2009 . . . Parting Glimpses

In the spirit of the obligatory year-end review, I’ve been taking a look at this blog and website (2009 edition).

It’s been a year when Classical Notes has traveled to the UK, with VocalEssence, and to the Piano e-Competition, right here in town. We’ve noted, with sadness, the deaths of Anne Wiggins Brown, Erich Kunzel, Alicia de Larrocha, Paul Manz, and Michael Steinberg, to name a few. You, our faithful readers, have weighed in on the music at Barack Obama’s inaugural, Krystian Zimerman’s politics, composers who will stand the test of time, and the price of tickets.

The tough economy has been felt everywhere, the classical scene included: we’ve looked at some of its effects, and at advice on weathering the storm. It wouldn’t have been a blog without occasional goofy humor, and it wouldn’t have been a classical music publication if we hadn’t noted the well-publicized arrival of Gustavo Dudamel. (At this rate, the sash around the New Year’s baby is going to read “El Sistema.”)

Thanks for reading, thanks for listening, and best wishes for 2010!

Emerson String Quartet Plays Beethoven

In the early 19th century, the Russian Ambassador in Vienna was a fellow named Andreas Razumovsky, and he had a wide circle of musical friends – notably Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Some music historians believe it was Razumovsky who introduced Beethoven to Russian folk music.

Later tonight (12:05am, Thursday), you’ll hear an exclusive performance (from June, 2009 at the Rococo Theatre in Schwetzingen, Germany) by the Emerson String Quartet, playing one of Beethoven’s three Razumovsky Quartets, which were all dedicated to the Russian Ambassador. Stay up late for our weekly Euro Classic on Classical MPR.

Saturday’s Euro Classic (8:05pm) features I Fagiolini performing Madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi.

Once in Royal David's City…

For 90 years, this simple carol has opened A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College in Cambridge, England.

Our broadcast host Michael Barone told me that the boy choristers all learn the first solo verse and don’t know who will sing it until the conductor Stephen Cleobury points to the lucky one right before he has to sing!

It’s an exciting moment and a beautiful service. We carry the Festival live this morning and repeat it tonight at 5:00 – Don’t miss this Christmas Eve tradition of word and music!

Getting a Handel on Messiah's Choruses

For Unto Us a Child is Born – my favorite chorus from Handel’s Messiah. But there are so many close seconds.

And He Shall Purify is a bear to sing, especially when the tempo is taken as Handel intended…..quickly. The Boston Baroque’s 1992 recording on Telarc does just that, and the results are stunning.

So it’s time to chime in. What’s your favorite Messiah chorus and why? And if you have a favorite Messiah recording, share that too.

Up Late Wednesday….

Bella Bartok had been exiled by the Nazi’s to the United States in 1940 – he was in rough shape physically, emotionally and professionally. But a group of colleagues, led by Fritz Reiner, arranged a commission for a major work for the Boston Symphony Orchestra – the perfect vehicle for Bartok’s recovery. Bartok had been hospitalized at the time, and when Serge Koussevitzky arrived at the hospital with a substantial downpayment, the impact was immediate! Bartok rallied, and finished the piece within seven weeks.

Stay up late tonight (just after midnight, Thursday) with Classical MPR for an exclusive performance of Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra.

This week’s Euro Classic comes from Salle Pleyel in Paris, with the Radio France Philaharmonic Orchestra (Philippe Jordan, conductor) in a performance recorded live on February 2nd, 2009.

There’s another Euro Classic Saturday night. During the 8:00 hour, Karel Kosarek plays Martinu’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

The SPCO's Stravinsky Festival

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra sure knows how to warm up a Minnesota January. In 2009, they did it with their International Chamber Orchestra Festival. In 2010, they’ll spice things up with their three-week-long Stravinsky Festival.

It will feature a concert performance (no sets, no costumes) of Stravinsky’s only opera, The Rake’s Progress, as well as performances of several of his ballet scores. The festival culminates in a joint performance by the SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra of Stravinsky’s earth-shaking (or at the very least, floor-board shaking!) The Rite of Spring.

For your enjoyment, here’s a 1965 video of the great man himself conducting the “Lullaby and Final Hymn” from his ballet Firebird.