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      Your High School Musical Memories

      Heading back to school means auditions are coming up, rehearsals will be starting soon, and before you know it, you’ll be practicing music for a holiday concert even though it’s not even officially fall. For many, one of the best parts of heading back to school is performing with school ensembles. We asked four organizations more... more...

      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...

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      Igor Levit: the leaner, meaner piano machine

      He has been called the future of piano and the player of the century. But Igor Levit recently felt compelled to give himself a complete makeover to improve his performance. As he prepares for his Prom, the pianist talks about physio, losing 70lbs – and why he finds Chopin dumb

      When you meet a virtuoso pianist, the temptation is to stare at their hands. The night before our interview, Igor Levit had played a recital of such violence, pounding the keys as he performed the monumental music of American experimentalist Frederic Rzewski, that it seemed impossible for the young Russian-German’s fingers not to end up red and raw. “Well, it’s much easier since I stopped biting my nails!” Levit says, laying out smooth, unknotty hands with long spatulate fingers and closely clipped nails. “Doing a glissando up and down the keyboard is way less tricky now.”

      Related: Igor Levit review – this pianist has got it all

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      Inside Max Richter's vinyl collection: Aphex Twin, Bach, Grouper and more

      In the lead-up to the release of his eight-hour lullaby album, Sleep, the composer creates a playlist of some his favourite music, from noise-rockers Girl Band to Aphex Twin

      Music exists beyond genre labels. I generally follow my enthusiasm when listening, so this selection is a typically mixed bag. A few things in this list, such as Dinu Lipatti playing Bach, have visited my turntable for years; others, such as Girl Band, are recent additions to my home vinyl collection. I’ve just finished a project concerned with sleep, perception and dreams, and many of the picks here feel like reveries: the abstract melancholy love song by Aphex Twin, or the cavernous spaces of Grouper’s music both seem disembodied in their own way. One of the images that music calls to mind for me is that of the daydream. I think many of these tracks are like daydreams, though not all of them are the kind of dreams we might want to have.

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      Roger Smalley obituary

      Composer who was also active as a pianist, teacher and concert organiser

      The British-born composer Roger Smalley, who has died aged 72, was not only one of the most distinctive composers of the post-second world war generation, but he was also active as a pianist, teacher and concert organiser. Following a composer residency at the University of Western Australia in Perth, he took up a permanent post there, and went on to be a significant force in Australian musical life for four decades.

      His first published works – the Variations for Strings (1964), Piano Pieces I-V (1965) and String Sextet (1965) – pointed to his interest in new and experimental music. But they also showed an incipient interest in Renaissance music that came to the fore in a series of works based on keyboard pieces by the 16th-century organist and composer William Blitheman. Two works called Gloria Tibi Trinitas (one for orchestra, 1965, the other, which won a Royal Philharmonic Society prize, for soloists, chorus and orchestra, 1966) were followed by his Missa Brevis (1967) and two works called Missa Parodia (one for piano, the other for piano and ensemble, both 1967).

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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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