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      10 Operas About Poisonous and Medicinal Plants

      As everyone is poised for the corpse plant at the Chicago Botanic Garden to bloom, why not enjoy some music about poisonous and medicinal plants? Operas would be a lot less interesting if poison didn’t seep its way into their plots. Check out this list of 10 operas about poisonous and medicinal plants, taken largely from the research more... more...

      5 Women on Being Modern Women in Dance

      The 9th Chicago Dancing Festival presented its first ever Modern Women program, highlighting the important contributions of women in dance both past and present: Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Kate Weare, and Pam Tanowitz, Crystal Pite. I spoke with women from each of the five companies on the program about women’s roles in dance, both as dancers and as choreographers. more...

      Barenboim and Berlin orchestra confirm Tehran concert plan

      Israeli-Argentinian conductor Daniel Barenboim is hoping to take one of Germany's top orchestras to Iran to perform a concert there, the Berlin State Opera said Thursday, drawing angry protests from Israel. Barenboim, 72, who is general music director of the German capital's flagship opera house, the State Opera, "is in talks with Iran about a possible concert in Tehran by the Staatskapelle Berlin," the house said in an emailed statement. more...

      29 Composers and their Canine Companions

      It's National Dog Day! Have you ever heard the saying, "Behind every great composer is a cuddly canine?" No? Well these photos prove that every composer from Bernstein to Busoni had a four-legged friend as a constant companion. more...

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      Watch Anne-Sophie Mutter play extracts from The Four Seasons at the Edinburgh international festival

      The German violinist has been playing at the Edinburgh international festival, and we’ve got an exclusive video of her

      The Edinburgh international festival has been offering a wide and varied programme of music both classical and contemporary for those who can’t face the prospect of another fringe comedian asking the audience if they remember Spangles. And we’ve teamed up with the festival to bring you a series of exclusive short films of the very best performers at work.

      We began last week with Anna Calvi and Heritage Orchestra, but today it’s the turn of the German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, performing extracts from the first and third movements of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. She’s accompanied by the Mutter Virtuosi, made of young musicians granted scholarships by the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation. “It is particularly difficult nowadays for highly talented young instrumentalists to receive the necessary support during the crucial early years,” Mutter says. “In addition to the huge sums of money spent on lessons, in many cases financing a suitable string instrument poses great problems as well. Along with high purchase costs, there are the necessary insurance fees. Also expensive are trips to the world’s great artists — contacts that are essential for the development of a young musician. The support of young artists presents a challenge to everyone to whom the future of musical life is as important as it is to me.”

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      The Magic Flute at Edinburgh festival review – unforgettable and exhausting

      Festival theatre, Edinburgh
      The Magic Flute as a silent film works like a manic dream in Barrie Kosky and theatre company 1927’s visually stunning production

      The Magic Flute has always stood apart. Mozart and his librettist Emanuel Schikaneder wanted the work to have a vaudeville anarchy, a knock-about humour spliced with magic, enlightenment, wisdom and more than a little cruelty. It’s a tough call for a modern director. Few succeed. Schikaneder’s theatre in the suburbs of Vienna promised flying machines, trapdoors, thunder, as well, apparently, as fires and waterfalls. Match that. At the 1791 premiere, the actor-impresario played the bird-catcher Papageno and Mozart conducted. Match that too. Three months later Mozart was dead. Schikaneder battled on, eventually succumbing to poverty and insanity, dying 20 years later.

      In the Australian director Barrie Kosky, composer and librettist have found their man. Working with the Komische Oper Berlin and the UK theatre company 1927, Kosky has delivered a quixotic enterprise that buzzes and whirrs and spins with manic energy and joy. It is a tour de force. The audience at Thursday’s opening night at the Festival theatre, Edinburgh oohed and aahed, clapped, gasped and guffawed. There was no let-up. The visual ingenuity stunned and delighted. The experience was unforgettable if exhausting.

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      Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Segal: Musique de Nuit review – entranching fusion follow-up

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      The Malian kora player and French cellist raised dust with 2011’s Chamber Music, which pulled two seemingly incompatible instruments into a startling, neoclassical fusion. Musique de Nuit maintains the momentum. While there is a formal air to pieces such as Prélude and the title track, improvisation is at the heart of the duo’s interplay – Sissoko’s rooftop in Bamako, not the studio, was the venue for half the recording. The lines between cascading kora and stately cello are wonderfully blurred at times, as the pair take turns to supply rhythm and melody, ranging across Malian mbalax on Super Étoile, Brazilian flavours on Samba Tomora and deep tradition on Diabaro, to which Babani Kone contributes wailing griot vocals. Entrancing stuff.

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      Discover the Best of Scandinavia this August! Join Peter van de Graaff on this exclusive classical music journey.

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      new releases

      Wagner, Liszt & Brahms

      Steinway & Sons 30051

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      Brahms: Piano Concertos

      Deutsche Grammophon 479 4899 (2 CDs)

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      Chant for Peace

      Deutsche Grammophon 479 4709

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      Bach: Goldberg Variations

      Ondine ODE 1273-2

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      The New Goldberg Variations

      Alfi Records 15002

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