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      Carl's Morning Quiz

      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: We're playing music for coronations during this hour. Music composed for actual coronation ceremonies, and some composed for coronation scenes in operas. We just heard Sir William Walton's coronation march "Orb & Sceptre," composed for Queen Elizabeth in 1953. What was the name of the coronation march Walton composed in 1937 and for whose coronation was it played? Answer >>

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      QUIZ: Guess the Composer by Their Facial Hair

      Think you know classical composers? Can you guess them by their facial hair? more...

      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...

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      RSNO/Oundjian review – little sense of a spark

      Royal Albert Hall, London
      Aside from Igor Levit, who played Mozart with pearly delicacy, Peter Oundjian conducted a competent yet routinely effective performance of Bruckner

      Though nothing at all by Olivier Messiaen was heard at the Proms until 1962, almost all his major works have been played there in the past half century. But the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s visit with its music director Peter Oundjian still managed to begin with a piece never heard before at the summer season of concerts: the 12-minute Hymne that Messiaen composed in 1932, the year in which he began work on one of his most famous pieces, L’Ascension. The score of Hymne was lost during the second world war and Messiaen rewrote it from memory in 1947. It’s a strange work, a frieze-like succession of mostly extrovert ideas, which reveals more of where Messiaen’s music had come from – Franck, Debussy and Ravel, Bartók and Stravinsky (perhaps filtered through Roussel) – than of where it was going.

      Oundjian and his orchestra played it competently, though without the really stylish enthusiasm that might have made it seem more than an interesting period piece. He and the RSNO have been together long enough now for something beyond comfortable familiarity to have developed between them. But there was little sense of a spark here, nor any suggestion of more than a routinely effective performance in Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony at the end of the evening. Each section of the symphony was convincingly moulded, though the textures really needed a plumper cushion of string sound on which to sit. Except in the finale, which did seem more coherent, there was nothing that joined the parts together, and climaxes such as that of the elegiac Adagio seemed to arrive out of nowhere, without real preparation or context.

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      Readers recommend: melancholy songs – results

      Broken hearts to bad luck, mood swings to lost love, fado to hip-hop, hard rock to classical, Ravi Raman selects 13 sorrowful songs from last week’s massive topic

      Is melancholy a mood or an emotion? Is it involuntary or an indulgence? Are there any similarities between misery and melancholy? Scholars say that the lines between them are blurred. Very helpful.

      Let’s instead turn to more creative souls who seem to catch on what the 19th-centry poet James Thomson (BV) was all about when he said, spelling the word this way with all caps – “MELENCOLIA transcends all wit”. Gospel, soul, blues, folk … all show a complaint of souls overflowing with the bitterest anguish - “Like tears, they were a relief to aching hearts.”

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      Hindemith: The Long Christmas Dinner CD review – preserves the subtlety of his last opera

      Zamora/Murphy/Ott/Quinn/Allen/American SO/Botstein
      (Bridge)

      Though, or perhaps because, he was a very fine amateur musician, Thornton Wilder generally discouraged attempts to turn his plays into operas. But he did write the libretto for one opera, Louise Talma’s The Alcestiad, and agreed to adapt his 1931 play The Long Christmas Dinner as a text for Paul Hindemith. First performed in Mannheim in 1961, it was Hindemith’s final opera. The premiere was given in German translation, and subsequent recordings of the work have all used that version; this is the first disc of The Long Christmas Dinner to return to Wilder’s original English text.

      Lasting less than 50 minutes, the chamber opera encapsulates the history of a single family, the Bayards, across 90 years, through a succession of Christmas feasts. Characters enter from one side and depart from the other as the decades and the generations roll by. It’s a subtle, wonderfully understated examination of the changing relationships within a family, and of the ways in which society is evolving around them. There are births, marriages and deaths, and finally lonely old age, and Hindemith’s score matches the light touch with which Wilder’s text deals with this complex web of issues.

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