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      Carl's Morning Quiz

      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: Later this morning we will hear Ferde Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite. Initially titled "Five Pictures of the Grand Canyon," it had its first performance November 22, 1931 at the Studebaker Theatre in Chicago (!) The composer, Ferde Grofe, was a master orchestrator and arranger. It was he who arranged and orchestrated another American classic which had its premiere in February of 1924 in New York. What is the name of that work? Answer >>

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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...

      Vic Firth, Who Revolutionized Drumstick Manufacture, Dies at 85

      Vic Firth, the long time principal timpanist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra who revolutionized the manufacture of percussion sticks and mallets, passed away Sunday at age 85. Seiji Ozawa, one of many illustrious conductors with whom Firth worked throughout his career, once said Firth was, “the single greatest percussionist anywhere in the world.” Firth was more... more...

      6 of Muti’s Most Memorable Moments in Chicago

      Riccardo Muti, the celebrated conductor from Naples, Italy, came to Chicago in 2010 when he became the 10th music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Since, Chicagoans have enjoyed many magical moments with the maestro both in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center and beyond, as the CSO extends its reach with performances in the community. more... more...

      From YouTube to Lyric: Composer Jimmy López on his Operatic Debut

      Composer Jimmy López never could have imagined that uploading some of his music on YouTube could have landed him his first opera commission, and at Lyric Opera of Chicago, no less. Read more about the creation of this new opera before it has its world-premiere this fall in a behind-the-scenes interview with the composer during tech rehearsals. more...

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      BBCNOW/Zhang review – hypnotic, seductive stuff

      Royal Albert Hall, London
      Qigang Chen’s beguiling score was conducted with love and care by Xian Zhang, who also brought grand passion to Rachmaninov’s second symphony

      The centrepiece of Xian Zhang’s Prom with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales was the London premiere of Iris Dévoilée, a major work by the Chinese-French composer Qigang Chen. Born in Beijing, Chen studied with Messiaen in Paris before taking French citizenship in 1992. His work constitutes a sustained dialogue between Chinese and western classical and cultural traditions.

      Iris Dévoilée is essentially a sensuous love song addressed to the flower-like woman of the title, possibly a courtesan: the elliptical Chinese text repudiates the idea that the beloved is the lover’s wife. Chen trades in perceived archetypes of femaleness, and the work’s nine sections have Baudelairean titles such as Pudique, Libertine, Hystérique and Voluptueuse. The score, though, is utterly beguiling.

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      Fitelberg/Kassern/Spisak: Poland Abroad Vol 6 CD review – an impish spark and tuneful urgency

      Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra/Slowinski
      (EDA)

      Who holds the deeds to cultural identity? What constitutes a “national school”? Can composers fit these nebulous categories even from afar? That’s the line of inquiry behind EDA’s series on mid-20th century Polish diaspora composers whose music often fell between the gaps. Jerzy Fitelberg fled Warsaw to New York via Berlin, Paris and Buenos Aires; Tadeusz Zygfryd Kassern survived the Warsaw Uprising to become a UN cultural attaché, while Michal Spisak moved to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger and never went home.

      Despite dating from the 1940s, two of the works on this disc were premieres when recorded live in 2011. And though they aren’t masterpieces, they are worth hearing: the impish neoclassical spark in Kassern’s Concerto for strings, the tuneful urgency in Spisak’s Concertino, the bright-eyed modernity in Fitelberg’s Concerto for trombone and piano — think Prokofiev at his sunniest. The Warsaw orchestra under Christoph Slowinski is spirited, a tad rough-edged and clearly invested in bringing this repertoire back to life.

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      John Cage: Two3 CD review – fluid, airy and virtuosically unhurried

      Stefan Hussong/Wu Wei
      (Wergo)

      Two3 is one of the chance-determined Number Pieces that Cage wrote at the end of his life. It was originally for water-filled conch shells and an ancient Japanese mouth organ called the sho, but Wu Wei and Stefan Hussong have gone a little off script here: Wei substitutes the sho for an even older Chinese mouth organ called the sheng, while Hussong adds accordion to his conch shells, with the idea that its metal reeds make it sonically sympathetic as a younger member of the sho-sheng family. Often it’s hard to tell which instrument is playing what, but it doesn’t particularly matter; the effect of the performance is fluid, airy and virtuosically unhurried. Chords drift in and out as weightless as a Calder mobile, constantly reframing the space around them, and 30 seconds of silence can pass without any sense of alarm. There are tiny storms of tension and release, but the Zen acceptance that underpins Cage’s late works is what really lingers.

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      new releases

      Music of Gaspard Fritz

      Musiques Suisses MGBCD-6283

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      Eschenbach: Romantic Piano Music

      Deutsche Grammophon 479 4624 (6 CDs)

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      Vadym Kholodenko: Concertos

      Harmonia Mundi HMU-907629

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      I have set my hert so hy

      Avie AV-2286

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      Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow

      Deutsche Grammophon 479 5059

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