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      6 Unforgettable Composer Friendships

      Today is International Friendship Day! Click to read more about some of the most famous friendships among composers in music history. Whether bosom buddies like Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams, or something more complicated like Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, there’s no doubt that these composers enjoyed genuine friendships that would influence their personal and professional lives. more...

      Music for a Blue Moon

      Tonight, July 31, is the second full moon of the month, or what we call a blue moon. Of course, a blue moon doesn’t really appear blue; rather, it’s their rarity that makes them special. According to numbers crunched by Western Michigan University, blue moons happen about 8 months out of 228, meaning there’s a 3.5% more... more...

      Tap Dancing Steps into the Future

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      Composer-Pianist Plays “Super” Music on Nintendo Themed Piano

      It’s a truth universally acknowledged by music students around the world that at any given moment in any conservatory, there’s at least one person in the practice rooms playing Bach, Beethoven, and the songs from Nintendo’s classic game Super Mario Bros. The video game, released in 1985, has some pretty memorable music: six songs composed by Koji more... more...

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      Prom 18: BBCSO/Bychkov review – a magnificent, more reflective Leningrad

      Royal Albert Hall, London
      The BBCSO were on peak form in Bychkov’s formidable working of Shostakovich’s defining score, while the Labèques’ Mozart was lucid

      “A cry of the heart against death,” is how Semyon Bychkov once described Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony, an iconic work of wartime defiance and solidarity that remains one of the defining scores of the 20th century. Bychkov’s mother endured the siege to which the symphony bears witness. His father was a nurse during the war. Bychkov has said the piece is in his system, and in January last year conducted an unforgettable performance with the BBC Symphony at the Barbican. He’s now returned to the work at the Proms with the same orchestra.

      The Prom performance, though magnificent, didn’t always quite scale the heights of its predecessor. In some respects it was marginally more reflective, less immediately ferocious. The Adagio, in particular, seemed more reined in, its grief and formal ritual shaded towards elegy, its anger less overtly marked. Bychkov’s control of the outer movements remains formidable, however. The so-called “invasion theme” emerged almost imperceptibly from an eerie silence after the gradually fading certainties of the exposition, while the wrenching key change that eventually stops its juggernaut course has rarely sounded so emotive. The finale’s steady progress towards assertion and integrity was nobly done. You couldn’t fault the playing: the BBCSO were on peak form.

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      Shostakovich: Piano Concertos CD review – four hands are better than two

      Anna Vinnitskaya, Ivan Rudin (pianos), Tobias Willner (trumpet), Kremerata Baltica, Winds of Staatskapelle Dresden/Wellber


      The fun pieces here are the neglected two-piano works: the rip-roaring Concertino written in 1953 by Shostakovich for his son Maxim, and the frantic Tarantella, an adaptation from his film score for The Gadfly, which was the last piano piece he wrote. Both of these are closely recorded, dispatched with total unanimity and bite by Anna Vinnitskaya and Ivan Rudin, bringing Shostakovich’s sense of irony to the fore. It’s difficult to avoid the slight feeling of cynicism in Piano Concerto No 2, where the dreamy slow movement tries to out-Rachmaninov that composer (or is it too a satire?), and because both piano and orchestra are set far back in the sound picture and Vinnitskaya does not project strongly. But the trumpet in the racy finale of the First Concerto sparkles.

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      Three Choirs festival; Saul – review

      Various venues, Hereford; Glyndebourne, East Sussex
      Love and sex are in the air at the 300-year-old Three Choirs festival, while the chorus is the star performer in Glyndebourne’s hugely inventive Saul

      The visceral power of voices united has been a feature of this changeable, disagreeable English summer. A super-charged chorus generated its own solar energy to match idyllic sunshine at Glyndebourne for the opening of Handel’s Saul, while our longest-established celebration of singing, the Three Choirs festival, defied more typical gales and biting rain to emerge triumphant into its fourth century.

      We hear so much of the Proms and Edinburgh that Britain’s oldest musical gathering, which set the pattern for all those that came later, has often been overshadowed. It’s time we honoured it. Established 300 years ago this year, it has seen the genesis of some of the nation’s favourite works and serves as an annual reminder that our cathedrals are a continually renewing source of musical excellence.

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