The Concert of the Year

When the Oregon Symphony performed at Carnegie Hall last spring, Alex Ross of the New Yorker said it was the most remarkable concert of the regular season–no small accolade, in view of the abundance of New York’s classical scene.

The program (“Music for a Time of War”) linked pieces by Ives, Adams, Britten and Vaughan Williams. If you didn’t hear our live broadcast in May–or even if–you can listen online here. Or tune in to SymphonyCast this Sunday at 1 pm.

Classical MPR's European Vacation

We’re taking a European vacation. Starting Monday, we’ll highlight pieces that have been ascribed cities, (like Haydn’s “London” Symphony and Mozart’s “Prague” Symphony) on our 10 a.m. Morning Glories. It needn’t stop there, though — we also want to share your musical experiences abroad. Whether it’s a professional orchestra, or a serendipitous encounter with an ensemble performing in public, we’d love to hear your favorite stories of music and beauty in far-flung lands.

Share your comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Burgos Serenade

I’ll start.

In the summer of 2000, my sister worked in Barcelona for a 6-week book conservation project. My mother and I went to visit, we rented a car, and traveled from Barcelona to A Coruña; via the north coast… or at least we tried. It was a long drive, and we ran out of time and needed to turn back before reaching our intended destination.

We went back toward Barcelona via the overland route, and stopped in some of the bigger cities along the way; one of them being Burgos. It was early, and we were looking for Breakfast (we joked: perhaps a Burgos King croissan’wich?). We were walking around the Plaza Cathedral and ran into three gentlemen, arms around each other, serenading some lucky soul in the apartments above.

They were probably drunk, but they sounded amazing. None of us could identify the music, so I snapped a photo, and shortly thereafter we found some coffee and pastries and we talked about how you just never see that sort of thing in the U.S. (or at least in the midwest).

I'll Take the Taiwanese Blend, Please

With their ears all over the world, our listeners are forever turning us on to all sorts of great things to savor, delight, and astonish.

One such listener from South Carolina recently sent us information about Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, the first and only independent professional Chinese orchestra not run by the government in Taiwan, which she stumbled upon by accident.

These beautiful pieces are familiar in scope and form with western roots and orchestral setup, but because of the instrumentation they shimmer with a wash of sounds, colors, and expressions that form a remarkably palatable and interesting blend of East and West.

The term “blend of East and West” is often employed by musical groups who are in fact struggling to smash two traditions together, and not always gracefully. But the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, with it’s Western setup and (mostly) Eastern instrumentation, executes the intent of the cliché so gracefully that it feels truly like the skeleton of a larger musical idea, no more possible to remove or overtly obvious than the bones that structure the body. This “modern Chinese music orchestra” as they call themselves, “perform Chinese music as [they] think it should be performed. Normal si-zhu orchestras are restricted to traditional si-zhu forms, but the idea of [their] programme is to exploit different environments and opportunities in order to demonstrate the full range of possibilities of the beauty of Chinese music.”

Such beauty, indeed.

Roll Credits: July 25, 2011 – Comedies

Comedies are on the docket for this week’s Roll Credits. From Chaplin to Mancini and everything in between.


[apmaudio id=minnesota/classical/programs/2011/07/25/roll_credits_20110725_128]Featured Audio[/apmaudio]


Charles Chaplin – Napoli March from The Great Dictator

Francis Shaw, conductor

The Munich Symphony Orchestra

Silva 1021

Ray Shield – Little Rascals Music: Good Old Days; Beautiful Lady

The Beau Hunks

Koch 8702

Harry Ruby – Everyone Says I Love You

Cafe Accordion Orchestra

CAO 46

Henry Mancini – The Pink Panther Theme; It Had Better Be Tonight

Henry Mancini, conductor

The Mancini Pops Orchestra

RCA 55938

John Williams – March from “1941”

John Williams, conductor

Boston Pops

Philips 420 178

Elmer Bernstein – Ghostbusters

Elmer Bernstein, conductor

Royal Philharmonic Pops

Denon 75288

Stephen Sondheim – Comedy TOnight from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Zero Mostel, vocal

Bay Cities 3002

Patrick Doyle – Much Ado About Nothing

Original Soundtrack Recording

Epic 54009

Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin – “Tchaikovsky” from Lady in the Dark

Original Cast Recording

Sony 62869

George and Ira Gershwin – They All Laughed from Shall We Dance

Original Soundtrack

Ginger Rodgers, vocal

Fred Astaire, vocal

Rhino 72732

Irvin Berlin – The Hostess with the Mostess from Call Me Madam

Ethel Merman, vocal

MCA 10521

William Walton – As You Like It

Carl Davis, conductor

London Philharmonic

EMI 47944

Continue reading Roll Credits: July 25, 2011 – Comedies

Highlights from Rosenkavalier – IV

Final installment in these Rosenkavalier highlights, as we look ahead to tomorrow night’s broadcast:

Act III: The Baron is trying to seduce a chambermaid (actually Octavian in disguise). The Baron tries to get her/him tipsy. The response, which even non-German majors can understand, is: “Nein, nein, nein, nein! I trink kein Wein!”

The tune may seem trivial, but Strauss has plans for it.

At the end of the opera, the “Nein, nein” melody in the previous example makes its comeback–but transformed in its new context.

The Marschallin, Sophie, and Octavian all realize that, ready or not, their lives are changing forever. Strauss expresses this in a soaring trio–one of the most famous ensemble pieces in opera.

Strauss Four Last Songs at 10:00

If you listen to only one thing today, listen at 10:00. It’s some of the most sublime music ever written. Four songs for soprano and orchestra. Lush, tender, soaring and I guarantee you’ll have constant goosebumps.

Strauss “Four Last Songs” in probably the greatest recording ever made with Elisabeth Scwarzkopf.