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Yukie Ota, 'Madame Butterfly', takes 2nd place at Nielsen Competition

Posted at 2:30 PM on September 22, 2014 by Fred Child (1 Comments)
Filed under: In the media, Musician stories

First-prize winner Sébastian Jacot: "I didn't even think about winning … I have never won a competition or audition." (photo courtesy DR.dk)

Yukie Ota (she of the butterfly landing on her forehead during the first round, currently Principal Flute in the Kalamazoo Symphony) took second place this weekend at the Carl Nielsen Flute Competition in Copenhagen.

First place went to Sébastian Jacot, a 27-year-old Swiss flutist, who had his own adventures in the first round: Two hours before he played, part of his wooden flute broke. Jacot used his back-up … and prevailed.

Read more about first-place finisher Sébastian Jacot in this story by Anne Termanson.


Click on Classical: A viola speaks, a violin shreds, and a rousing debate about relaxation

Posted at 8:35 AM on September 22, 2014 by Jay Gabler (0 Comments)
Filed under: Click on Classical

Violas 425.jpg

Every Monday morning at 9:15, I join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about stories we're featuring on our website. Here are the pieces we'll be discussing today.

​Many visitors to ClassicalMPR.org were delighted with our "section's-eye views" of choral music — and now we're delving into the orchestra, starting with Minnesota Orchestra violist Sam Bergman — who describes the violas as the "listeners" of the orchestra.

There are electric guitars...why not electric violins? I spoke with Sarah Charness, a classically-trained New York violinist who rocks fashion runways and sports arenas with her hot-pink electric instrument. She told me all about her unusual career path and why she thinks classical music ensembles need to evolve — they speak, she says with affection but frankness, "a dying language."

If that sounds controversial, just wait until you read this next piece. Patrick Castillo, a composer who was formerly with the SPCO and is now based in New York, takes issue with the idea that classical music should be described as "relaxing." His essay, "Beethoven didn't write the Eroica Symphony for your yoga class," has been attracting thousands of readers — and dozens of commenters. Check it out, and share your views.

If you have thoughts to share about this topic or any other, please let us know​! We're always looking for new writers and new viewpoints.


No serenity means no Muti for Rome Opera

Posted at 1:30 PM on September 21, 2014 by Luke Taylor (0 Comments)
Filed under: In the media, Musician stories

Conductor Riccardo Muti

The Chicago Sun-Times has reported that Riccardo Muti has resigned as the regular lead conductor of the Rome Opera after ongoing funding, management and labor issues have continued unresolved.

In his resignation letter, Muti wrote he will not be conducting planned productions of Verdi's Aida or Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, the Sun-Times' Andrew Patner reports.

"There are no conditions [there] to ensure the serenity necessary to my leading successful productions," Muti wrote, according to the Italian national news service ANSA Sunday.

"Unfortunately, despite all my efforts to contribute to your cause," Muti wrote, problems of state and city funding, management authority and labor peace "have emerged [again] in just the last few days."

Muti said that he would dedicate his time "in Italy" instead to the Luigi Cherubini Orchestra that he founded for young professional musicians in his homeland.

The Naples-born conductor, 73, said he had reached the decision "with the greatest regret, after long and troubled reflection."

Muti continues as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a role he has held since 2010. The CSO just began its new season this past week.


'Butterfly' flutist makes finals in flute competition

Posted at 9:50 AM on September 20, 2014 by Luke Taylor (0 Comments)
Filed under: Concerts, Film, Musician stories

Yukie Ota, the flutist who earned worldwide attention and widespread admiration for her poise in a performance at the 2014 Carl Nielsen Flute Competition in Copenhagen — during which a butterfly landed on her brow — has made the finals in that very same flute competition.

According to Performance Today host Fred Child, Ota is Principal Flutist in the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. And just now was named as one of three finalists at the Nielsen Competition.

Finals and announcement of winners happens Saturday, Sept. 20.

You can watch the three finalists' performances live online, which will stream on the competition's website.

The finals begin at 7 p.m. in Copenhagen, which is 12 noon Central Daylight Time.


Click on Classical this Weekend: music picks, choral concerts, and artistic directors

Posted at 4:30 PM on September 19, 2014 by Steve Staruch (0 Comments)
Filed under: Classical hosts, Click on Classical

The Choir of King's College, Cambridge (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

As you're browsing the Internet this weekend, perhaps as you listen to Classical Minnesota Public Radio, I've got quite a few must-sees for you:

Participate in Music with Minnesotans

This season, we've added a new twist to Music with Minnesotans, the a weekly series that I host on Tuesdays at 5 p.m., in which I bring in various people from throughout the state to talk about the classical music they love.

The new twist involves you! At the end of each episode, I invite you to suggest a piece of music to that week's Music with Minnesotans guest. What do you think this person might like?

We'll publish the results of the music sharing, as we did this week for Music with Minnesotans guest Grant Johnson.

And if you'd like to send a suggestion to my guest this week, Dan Wascoe; just visit his episode page and look for the form at the bottom.

Check out the choral concerts coming to town

Minnesotans love choral music, so we're excited to bring you concerts by the Vienna Boys Choir, the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, and St Paul's Cathedral Choir of London. Tesfa Wondemagegnehu shares his thoughts on each of these choirs, and tickets for the individual concerts are now available for purchase.

What's up in Duluth? Ask Dirk Meyer

There's a lot to be found up in Duluth, and this Saturday, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra opens its season at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center — known as the DECC. On Thursday, I got to speak to the DSSO's music director, Dirk Meyer, about his vision for this upcoming season.

Can you play bluegrass on a lute?

If there's someone who can answer that question, it's Jordan Sramek, the artistic director of the Rose Ensemble. Probably best known for its mediaeval music, the Rose Ensemble will be embarking on a statewide tour that explores the roots of bluegrass. Sramek spoke to my colleague Alison Young earlier this week to give a preview of the Rose Ensemble's upcoming season and to talk about the connections between early music and bluegrass.

Join the Debate

Is classical music for relaxing, as Sheila Regan posits, or is it for expanding your mind, as Patrick Castillo asserts? There's a lively debate going on on our site right now — what do you think?

Watch the winners of swimsuit competitions for opera conductors and singers

Posted at 3:08 PM on September 19, 2014 by Jay Gabler (0 Comments)
Filed under: In the media

Shirtless Conductor.jpg

Remember that opera conductor swimsuit competition we told you about last month? It's over, and a winner has been declared: none other than Maestro Bill Eddins, whose tongue-in-cheek entry impressed the judges. (The number of entries was not revealed.) Runner-up was Maestro Anthony Barresse (above) — artistic director of Opera Southwest in Albuquerque — who submitted photos of himself conducting on the beach, tossing aside his Nine Inch Nails t-shirt at a dramatic moment.

Impressively, Opera Candy was also able to award a winner of the opera singer swimsuit competition — and she didn't even need to record a separate video. Winner Sara Duchovany performed the role of Blonde in a Southern Illinois Music Festival production of Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio that was inspired by Star Trek. Below, watch Duchovany perform "Durch Zärtlichkeit" in an out-of-this-world two-piece suit.


VIDEO: A classical-music take on the 'butterfly effect'

Posted at 12:45 PM on September 17, 2014 by Luke Taylor (0 Comments)
Filed under: Fun finds, In the media, Musician stories

A video making the rounds in classical music circles today is this video from the Carl Nielsen International Flute Competition in Odense, Denmark, in which Japanese-born, Chicago-based flutist Yukie Ota remains nearly unflappable throughout her performance, even as a butterfly lands right on her face and remains there, repeatedly flapping its wings, for some time during Ota's performance:

Classical MPR host Alison Young, a former professional flutist, watched the video and had this comment:

"Oddly beautiful and almost sublime that at that particular moment in the music, a perfect little creature would not only land, but decide to stay for a while, on Ms. Ota's face. It's almost mesmerizing to an observer, but the distraction must have been close to unbearable for the performer. Clearly this young virtuoso practiced well, has unshakeable focus and even a sense of humor! She won my heart when she crossed her eyes for a split second to get a clue as to what was up, then made a slight movement to shake off her visitor, followed by simply leaning into the moment until the she could push him aside. Her wry smile at the audience was precious. Good luck, Ms. Ota!!!"

Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury may have inspired the expression "the butterfly effect" with his short story "A Sound of Thunder," but this is far from what he had in mind.

As for the effect the butterfly had on Ota? As you can see from the video and as Alison points out, virtually none.

(h/t Jeff Esworthy)


On the Air This Week

Posted at 4:41 PM on September 16, 2014 by Jennifer Allen (0 Comments)
Filed under: On the air

Highlights from September 9 to 16

Tuesday, 7:15 am: School Spotlight: Austin High School Concert Choir.
Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Dan Wascoe, retired reporter and columnist for the Star Tribune.
Tuesday, 6:45 pm: School Spotlight: Austin High School Concert Choir.
Wednesday, 8 pm: The Minnesota Opera: Puccini's Manon Lescaut.
Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: Kremerata Baltica play Weinberg, from a recent Schubert Club performance.
Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Kotzschmar Goings and Comings.
Sunday, noon: From the Top.
Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: From the 2014 BBC Proms, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra plays Janacek and Dvorak.
Monday, noon: Learning to Listen: Etudes.
Tuesday, 7:15 am: Teacher Feature .
Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Katie McCurry, Account Representative with Fireman's Fund.
Tuesday, 7:15 pm: Teacher Feature.


Iconic Choral Organization Finds a New Voice and Logo

Posted at 11:30 AM on September 16, 2014 by Tesfa Wondemagegnehu (0 Comments)
Filed under: Choral Music

VE Logo - NEW.png
VocalEssence, which is entering its 46th season, decided to do a little soul searching.  After many months of working on this project, the organization had its brand unveil party yesterday at the place it all started, Plymouth Congregational Church. 

According to a press release from VocalEssence, Executive Director Mary Ann Aufderheide, had this to say, "VocalEssence embarked on journey to explore the core of who we are, what we do, and where we see ourselves in the future...In the end, VocalEssence has found our new voice and direction for the future. And now that we have found it, we want to tell the world about it."

The brand refresh includes a new logo, style guide, a redesigned website and tagline (Together We Sing).

Here is a sneak peek screenshot of the new website
Website photo.png
Check out this video of the VocalEssence Chorus performing at Orchestra Hall


Sorry, Lucy: Beethoven IS on bubblegum cards

Posted at 4:00 PM on September 15, 2014 by Alison Young (0 Comments)
Filed under: Casual Conversations, Classical hosts, Fun finds

Lucy Van Pelt character profile, from 'Peanuts' official YouTube channel.

Cartoonist Charles Schulz's beloved Peanuts characters Lucy and Schroeder have a famous exchange in which Lucy dismisses Beethoven's greatness given his absence from bubblegum cards.

We included this well-known exchange in a promo we aired before last week's Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra broadcast. In the comic strip, which we won't republish here but you could probably find on the official Peanuts site, Lucy and Schroeder's conversation goes like this:

LUCY: Everyone talks about how great Beethoven was … Beethoven wasn't so great!

SCHROEDER: What do you mean, Beethoven wasn't so great?

LUCY: He never got his picture on bubblegum cards, did he? … How can you say someone is great who's never had his picture on bubblegum cards?

Turns out Lucy had it wrong.

I found out when listener Doug Palmer of St. Paul, Minn., sent me this email:


I've been intrigued this week by your clever announcement of this weekend's SPCO Beethoven concert, featuring Lucy Van Pelt's declaration that Beethoven never appeared on a trading card. I immediately thought that Beethoven must surely have been included among the 1952 Topps "Look 'N See" series of famous historical and cultural figures that I avidly collected when I was Lucy's age.

But when I googled the old Look 'N See trading card series, I was amazed to find Beethoven absent! The Topps Company only got around to releasing a Beethoven trading card in 2009:

Beethoven on a Topps trading card

I made some fascinating discoveries of Beethoven's appearance in other series, which I'm sharing with you:

Beethoven did indeed appear on a 1927 series of trading cards that accompanied an elixir distributed by the Liebig Meat Extract Company of Belgium:

Beethoven Meat Extract cards

I found that the Rochester NY-based Amenda Quartet distributes Beethoven trading cards at its concerts (too bad it doesn't picture them on its site).

For $10 you may obtain three trading card-sized fine art photo rag prints of this portrait of "Ludpig" from When Guinea Pigs Fly.
[Editor's Note: this item appears to be sold out.]


'Ludpig' by Lesley DeSantis of WhenGuineaPigsFly on Etsy.

Hmm … I'm intrigued by the Amenda Quartet's practice of handing out Beethoven cards at its concerts. Maybe Classical MPR can do that at next year's State Fair? I guess we'll see!