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      Carl's Morning Quiz

      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: American composer Bernard Herrmann was born in NY on this date in 1911. Earlier this morning we heard Bernard Herrmann's score for Orson Welles' classic film, Citizen Kane. But he wrote many film scores for another prominent director, including Psycho, North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo. Name the director. Answer >>

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      Our Country, ‘Tis of Thee: How Marian Anderson Broke Boundaries for Singers of Color

      Younger generations of Americans take it for granted that the United States has been legally desegregated. But, before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, segregation was the norm, including in concert halls across America. Contralto Marian Anderson (1897 – 1993) broke many boundaries for more... more...

      15 Queer Composers You Should Know

      June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. We celebrate the music of LGBTQ composers all year long since it’s hard to escape a concert season without hearing works by Handel, Tchaikovsky, Britten, and others. But we wanted to recognize a few notable figures, past and present, who do did not or do not identify as heterosexual. Some more... more...

      Signifyin’ in Song: How the Sounds of Slavery Changed Music Forever

      African-American spirituals are not just a cornerstone of the American choral tradition, they have impacted countless genres of music heard everywhere from saloons to symphony halls. Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 in E minor, "From the New World," borrows heavily from African-American musical traditions, and spirituals in particular. more...

      How A Bach Minuet Got a Motown Makeover

      Bach’s Minuet in G major from the Notebooks for Anna Magdalena Bach is so famous that you may have even had it as your cell phone ring tone at one point or another. The piece is so simple and elegant that it’s often one of the first pieces musicians learn to play. It can easily be played on more... more...

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      Mark Simpson: death in D flat major

      He is a visceral and wildly idealistic composer – but even Simpson was surprised by the scale of his new work about the afterlife, premiered at the Manchester international festival on 4 July

      Mark Simpson is showing me the score of his new piece, The Immortal. “I felt like I was in a trance when I was writing it,” says the 26-year-old composer, clarinettist, and Liverpudlian musical polymath. “There was a period when I didn’t leave the house for 10 days. When I finished it, after seven solid months – and even now when I look at it – I just thought, ‘What the fuck’s that? It’s so big!’ This scale and scope, it’s on a different level from anything I’ve done before.”

      Related: Q&A: composer Mark Simpson

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      Borodin Quartet review – they make music flow as naturally as speech

      Wigmore Hall, London
      The Borodins can take Shostakovich’s notes and make them sound more right than almost any other ensemble

      There is a story that when the Borodin Quartet was formed, in 1945, its original members signed an oath of allegiance in their own blood. The lineup has undergone many changes in the 70 years since, but the current quartet still plays as if the same stuff is running through all their veins. There is next to no visible communication between players – something that can reinforce the impression of a certain coolness in the performance. But generally, no sooner is that impression formed than it is blown apart: the Borodins can be fiery even while looking efficient.

      Each concert in this anniversary series is devoted to Beethoven and Shostakovich. Here they opened with Beethoven’s “Harp” Quartet, Op 74, and after a tender start brought out a dense, rich tone that flourished in the inner lines in the slow movement, and that made the middle section of the third movement, a Bach-like fugue, sound as if it were being played on a huge, clangorous organ. They finished with Op 18, No 1: crisp and springy in the fast movements, and with an old-school weightiness in the slow movement, and lots of variety of colour, even if they almost never play truly softly.

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      Britten-Pears Orchestra/Knussen review – brilliant Britten and a poignant tribute to Schuller

      Aldeburgh festival
      Oliver Knussen gave a persuasive reading of Britten’s only ballet music

      This year’s Aldeburgh festival ended on a high, with Oliver Knussen conducting the excellent Britten-Pears Orchestra in a rare concert performance of Benjamin Britten’s only ballet music, The Prince of the Pagodas. It was the only work still unpublished at the time of his death and, as such, is not generally regarded as top-drawer Britten. Knussen has nevertheless always been a strong advocate.

      This was a persuasive reading, brilliantly articulated, and the extended solos were delivered by the orchestra’s young principals with considerable accomplishment. Already something of an occasion, it was given an even more dynamic context by being prefaced by a Balinese gamelan-inspired piece written by Colin McPhee, the American composer/musicologist responsible for introducing Britten to this exotic soundworld. Tabuh-Tabuhan, subtitled Toccata for Orchestra and Two Pianos, dates from 1936: McPhee’s faithful reproduction of the gamelan sound in his core concertino lineup of two pianos, celeste, xylophone, marimba and glockenspiel felt radical; their timbres exotic, the pounding ostinati astonishingly vibrant and modern. Inevitably, it drew attention to the moments when the Pagodas score sounded a bit English: the brass and string writing sometimes typically Britten, and the alto saxophone sounding as if it had crept in from somewhere else again. Yet the theatricality of his intentions was finely realised.

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      Sugarloaf Mountain

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      Glass: Piano Music

      Decca 478 8079 (2 CDs)

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      Gidon Kremer: New Seasons

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