Friday
Jul282017

Huckleberry Friends: Audrey, Henry and Me

I grabbed the ad and flew to the mezzanine level of the house, where technicians and grips were arranging lights and cables. When I approached one and asked, “Do you think I could get Miss Hepburn to autograph this for me?” the grip answered, “Why not ask her yourself? She’s right over there.” I hadn’t even noticed her diminutive figure sitting on the stairs studying her script, and although I didn’t want to cause any disruption in the production, I hurriedly went over and blurted out, “Miss Hepburn, I’m a huge fan of yours and have had this photo in my office for years. Would you please sign it ‘To John’?”

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Tuesday
Jul252017

Bach to Bach: Going for Baroque is an Instrumental Decision

A significant debate in the performance of classical music that originated in the mid-20th century was whether or not to play Baroque-era music on 18th-century instruments or on their modern-day counterparts.

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Monday
Jul242017

The Vogue Violinist from the Small Town Down Under Makes His CSO Debut

Ray Chen is a 28-year-old violinist with a white-hot career. He recently signed a major recording deal and multimedia partnership with Decca Classics, noted critics sing his praises, and he’s followed by over two million fans on SoundCloud.

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Monday
Jul242017

Rewind: August 1, 1967


At a time when conflict with Russia weighed heavily on many minds—no, not today; during the mid-20th century—there was one thing that the then-Communist nation and the United States could agree upon: Van Cliburn was a great musician. In 1958, as the Cold War was escalating, Moscow inaugurated what is still today one of the most closely watched events in classical music, the International Tchaikovsky Competition.

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Thursday
Jul202017

To Every Thing There Is a Season: The Four Seasons have inspired much more than small talk

If a beauty pageant was held for the orchestral works of the Baroque period, odds are the hands-down winner would be Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, the set of four violin concertos that the Cleveland-based Baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire will perform in the Martin Theatre on July 27, replete with the period flavor of their 1725 publishing. Probably the only works that might come close in a popular vote would be Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concertos and Handel’s Water Music, but Vivaldi’s Four Seasons have entered the collective consciousness as few musical works ever have.

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Wednesday
Jul192017

One Nation, Under Jean: Sibelius Made the Music Finland Had All Along

It doesn’t happen often, but at a few crucial points in human history, musicians and composers have found themselves playing outsized roles in world politics.

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Tuesday
Jul182017

Buzz-ness as Usual: Blondie Remains Honeycombed with Signature Sweetness

To quote the title of the second single off the group’s latest album, Blondie has been doing this a “Long Time.” Pollinator, released in May, adds to a 40-some-year history and 10 records that, taken together, account for more than 40 million albums sold worldwide.

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Tuesday
Jul182017

Common Ground in Common Time: Kent Nagano Feels Harmonious with the Music of John Adams

Kent Nagano had his first in-depth encounter with John Adams’s music in 1980/81 when he was an assistant conductor at the Oakland Symphony, becoming enamored of the audacity, originality, and craft of Common Tones in Simple Time. The now internationally renowned American maestro has since become one of the San Francisco Bay–area composer’s most ardent champions, recording more than a half dozen of Adams’s compositions and presenting the world premieres of such milestone works as The Death of Klinghoffer and El Niño.

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Monday
Jul172017

Rewind: July 22, 1977


From semistaged operas 
and musicals to plays and other performances of spoken word, top stagecraft has long been a part of Ravinia’s DNA, but even longtime fans of the festival might be surprised to learn that during a three-year period in the late 1970s, you could enjoy violins at 8 and violent laughter at 11.

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Tuesday
Jul112017

How Hi-Fi Popularized Tchaikovsky's "1812" Overture (with cannons)


Tchaikovsky’s “1812” Overture is unquestionably one of classical music’s all-time greatest hits, right up there with Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” concertos and the “Wedding March” from Wagner’s Lohengrin. Yet it gave me pause when a friend who is not particularly into classical music asked why, in particular questioning why such a fuss is made about using real cannons, as has been done every year at Ravinia for nearly four decades. After long thought, I came up with a theory that attributes the phenomenon to recording technology.

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