Scary Music, Then and Now

Monday, October 25, 2010

What’s the scariest piece of music you know? In celebration of Halloween, our Jeff Spurgeon thinks it's the perfect occasion to ask.

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For Racette, Puccini Heroines and Berlin Cabaret

Monday, October 25, 2010

One of today's most respected Puccini sopranos, Patricia Racette tells Midge Woolsey about her ecclectic career that spans verismo to cabaret. And she reveals why she identifies with "complicated, conflicted" characters.

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ISSUE Project Room Appoints New Chief

Friday, October 22, 2010

In founding the ISSUE Project Room in a former East Village garage in 2001, the late Suzanne Fiol aimed to cultivate a “Carnegie Hall for the avant-garde.”

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Opera's Weighty Debate: Does Size Really Matter?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In the age of HD broadcasts, svelte opera singers are increasingly commonplace. But Midge Woolsey wonders whether size really matters. And if so, should it matter more than vocal ability?

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Garrick Ohlsson's Eloquence Highlights Orpheus Concert

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What touch! Pianist Garrick Ohlsson had an eloquent dialogue tonight with his instrument, with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and with all of us listening to his Carnegie Hall performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4. Ohlsson's fingers on the keyboard managed precise intricacies, each note articulated clearly, but I was so impressed with the way all notes integrated into a vivid, thrilling whole.

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Giving the Gift of Music: Are CDs Still An Option?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I'm curious to know about your memorable CD gift giving and/or receiving moments. What was the CD and why was it a successful gift? Was it romantic? Great music for dinnertime?

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Natural Blend

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Last weekend I had the pleasure of recording an in-studio performance by composer Van Dyke Parks, which will broadcast on my WNYC show Spinning On Air this Sunday evening at 8 pm. My first exposure to Parks's work was when I heard The Beach Boys song “Heroes and Villains” on the radio while a kid back in the 1960s. Parks wrote the lyrics for that song, and subsequently worked on The Beach Boys’ “Smile” and his own 1968 album “Song Cycle,” and many projects since. Back when I first heard his music I knew it was new, exciting, and different, but I probably didn’t recognize that it was such an effective, natural blend of folk, pop, and classical influences.

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Making Music with Helium Tanks and Suspension Coils

Friday, October 08, 2010

Kraft has finally come to New York, carrying with it the local, found-object flavor that composer Magnus Lindberg requires when installing this legacy-defining piece.

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Slideshow: Junkyard Instruments at Avery Fisher Hall

Thursday, October 07, 2010

On Thursday morning, composer Magnus Lindberg and the New York Philharmonic held the final rehearsal before the New York premiere of his 1985 industrial work Kraft. That piece features an arsenal of noise-making instruments augmented by various found objects, including scrap metal, an oxygen tank and other junk, all of which were picked up from a Staten Island junkyard.

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How to Cope with Concert Hall Distractions

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I’ve been distracted at concerts lately. And a surprising blog post got me thinking about live performances, and about what is demanded of us by the idea of truly listening to music.

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When Singers Cross Over from Opera to Pop -- and Back!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

If there is an audience for it, what difference does it make if a classical artist decides to cross over into the world of popular music every once in a while? I’ll grant you that it suits some singers better than others, but I really don’t see the harm in it. And, if a few more people get turned on to classical music along the way, why not?

 

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Junkyard Impressions

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

I went to high school in Milwaukee, and I’ve been to junkyards, looking for cheap tires for my rusty old car. And those were amazing junkyards… I mean for miles. But I’ve never gone searching for instruments before! 

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The Down Beat Goes On - But Not Here

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Up until a few weeks ago, you'd hear a generous amount of recordings from pianist and conductor Mikhail Pletnev. But now that Pletnev is under investigation for child rape in Thailand his voice has been silenced in concert halls and on the radio – in the U.S. and U.K that is. But back home in Russia, and elsewhere his beat marches on. Pletnev founded the Russian National Orchestra 20 years ago and its season kicked off this month as planned with Pletnev on the podium. 

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Junkyard Orchestra

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On a sweltering Friday afternoon, a group of musicians including the Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg piled into a van bound for a Staten Island junkyard. Their task? To find ingredients for the composer's 1985 work, Kraft.

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Opening Night at the Met

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For WQXR's Naomi Lewin, the biggest stars of the Met's opening-night gala were James Levine and the Met Orchestra. If you attended, give us your review.

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James Jorden on the New Opera Season

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Metropolitan Opera season opens tonight with Das Rheingold, the first opera in Wagner's epic Ring cycle. My guest today is James Jorden, who is most famous - or should I say infamous - for his alter ego La Cieca on the e-zine Parterre.com. He also writes about opera for the New York Post.

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Deborah Voigt: "I'm Pinching Myself"

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Met's new Brünnhilde talked with host Jeff Spurgeon about being both nervous and excited for the new Ring cycle – and about applying her dramatic soprano to cabaret tunes.

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Glenn Dicterow on the Role of the Concertmaster

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Glenn Dicterow has been a concertmaster or associate concertmaster in major symphony orchestras for nearly forty years, thirty of which have been at the New York Philharmonic. He talks with Jeff Spurgeon about the job.

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Wanna Play?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

As our month-long ViolinFest proceeds on WQXR, I’ve been reading about the violin, and talking with some violinists and other violin experts. Curiously for me, though, learning about the violin has not made me interested in the slightest in learning to play the thing.  I say “curiously” because usually when I study something, I feel an urge, however small, to experience it. But for some reason, the violin hasn’t grabbed me in the least. It looks not only difficult to learn, but uncomfortable, too.  I love listening to it, and deeply admire the people who study it, play it expertly, and understand it.  But it’s not for me. 

If I were to study a string instrument, it would be the cello.  There’s something about its tone quality, its warmth, and the intimacy of holding it in an embrace – as opposed to tucking the violin under the chin, as if it were napkin – that draws me to it.  There’s nothing rational about any of this, of course. Speaking of irrational, I also have long had a desire to play the accordion. I love the sweet rusticity of the French bal-musette sound.  But the accordion instead of the violin – what’s wrong with me? Please don’t answer that, but do answer this: What musical instrument have you always wanted to play, and why?  If you’ve fulfilled your ambition, what was it like to meet the object of your musical desire?

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A Behind-the-Scenes Recollection

Friday, September 10, 2010

On September 11, 2001, I was home and glued to my TV set, like everybody else. My two main gigs that year were hosting Breakfast With The Arts on A&E and being one of the voice-over guys on CNN. I was not scheduled to shoot for A&E, but I was expected to work for CNN. As the day unfolded it was clear I was not going to get into Manhattan since the bridges were closed. But at that time, I had all the technology I needed to voice for CNN from home. ISDN Lines, still used today, are basically broadcast-quality telephone lines. So late in the afternoon, I was emailed my script and I voiced my pieces. A clip from the night of the attacks is on my web site.

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