rock’n’roller. Fifty years ago, Pete Townshend was the voice of a generation of angry young men: popularising the power chord, smashing guitars onstage and articulating the essence of youth in the era after an entire generation of young men had been lost to war. Now, having just turned 70 – and having headlined last weekend’s Glastonbury festival – he has released a “symphonised” version of one of the Who’s classic albums, Quadrophenia, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which is to be staged on Sunday at the Royal Albert Hall.

      It’s tempting to infer that the angry young man, who hoped he’d die before he got old, has, in his dotage, become an upstanding member of the establishment. Townshend dismisses that suggestion as “archaic, insulting and extraordinary dumb”, but there’s a smile on his face.

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      O’Brien: Ellangowan Overture etc review – distinctly routine

      Liepaja SO/Mann

      (Toccata Classics)

      Toccata Classics is making a bit of a thing out of the music of Charles O’Brien (1882-1968). It has already embarked on a survey of O’Brien’s piano music, and now it is planning similar coverage of his orchestral works.

      Though he was born in Eastbourne, O’Brien’s family was Scottish and he grew up in Edinburgh, where he was taught composition by Hamish MacCunn, composer of the overture The Land of the Mountain and the Flood, and then studied at Oxford and Trinity College, Dublin, before settling again in Edinburgh, where he worked as an organist and conductor. Whether O’Brien’s own music really merits revival seems arguable on the evidence of this disc. Ellengowan, the 1914 concert overture inspired by one of Scott’s Waverley novels, would hardly have surprised Mendelssohn, while the symphony dates from a few years later, but seems oblivious to anything that had happened in music since early Brahms. Perhaps a top-flight orchestra could make both pieces more texturally alluring, but the performances by the Latvian Liepaja Symphony under Paul Mann are distinctly routine.

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