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      Carl's Morning Quiz

      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: Yo-Yo Ma was born on this date in Paris in 1955--he is 60 years old today. He is, indeed, a French-born Chinese-American. He has enjoyed a prolific career as a performer and recording artist. In addition to the standard repertoire for cello, he has recorded discs of Bluegrass music, Chinese melodies, tangos, and several discs with his Silk Road Ensemble. He has won the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In addition to his studies at the Juilliard School, he also graduated from what college? Answer >>


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      Verdi: Aida review – Pappano brings gorgeous colours and textures to a spectacular studio recording

      Harteros/Kaufmann/Semenchuk/Tézier/Schrott/Santa Cecilia O and Chorus/Pappano
      (Warner Classics, three CDs)

      The first new recording of Aida from a major label since the beginning of the century is also that real rarity nowadays – an opera set that comes from bespoke studio sessions rather than being pieced together from concert or stage performances. Warner Classics assembled a headline-grabbing lineup of soloists for its much-hyped project in Rome last February, but the real theatrical excitement on the discs is generated by the orchestra, chorus and conductor. The playing that Antonio Pappano obtains from the Santa Cecilia Orchestra wonderfully mixes refinement and power – it’s coloured with perfect finesse in the dances towards the end of the first act and in the nocturnal scene-painting that opens the third, while the great triumphal choruses have tremendous presence and energy.

      These spectacular set pieces, spaciously recorded, anchor the dramatic trajectory that Pappano gives so convincingly to the whole opera. Nothing seems to be pushed too hard or laboured too much, and he makes sure the soloists get all the support they need. What he cannot do, though, is give his principal singers the depth of character they really need. Of the three at the core of the drama – Anja Harteros as Aida, Jonas Kaufmann as Radames and Ekaterina Semenchuk as Amneris – only Semenchuk had sung her role on stage before the recording was made, and it’s perhaps no coincidence that dramatically she is the pick of the three – more involving and more involved than the others, and tremendously vindictive at the climax of the fourth-act trial.

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      Magdalena Kožená/ Mitsuko Uchida review – mixed blessings

      Wigmore Hall, London
      Schoenberg’s cabaret songs showed singer and pianist at their best, but in the main, the recital left one wanting a little more from both musicians

      The occasional partnership between pianist Mitsuko Uchida and mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená was renewed here with a programme that dug out some unusual and appealing repertoire yet found neither artist consistently at her best. The relaxed simplicity of the encore – Janáček’s The Little Bench – left us wanting more in a way the main programme hadn’t.

      Kožená was singing either in her native Czech or in German, the language of her adopted home, and throughout, there was nothing to be faulted in the delivery of her words; everything was forward and direct, even though she tended to narrow down some vowels rather than open them out. In her delivery of the poems attributed to Mary Queen of Scots, as set to dark, static music by Schumann, there was a solemn resolve that gave way to a stab of emotion when the imprisoned bade a hopeless farewell to her friends.

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      Top five things to do this week: MPavilion, Mozart and more

      MPavilion opens for the summer, Richard Tognetti celebrates 25 years at the helm of the Australian Chamber Orchestra and The Sleeping Beauty in Perth

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      Discover WFMT's Classical Italy next May! Join Peter van de Graaff on this exclusive twelve-day classical music lover's journey to "Bella Italia" next May. Imagine staying in the heart of Venice in a restored old abbey and experiencing Donizetti' opera La favorite at the historic La Fenice Opera House!

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