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      Carl's Morning Quiz: This opera had its premiere on this date in 1850 in Weimar, Germany. It is based on a medieval German legend. The beginning of Act III contains two of the most famous excerpts in all of opera--the exciting prelude and the opening chorus. Name the opera and the composer. Answer >>

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      Christopher Maltman Tweets and Sings Beethoven, John Adams

      It is well established that opera singers can sing like canaries. Now we're finding they tweet like them, too. Baritone Christopher Maltman used Twitter to share something of the on-stage and off-stage energy during his concerts with the Milwaukee Symphony earlier this year more...

      Pianist Amy Briggs on What’s New in Music

      Pianist Amy Briggs has a passion for pristine and rugged terrains, be it a trek in the Spanish Pyrenees or a virtuosic piano score that no one's ever performed before. As a working pianist and Director of Chamber Music and Lecturer in Music at the University of Chicago, Ms. Briggs knows her way around the standard repertoire of Brahms and Beethoven. But it is the music of our own time that finds its way more...

      Champion Plays Ravinia

      He calls Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin "a big friend of mine." His heroes are Vladimir Horowitz and star hockey center Sergei Fedorov. Russian pianist Denis Matsuev, who has "epic technique" according to the Boston Globe, is not shy about talking sports. In a 2009 Impromptu, he told WFMT that as a youth in Siberia, he could hardly be kept indoors. He played either soccer or ice hockey "about seven hours a day. Music was second." Speaking with a gentle Russian growl, he laughs more...

      Cedille Day on WFMT

      With over 30,000 recordings in WFMT's "record" library, the staff seldom focuses on a single record label for very long. When it happens, it's usually because an artist has an exclusive agreement with a label; and the programming staff is featuring that artist. On Friday, WFMT honors a record label that has made it its mission to enhance the cultural life of Chicago. Cedille Records Day celebrates the Chicago-based record label that for 25 years has been recording the gifted and diverse musicians and composers more...

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      Readers recommend: best piano songs results

      From a vast repertoire of nominations from last weeks thread, RR regular Shoegazer presents his concert of selections

      A busy blog this week with a vast spectrum of music. Before we get to this weeks selections and close the lid on pianos, Id like to highlight one individual who composed for or played the instrument.

      The odds were against Glenn Gould (1932-1982) becoming a concert pianist. The Canadian felt that concertos only served the primeval human need for showing off and detracted from the purity of music. In addition to disdain for the concert arts, Gould was a hypochondriac. He once sued his piano tuner for touching him and refused to visit his dying mother in hospital due to terror of germs/human contact. Whatever the weather, he dressed in an overcoat, jumpers, scarf and gloves for fear of catching a chill. When and if he did perform, he would only sit at the keyboard on the same uncomfortable, worn-out, handmade chair, rising just 14 inches from the floor.

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      Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra/Chung/Wu review playful and stylish sheng odyssey

      Royal Albert Hall, London
      Unsuk Chin's sheng concerto brilliantly blended western and Chinese instruments

      It's not often that a western-style concerto for a non-western instrument works as well as u, written by the South Korean composer Unsuk Chin for the Chinese sheng player Wu Wei. This was the highlight of the Seoul Philharmonic's debut Prom, under Myung-Whun Chung.

      The sheng is a kind of ancient Chinese mouth-organ. Visually, it's a foot-high nest of upward-striving tubes imagine somebody tore off a corner from a model of La Sagrada Familia and stuck in a mouthpiece. It sounds like a harmonica but also, when played with Wu's virtuosity, like almost any other instrument too. It emerges seamlessly from the violins, traces long arcs of reedy breath like a clarinet, tremolos like a mandolin, or makes sudden, percussive mini-explosions. In Chin's concerto, which holds the serious and the playful in fabulous balance, we can barely tell where the sheng stops and the orchestra begins. The music hangs in the air, or dances in a frenzy, but all the time it seems the other instruments are tracing the aura the sheng leaves in its wake.

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      Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Jansons review too controlled

      Usher Hall, Edinburgh
      The great Dutch ensemble was as responsive as always, but needed more jolt and frenzy in its Ravel and Shostakovich

      Amsterdam's great orchestra is unquestionably one of the world's finest. Everything it does sounds expensive. There is such depth to its string sound, such richness to its winds, such a purr to its ensemble engine when it gets going. The players are fantastically responsive to their revered chief conductor, Mariss Jansons, collectively poised at the end of his baton. Jansons is standing down at the end of next season for health reasons; whoever follows him has enormous shoes to fill.

      It feels slightly churlish to find fault with such magnificent playing, but there were several moments during the first of the Concertgebouw's concerts at the Edinburgh international festival when the orchestra's plushness, Jansons's weighty interpretative choices and the spry character of the music didn't quite line up. The programme opened with Shostakovich's First Symphony. The slow movement was the dark heart of the work, solemn and hushed with tremendous gravitas. But the outer movements needed more jolt between the skittish, sardonic and frankly crass and the moments of quiet solace. The Concertgebouw handled the latter superbly but never clinched the spirit of the former. The sound was always polished; Jansons' pacing was steady and sometimes just slow.

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