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      Carl's Morning Quiz

      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: Another "who am I" today--and a fascinating one. I was born 121 years ago today. My mother was a Russian princess who married her teacher at the Paris Conservatory. He was 77 when I was born. Our family friend Gabriel Faure discovered that I had perfect pitch when I was 2. I won the Prix de Rome at the age of 19 but I died at the age of 24. My famous sister lived for another 61 years before she was buried next to me in the Montmartre Cemetery. Who am I? Answer >>

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      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...

      WFMT Gets an Upgrade

      After being off-line for two months, WFMT's Fay and Daniel Levin Performance Studio is open for business. With a new mixing board, new recording equipment, and a sassy blue paint job (better for shooting photographs and video), the studio re-opened last week for a recording with composer Lita Grier, followed by a live broadcast of "Folkstage" more...

      Impromptu with Saxophone Virtuoso Ashu

      Ashu returns to Chicago for a recital at Ravinia. The Northwestern graduate is logging thousands of frequent flyer miles these days, giving concerts throughout Europe, North America, Asia, and Oceania. Ashu had been playing the saxophone for only a few years when he entered a contest. Taking the top prize, he was granted a solo recital at Carnegie Hall at the age of 16 more...

      Sax and the City

      From Charlie Parker to Kenny G, John Coltrane to Clarence Clemons, the sultry sounds of the saxophone have been a mainstay for American music. Many have praised the saxophone's vocalism, range of color, and expressivity. Nevertheless, it's been a tough road for classical soloists. more...

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      Expect seismic shocks with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra

      Iceland Symphony Orchestra make their Proms debut tonight, in a concert called Classical Tectonics

      The Iceland Symphony Orchestra makes its debut at the Proms on Friday night; a concert called Classical Tectonics in homage to the thrillingly adventurous, all-contemporary Tectonics festivals that their chief conductor Ilan Volkov puts on with them every year, and which he has also brought to Glasgow with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

      At the Proms, Volkov masterminded the magnificently chaotic, cactus-enhanced concert for John Cages centenary a couple of years ago, and last year, gave another brilliant showcase of new music from Fredric Rzewski to Morton Feldman. All of which makes this years Iceland programme look, on the face of it, much more conservative, with Schumanns Piano Concerto (the soloist is Jonathan Biss, who made his Proms debut last Friday with a scintillating performance of Bernard Rands Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, and is now making a habit of Friday nights at the Royal Albert Hall) and Beethovens Fifth Symphony. But Volkov brings a similar imagination to the core classical repertoire too, which ought to make the Fifth Symphony an unusually seismic experience.

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      Readers recommend: best piano songs | Peter Kimpton

      Classical to ragtime, blues to pop, its time to tinkle the ivories, press the pedals and lift the lid on those string-hitting hammers

      The piano aint got no wrong notes, said the free-flowing, flawless Thelonius Monk. Marvin Gaye, however, stared at the 88 keys and was looking for more: These cant be the only notes in the world. Theres got to be others some place, in some dimension, between the cracks on the piano keys. Perhaps thats where his own combinations of notes came in. The pianoforte, whether honky tonk upright or elegant 12ft Steinway, has always offered music on a grand scale, a place to express a full range of emotions. And among the greatest, Frédéric Chopin, in his darkest moments, declared that sometimes I can only groan, and suffer, and pour out my despair at the piano. What virtuoso despair that must have been to witness.

      Such deep emotions, however, can be reproduced or reinterpreted by others. Here they are reflected in Roman Polanksis Oscar-winning film, The Pianist, based on the autobiography of Polish Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman.

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      Cooke: Violin, Viola and Cello Sonatas review purposeful chamber music

      Stanzleit/Goff/Wallfisch/Terroni
      (Naxos)

      Arnold Cooke was part of the same generation of British composers as Michael Tippett and Constant Lambert. Born in 1906, he studied with Hindemith in interwar Berlin, and his music retained his teacher's neoclassical sense of purposeful craftsmanship right up to his death in 2005. Cooke composed two operas, six symphonies and five string quartets, as well as a huge amount of what Hindemith would have called gebrauchmusik, or "utility music" sonatas, sonatinas and other small-scale chamber music for a wide range of instruments, often designed to be within the capabilities of competent amateurs. This selection of three sonatas, recorded under the auspices of the British Music Society, gives a good sense of that side of his output. It spans almost the full extent of his career the earliest, the Viola Sonata was completed in 1937; the latest, the second Cello Sonata, in 1980, while the Violin Sonata No 2 dates from 1951 and what's revealing is how little Cooke's style seems to change over four decades of composing. The violin work is rather bland and uninvolving, the viola and cello sonatas a bit more confrontational; all give the impression of being far more rewarding to play than to listen to.

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