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      Music for a Blue Moon

      Tonight, July 31, is the second full moon of the month, or what we call a blue moon. Of course, a blue moon doesn’t really appear blue; rather, it’s their rarity that makes them special. According to numbers crunched by Western Michigan University, blue moons happen about 8 months out of 228, meaning there’s a 3.5% more... more...

      Tap Dancing Steps into the Future

      The Chicago Human Rhythm Project (CHRP) is currently presenting its 25th festival celebrating American tap and contemporary percussive arts, Rhythm World. I sat down with Lane Alexander, CHRP’s artistic director and co-founder, as well as several Rhythm World instructors and guest artists, to learn more about this unique festival, which honors tap’s past while helping it step into the future. more...

      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...

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      Musicians launch campaign to save the bassoon as shortage threatens orchestra

      Initiative hopes to encourage young players to take up reed instrument and pave way for promoting other ‘endangered species’

      It is widely understood that lions, pandas and polar bears are all in serious jeopardy … The fact that bassoons now share this endangered status may come as more of a surprise, but this summer the reed instrument has become a strong candidate for international protection, according to fans of the sound of the symphony orchestra.

      A campaign called Save the Bassoon now aims to remind the public of the importance of this engaging member of the woodwind section and to encourage young musicians to take it up. Using the “endangered species” model employed by the World Wide Fund for Nature, campaigners are highlighting the scarcity of bassoonists and paving the way for the promotion of some other orchestral instruments that are under threat, such as the oboe, French horn, viola, trombone and double bass.

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      Could opera improve the tenor of political debate? | Letters

      There must be many reasons why individual politicians fight shy of declaring a love of the arts (Why you won’t catch a British politician at the opera, 31 July) but in a country like ours, bursting at the seams with talented, creative people, it is both their loss and ours. Theirs, because the arts, of whatever discipline, via an emotional transfusion to the heart, endeavour to speak the truth. In one shot both knowledge and insight for free, what could be more nourishing and wonderful than that? It’s our loss that they resist this insightful, entertaining and character-forming experience. Yes, until very recently, much of the arts have been supported by the better-off in society, but with the advent of live transmissions no school, institution or workplace needs to be deprived of the very best of live performance recordings. What was once commonly held to be true, that the arts were to teach the teachers, is no longer the case. Dear politicians, don’t be embarrassed, don’t be afraid of the truth, embrace it. We will all be richer for it.
      Judy Liebert
      Nottingham

      • Martin Kettle will perhaps have a lot to answer for if politicians decide that the way to broaden their knowledge of life beyond politics is to start going to see opera, where a typical week in an opera house gives us rape, murder, treachery and miscellaneous deception. Still, now that Glyndebourne no longer allows arrival by helicopter, at least we will be all in it together.
      Tim Barnsley
      London

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      Classical cover art: the good, the bad and the ugly

      Matching music with images is a tricky art in any genre. Classical has some remarkable examples, for better and worse, of how fine the balance can be.

      When classical music covers go wrong they really go wrong. There are some corkers out there, from the unfortunate Derek Bell Plays With Himself to Red Priest’s hair metal-style Handel in the Wind, with Julian Lloyd Webber’s Travels With My Cello and much else in between … so it’s gratifying to come across the rare instances when genuine creative thought has gone into the relationship between cover art and the music inside, whatever that might even mean in our ever-more post-product era of music consumption.

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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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