Browsing: Classical Music

Even in the era of COVID-19, Sinfonia Toronto is thinking big. Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 are on the 2020-21 schedule. This 13-piece chamber orchestra is also thinking small. Six of seven subscription concerts offer at least one string quartet. The season opener on Oct. 25 in Koerner Hall has two. Of course these works are heard in arrangements. “It’s necessary,” music director Nurhan Arman, who founded the orchestra in 1999, said of the broad reach of Sinfonia repertoire. “We can’t keep playing the same Dvorak Serenade and Tchaikovsky Serenade season after season. You must offer something new to the…

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Dame Ethel Smyth: The Prison (symphony for soprano, bass-baritone, chorus and orchestra) Words by H.B. Brewster. Dashon Burton, bass-baritone (The Prisoner). Sarah Brailey, soprano (His Soul). Experiential Chorus and Orchestra/James Blachly CHANDOS CHSA 5279 Total Time: 64:00 Just recently I finally got around to reading Jan Swafford’s authoritative biography of Brahms. In the book there were several references to Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) and her comments about Brahms. I then turned to Smyth’s autobiographical Impressions That Remained to learn more. As a young woman Smyth had gone to Leipzig in 1878 to study music and became a pupil of Heinrich von…

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Homage and Inspiration. Works by Schumann, Kurtág, Mozart and Christof Weiß Iris Trio. Coviello COV 92002 Total time: 62:46 Music schools often spawn multinational collaborations. Having met in New York, the young members of the Iris Trio (Canadian clarinetist Christine Carter, American violist Molly Carr and Bulgarian pianist Anna Petrova) now hope to make the most of the not-exactly-limitless repertoire written for their combination of instruments. Mozart’s so-called “Kegelstatt” Trio of 1786 is the wellspring of the formation, and it gets a nuanced reading here, with a forward-moving but unhurried treatment of the Andante first movement. Carter provides a fluid…

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Walter Kaufmann: Chamber works ARC Ensemble. Chandos 20170 Total time: 77:37 Back when cultural appropriation was not a hanging offence, composers from Europe and the Americas felt free to adapt the scales, rhythms and sonorities of Eastern music to create alluring fusions. A particularly effective practitioner was Walter Kaufmann, 1907-1984, a Berlin-trained native of Carlsbad who left Nazi Germany in 1934 and settled in Bombay before moving to Canada (where he served as music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra from 1948 to 1958) and then the United States (where he lived out his days as professor of musicology at…

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Liszt and Thalberg: Opera transcriptions and fantasies Marc-André Hamelin, piano. Hyperion CDA68320. Total time: 75:00 Many an operatic tune got itself whistled in the 19th century through the good graces of a piano transcription, Liszt being the best-remembered and most accomplished master of this craft. Here the irrepressibly adventurous Marc-André Hamelin offers transcriptions by both Liszt and his rival Sigismond Thalberg, as well as Hexaméron, a monumentally virtuosic set of variations on the “March of the Puritans” from Bellini’s I puritani written by six composers (Chopin, Czerny, Liszt, Pixis, Herz and Thalberg) under the general editorship of Liszt, who provided…

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New York, NY (September 23, 2020)—The Metropolitan Opera announced today that the ongoing health crisis has resulted in the cancellation of the entire 2020–21 season, but the company also announced ambitious artistic plans for its 2021–22 season, which will open with the Met premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Blanchard’s opera is the first by an African American composer to be performed at the Met. The Met made its painful decision to cancel the balance of the 2020–21 season based on the advice of health officials who advise the Met and Lincoln Center. Because of the…

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Vancouver, Canada (September 22, 2020) —  What if there was a Netflix for orchestral music? This fall, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) will have a new virtual home to connect audiences around the world. Presented by TELUS, TheConcertHall.ca will host exceptional musical experiences created and curated by the VSO. Subscribers to TheConcertHall.ca will get to access to a full season of the VSO performances, recorded using state-of-the-art technology with high-fidelity audio and in high-definition 1080p video, whilst following social distancing protocols. During the season, the VSO will explore repertoire from Bach, Mozart, and early Beethoven, as well as Pulitzer-Prize winning African-American…

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Beethoven: Symphonie no 5 Gossec: Symphonie Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth Harmonia mundi HMM902423 Total time: 54:00 Harmonia mundi continues to pay tribute to Beethoven in his 250th anniversary year. After the Symphony No. 1, the complete Bagatelles for piano, the Symphony No. 9 and the Choral Fantasy, the label has released another essential score, Symphony No. 5 as performed by Les Siècles under François-Xavier Roth. This album is original in two ways: in its almost “classical” interpretation of the work – in keeping with its musical period – and in offering, as a complement, a work seldom performed or recorded. Far…

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The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging the traditional concert model in the classical world. Organizations like the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera and the Seattle Opera have brought performances to the public by migrating to the digital sphere. The name of the game? Pay-per-view. An online pay-per-view event is defined as a virtual service for which viewers are required to pay a fee to watch an exclusive program. Although not yet universally popular, pay-per-view events have the potential to flourish. Can they generate enough income to replace the seats that have been lost through cancellations?  Although expectations for the fall…

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From the early days of the health crisis, certain musical instruments have been viewed with suspicion. Scientists were called on to respond to public pressure and take a clear stand on the issue. But measures to combat the transmission of the coronavirus have not been clearly implemented in all professions and activities. The world of music, in particular, has been adversely affected by a lack of concrete responses to the challenges that working musicians face. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) mandated a study to evaluate different performing arts with respect to the spread of aerosols, these…

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