Cheap Seats at Covent Garden

Here’s an eyecatching promotion from the Sun newspaper in London.

The paper is taking over all the seats for one performance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. You can put your name in the hat and if you win, you get a chance to buy cheap tickets for Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

The tone of the marketing is not aimed at your hoity-toity aesthetes. As the Sun says: “It’s full of sex, violence and great singing and is an experience not to be missed.” All the details here.

I (heart) Chopin…

…and Poland (heart)s Chopin’s heart. While most of Chopin’s body is buried in France, where he spent most of his professional career, he asked that his heart be taken back to his homeland. It is kept in a pillar in a church in Warsaw.

Scientists recently asked the Polish government if they could borrow the heart for a while in order to do some DNA testing on it. Read the whole story here.

NASA Classics

Happy 50th birthday, NASA! The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was founded on today’s date in 1958, and began operation on October 1.

While classical music isn’t exactly NASA’s gig, it could turn out to be an intergalactic force in the art, thanks to the recording that’s hurtling out of the solar system aboard the Voyager space probe. The record includes a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by waves, wind, thunder, and animals. It offers spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages. And there is music from different cultures and eras, including a number of classical titles:

Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 from the Munich Bach Orchestra.

Bach, “Gavotte” from the Partita No. 3 in E, performed by Arthur Grumiaux.

Mozart, The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria, with soprano Edda Moser.

Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance, Igor Stravinsky, conductor.

Bach, Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue No.1 in C, Glenn Gould, piano.

Beethoven, Fifth Symphony Otto Klemperer, conductor.

Holborne, The Fairie Round, performed by David Munrow and the Early Music Consort

Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B flat, Opus 130, Cavatina, Budapest String Quartet.

Here’s the complete list from NASA’s website. Not a bad mix for alien life forms to sample. Assuming they still have a turntable!

Andras Schiff on Beethoven

I mentioned this on the air this morning, so I thought I’d post a link, too.

Pianist Andras Schiff has been playing all of the Beethoven sonatas in a series of eight recitals. A couple of years ago, when he played them at Wigmore Hall in London, he also gave a lecture-demonstration before each concert, and much to my delight London’s Guardian newspaper put the audio files on their website.

Schiff is finishing up the same series of concerts at Carnegie Hall this season, but doesn’t appear to be giving the lectures again.

Worldwide Wagner Web

We should be used to technological wonders by now, but it’s still pretty amazing that I’m sitting here at my desk, listening to the Bayreuth Festival live over the Internet. (Calling Jon Gordon of Future Tense!)

Of course, this is at the same time that I’m fielding emails, blogging, etc., and this was not exactly the reverent mood in which Wagner intended Parsifal to be heard–but I guess Bayreuth is keeping up with the times. As near as my college German could make out, the staging involves references to the Nazi period, Marlene Dietrich, and the festival itself. And the festival website includes a link to a German Wagner Wiki, and a comic strip commenting wryly on the whole Wagnerian phenomenon.

I don’t know if it’s sold out–more info here–but this Sunday you can see a Bayreuth performance of Die Meistersinger over the Net. At 49 Euro a “ticket,” it’s more expensive than, say, a Met HD ticket, but cheaper than Bayreuth itself. Not too mention a shorter waiting list.

A Grateful Dead Symphony

I’ve heard it said that the audience for classical music isn’t aging; it’s that music lovers tend to come to classical music later in life. (So the audience isn’t dying out, the argument goes, it’s continually replenished.) A recent spate of classical pieces by or about ’60s rockers has me thinking about this phenomenon.

Next week, on what would have been Jerry Garcia’s 66th birthday, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will perform the world premier of Lee Johnson’s “Dead Symphony #6,” inspired by Grateful Dead songs; the following night, they’ll play Led Zeppelin. Says one source, “The BSO, in my opinion, can rock.”

Click here for last week’s New Classical Tracks, featuring a piano concerto by Jon Lord of Deep Purple.

Pianos For Sale

If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a piano, and money is no object, here are a couple of options.

You could get a hand-made Estonian piano, with a sound board made from “spruce harvested from the European Alps.” (Are there other kinds of Alps?)

Or if the sky is really the limit, you could bid on the red Steinway grand that Lang Lang played in Central Park Tuesday night with the New York Philharmonic. Proceeds of the auction go to relief for earthquake victims in China.

We Pause Now….

Not classical at all. . . . but if you ever wondered what radio staffers email around to each other:

This is a collection of station identifications, theme songs and the like, from all over the world. Curious how the airwaves sound in Tristan da Cunha? Follow the links starting here.