Euro Classics SING This Week

Classical MPR’s exclusive Euro-Classics focus on the voice this week.

In the mid 17th century, Claudio Monteverdi was in his 70s and still going strong composing all sorts of varied music involving the voice. His collection entitled Selva Morale e Spirituale (Moral and Spiritual Forest) contained nearly 40 vocal works – motets, psalms, mass settings and madrigals. They all varied in size, from the small motet for solo voice and continuo to the more grand settings like the “Gloria” for seven voices, two violins, four violas, four trombones, and continuo. Stay up late tonight (12:05am Thursday) to hear selections from Monteverdi’s “Selva Morale e Spirituale” in a performance recorded live in June, 2009 at St. Kastor Basilica in Koblenz, Germany with the ensemble La Venexiana.

Manners – A Refresher

Etiquette expert Elizabeth Post (known by family and friends as “Libby”) died Saturday in Naples, Florida. She was 89. Ms. Post was the granddaughter-in-law of the country’s foremost etiquette expert, Emily Post. Along with revising “Emily Post’s Etiquette” five times, Post also wrote several books of her own, as well as a column for Good Housekeeping magazine for 25 years. She once said, “Etiquette is meant to smooth the path between people to better relationships.”

It got me thinking about good manners (or the lack thereof) in today’s concert halls. There are several websites out there offering suggestions – some obvious, some helpful, some rather condescending.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s all common sense. Turn your cell phone off. Try to hold that cough or sneeze until the end of a movement. Don’t be the first to applaud. If a particular movement is an earth-changer well…yeah, maybe the hall will explode in applause even though the work isn’t complete. Feel free to join in if that’s the case. You know…common sense stuff.

Pianist Emanuel Ax has his own unique take here. I think he’s on to something!

Quick notes from our hosts

It’s interesting how things coincidentally converge. German-born conductor Alexander Mickelthwate, the music director in Winnipeg, will replace Dennis Russell Davies in his second (cancelled) week of SPCO appearances. As chance would have it, he previously was an assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Back in 2004, he led that ensemble in a concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall which featured, for the first time before a "public" audience, a performance with the hall’s new pipe organ (with its festival Frank Gehry-designed façade). That concert was broadcast on PIPEDREAMS on MPR on Sunday, April 25. A fine way of introducing the community to Alexander Mickelthwate!

Michael Barone

It never ceases to amaze me how much wonderful new music there is to share in the community around here. This past week, the oboe and bass combo Vecchione/Erdahl Duo performed at St. Therese Care Center in New Hope. I attended and participated in a concert they did a couple weeks ago at the Lakeville Arts Center, a wonderful venue which hosts theater and music events, including chamber music. The Duo and friends performed entertaining works by Morton Gould, Timothy Goplerud and others. And I had the chance to narrate the Story of Babar in a musical setting. My young niece who’s just learning to read followed along with a copy of the book from her seat. Youngsters and oldsters both had an enjoyable afternoon.

Steve Staruch

Susanna Phillips wins Beverly Sills Award

The New York times reports that soprano Susanna Phillips is the winner of the Beverly Sills Artist Award. It’s a $50,000 prize for gifted young singers.

Susanna Philips comes to Minnesota Opera this September as Euridice in Orfeo ed Euridice with the incomparable counter-tenor David Daniels.

Between this award, and James Valenti’s Richard Tucker award last week, it seems that Minnesota Opera is developing an impressive track record for bringing us tomorrow’s stars, today.

If you don’t want to wait til September to hear Susanna Phillips’ Minnesota Opera performance, here she is singing Mozart in Fort Worth:

Late Night Dudamel

Stay up late tonight (12:05am, Thursday) with Classical MPR for our exclusive Euro-Classic. That sensation of the podium, Gustavo Dudamel, conducts the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra performing the 2nd Suite from Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe in a concert from October, 2009, recorded at the Salle Pleyel in Paris.

The original ballet score was the largest work Ravel ever composed, calling for an enormous orchestra (with 15 distinct percussion instruments), and a wordless chorus, heard both onstage and offstage. From that massive score came two suites, with the second suite drawing its music from the ballet’s final three numbers.

So try to squeeze in a nap today and stay up late with us tonight!

James Valenti wins Richard Tucker Award

Tenor James Valenti just won this year’s Richard Tucker Award.

Some call it “the Heisman Trophy of Opera.” It’s a $30,000 prize recognizing an American singer poised on the edge of a major international opera career.

That’s a bit late, considering that Valenti has already sung at many of the great opera houses of the world, including La Scala in Milan. You’ll hear James Valenti sing in our live broadcast of La Traviata from the Metropolitan Opera tomorrow at noon.

Valenti’s gig at the Met didn’t start well; he got food poisoning the night before the opening.

He told the New York Post: “I was up half the night throwing up. I woke up and thought, ‘I worked too hard to get to this day, I’m not going to let anything ruin it!’ So I drank some Gatorade, ate a little bit of pasta and walked onstage not thinking about anything else but the singing.”

If you were lucky enough to hear James Valenti sing at the Minnesota State Fair many years ago, you can say “I knew him when.” He performed at the MPR booth at the fair when he was a young artist with the MNOpera. He was also in the MPR studio last month when he returned to MN Opera to sing the lead in La Boheme. You can hear that performance and interview here.

And feast your ears — and eyes — here:

A touching story of giving

A young pianist is so enamored with Emmanuel Ax, he talks his way into meeting him backstage at a recital. Afterwards, he vows never to complain again about practicing.

Sadly, the boy succumbs to Leukemia, but his parents decide to give a gift in his name to the school he attended – something they were not able to give him in his lifetime – a Steinway piano.

Ax is so touched by the gift and it’s possibilities to touch other young musicians, that he offers to play the dedication recital on the new Steinway.

There’s more here.

Euro-Classic Goes to the Opera

I hope you’re getting the chance to stay up late with Classical MPR on Wednesday nights for our weekly Euro-Classic (Thursdays, 12:05am). Last night featured a splendid performance from pianist Ivan Martin playing five sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, a concert recorded live in the medieval Spanish monastery known as Santa Maria de Vilabertran.

You can also hear these exclusive Euro-Classic performances on the weekend – specifically Saturday nights just after 8:00. This Saturday, soprano Soile Isokoski joins the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra in the Final Scene from the Richard Strauss opera Capriccio, A Conversation Piece for Music. The performance took place in March, 2009 in Luxembourg.

Capriccio is the last completed opera by Richard Strauss. In one act, the opera was inspired by a late 18th century comical work by Antonio Salieri and librettist Biambattista Casta about tensions among opera personalities.

Tensions among opera personalities? Say it ain’t so!

Check it out Saturday night.

Minnesota Orchestra's latest disc wows the Brits

Reviews from London are in and Osmo, the Minn Orch and Stephen Hough get high marks.

The London Times writes “Every concerto features incisive conducting from Osmo Vanska and the chiselled splendour of his Minnesota Orchestra.”

The London Observer: “Osmo Vanska’s suave direction of the Minnesota players allows Hough’s brilliance to shine through.”

You can listen to a re-broadcast tonight at 8:00 of one of those live sessions with Stephen Hough playing Tchaikovsky with the Minnesota Orchesra.