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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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      How Franz Schmidt became the composer that history forgot

      The radiant music of Austrian composer Franz Schmidt, once feted by the Nazis, is haunted by its past. Ahead of the Proms premiere of his Symphony No 2, Gavin Plumley explains why it is time to listen afresh

      Franz Schmidt was a smiling, genial man. He was born in 1874 in Pressburg (now Bratislava) and died in Vienna in 1939. At the BBC Proms, on 10 September, there is the rare opportunity to hear his radiant Second Symphony, completed and premiered in 1913. Fittingly, the performance, the first ever at the Proms, will be given by the Vienna Philharmonic – the orchestra in which Schmidt once played the cello – under its regular guest conductor Semyon Bychkov.

      The vagaries of the classical repertoire are such that very little of Schmidt’s output, which includes three further symphonies, two operas and various chamber and orchestral works, is still heard. Bar the continuing slew of performances and recordings of Mahler’s symphonies and the occasional foray into the even more complicated terrain of the Second Viennese School, 20th-century Austrian music is altogether poorly represented.

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      Bergen PO/Litton review – personal and authoritative

      Royal Albert Hall, London
      The Bergen’s departing chief conductor, Andrew Litton, showed his mettle throughout a programme featuring The Rite of Spring and new works by Ørjan Matre and Alissa Firsova

      There were not one but two new works in this Prom by the Bergen Philharmonic under its departing chief conductor Andrew Litton, given as part of the orchestra’s 250th anniversary season – though in fact the first of them, Ørjan Matre’s preSage, was being premiered only in its revised version.

      Commissioned to celebrate the centenary in 2013 of The Rite of Spring – which happens to be something of a signature piece for this ensemble – the Norwegian Matre’s work takes a couple of minute elements from the tiny section of Stravinsky’s ballet labelled The Sage and whips them up into a 12-minute conflation notable for its hyper-refined use of colour and ambiguous harmony. It made an intriguing opener.

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      Tishchenko: Piano Sonatas 7 & 8 CD review – fearless and penetrating playing

      Nicolas Stavy
      (BIS)

      Boris Tishchenko was a Soviet composer of dark and exuberantly offbeat music. He wrote a lot, and what he wrote was generally not shy. He charted the struggle of Soviet artists in his vehement orchestral song-cycle Requiem; he was a devotee of Shostakovich, and it shows in the prickly wit and grotesque pastiches of his music. That he was a superb pianist underpins the expansive, gnarly language of his 11 piano sonatas.

      On this recording, French pianist Nicolas Stavy tackles the Seventh, longest and formally weirdest of them all, with its clanging tubular bells and acid glockenspiel (played by Jean-Claude Gengembre) adding to the absurd melodrama of the mix. The Eighth is more taut – a tightly-sprung riot of tough counterpoint, mordant send-ups and suddenly bare, solemn chorales. Stavy’s playing is fearless throughout. He unleashes outrageous whirlwinds then finds penetrating space and contemplation in slow passages.

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      new releases

      Collage: Works for Cello & Piano

      Centaur CRC-3436

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      Rachmaninoff: Variations

      Deutsche Grammophon 479 4970

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      Joyce & Tony: Live at Wigmore Hall

      Erato 0825646107896

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      Distant Voices

      Yamaha Entertainment

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      Faure & Strauss: Violin Sonatas

      Deutsche Grammophon 481 1774

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