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Stephen Hough's tasty tweets

Posted at 2:00 PM on July 25, 2014 by Luke Taylor (0 Comments)
Filed under: Fun finds, Musician stories

Stephen Hough in concert (photo by Hiroyuki Ito)

In addition to being one of the world's leading concert pianists, Stephen Hough is a talented composer and a gifted writer.

It also turns out that this true renaissance man loves food and he tweets about it often. Many times the food items are connected to places and to people Hough is visiting.

Here's a sampling of menu items Stephen Hough has shared via Twitter (where you can follow him @houghhough).


What the Critics Say: Pet Shop Boys at the Proms

Posted at 3:30 PM on July 24, 2014 by Luke Taylor (0 Comments)
Filed under: Concerts, In the media, Reviews

Pet Shop Boys: Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe (photo by John Wright).

Perhaps best known as electro-pop duo Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe made their Proms debut as composers on Wednesday, July 23.

The BBC Proms, largely known as the world's greatest classical music festival, runs July 18 to Sept. 13, with concerts every day at the Royal Albert Hall in London and in other venues around the UK and Northern Ireland. (Classical MPR will begin broadcasting highlights of the Proms on Sept. 1, leading up to the Last Night of the Proms on Sept. 13.)

Tennant and Lowe's work, A Man from the Future, is a look at the life of Alan Turing, a cryptographer in World War II and a pioneering computer scientist whose work helped make possible the medium in which you're reading this right now. In 1952, a time when homosexuality was illegal, Turing was prosecuted for being gay; he received a posthumous pardon in 2013.

"Turing was way ahead of his time in the realms of both technology and sexuality," remarked Tennant and Lowe in a statement ahead of Wednesday's concert. "His open expression of his homosexuality was astonishingly brave and forward-looking at a time when gay men were relentlessly persecuted by the government."

The Proms concert featured Tennant and Low, as well as Chrissie Hynde (the Pretenders) on vocals, as well as the BBC Singers and the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Dominic Wheeler. Actress Juliet Stevenson — whom you may recognize from her role as the mother to Keira Knightley's character in Bend It Like Beckham — provided narration.

Enjoying a Proms premiere is one more accomplishment for Pet Shop Boys, who have also scored films and composed for ballet and musicals. "This is proof of why these two gentlemen are more than just an '80s throwback synth-pop band," says Jake Rudh, host of Transmission on Classical MPR's sister station, The Current.

In the wake of the premiere, reviews of the concert have been largely positive; here's a roundup:

Kitty Empire, The Guardian:

What are we to call A Man From the Future … A pop oratorio? A classical audiobiography?

His tale works as an operatic tragedy and this piece is extensively sung: by the BBC Singers, augmented by Neil Tennant … This tribute is lavishly orchestrated. The BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Dominic Wheeler, is doing the heavy lifting …

Turing's story is deeply affecting, and the telling of it by an establishment organisation (the BBC, which runs the Proms) in an establishment venue (the Royal Albert Hall) in an establishment idiom (classical) is cause for celebration.

But we really could have done with more from Lowe, and modernity more widely. Turing was, after all, a man from The Future. Even given the operatic nature of his tale and the rarefied Proms setting, wrapping this man up in strings seems a contradictory impulse.

Nick Hasted, The Independent:

… Getting the tale of Turing's singular genius and representative tragedy across seems to outweigh the balance between words and music. "Conform, rebel or withdraw" are the choices the public schoolboy Turing is presented with, as ominous strings close in to cage him.

The remorseless glide of laptop-generated synth washes signal the machine-dreams which led him towards the computer's invention. The BBC Singers then give the sensation of a dying fall, as the backroom heroism which turned the U-boat tide at Bletchley Park is passed over in a sentence. Tennant and Lowe aren't interested in what Turing is belatedly honoured for now, but his shadow-life then.

Bursts of hot, frantic swing follow him mentioning his homosexuality, and the furious swell of the choir's baritones greet his downward spiral towards chemical castration by the state. His hot blood and mechanistic visions' merging is expressed in the orchestral-laptop score. It is always, though, subservient to the verbal tracing of Turing's fate.

John Aizlewood, Evening Standard:

The 45-minute extended song-suite had its clunky moments but it was joyously light on its musical feet, encompassing sublime Kraftwerkian wonder, the sheer power of orchestra and choir at full pelt.

The sheer scale required to perform it may mean A Man from the Future is consigned to history. Let's hope not: it deserves better.

Adam Sweeting, The Telegraph:

Who knows what the appropriate term would be to describe A Man From the Future … The text combined his scientific brilliance with the outspokenly gay sexuality that cost him dearly in the censorious Fifties.

Musically, the piece skilfully blended orchestral writing with shifting electronic layers, masterminded by a suitably enigmatic Chris Lowe. Turing's fascination with a "universal machine" was evoked by a slice of dreamy electronica, though elsewhere there were witty interpolations of Fifties-style sci-fi effects or dark string passages.

Orchestrator Sven Helbig conjured a dazzling spectrum of colours from the orchestra and the BBC Choir, although powerful melodic ideas seemed thin on the ground. Whether including a recording of Gordon Brown's apology for Turing's appalling treatment (which included chemical castration), will enhance its box-office appeal, I wouldn't like to say.

Neil Smith, BBC News:

Divided into eight sections, the Pet Shop Boys' ambitious, sometimes atonal work marked a departure from such radio-friendly tracks as It's a Sin and West End Girls.

Yet it still contained elements of the group's recognisable computerised sound, alongside contributions from an 18-member chamber choir.

Now that you've read what the critics have said, you can listen to the music for yourself. BBC Radio 3 has made this Prom available for listening for 30 days. Launch the BBC iPlayer via this link.

Classical MPR will highlight performances from the Proms starting Sept. 1, leading up to the Last Night of the Proms on Sept. 13; listen for those Proms highlights each day at 10 a.m. and at 10 p.m. CDT on Classical MPR.


Video: Lang Lang and LeBron

Posted at 1:01 PM on July 24, 2014 by Luke Taylor (0 Comments)
Filed under: Fun finds, In the media

Superstars, ambassadors, friends: LeBron James and Lang Lang (AP photo)

The Sporting News reports that the NBA's LeBron James — recently in the news for leaving the Miami Heat after four seasons to return to Cleveland Cavaliers, where his career began — is now in China on a five-day goodwill tour sponsored by Nike.

Pianist Lang Lang greeted James on his arrival in China, and the two exchanged gifts; according to the Sporting News article, James gave Lang Lang a pair of basketball shoes, and Lang Lang presented James with a CD of his own music as well as an album of music written for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.

This YouTube video captures some of the fun had by the two superstars, including piano-playing by Lang Lang, a basketball showcase led by James — and a special treat at about 1:06 in the video, Lang Lang and James doing something of a piano duet together:


How many ways can you hold a violin in a promo shot?

Posted at 11:05 AM on July 24, 2014 by Jay Gabler (0 Comments)
Filed under: In the media

You can stand ready to play your violin...

Violin 01b.jpg

...or you can actually play it.

Violin 02b.jpg

You can cradle it in your arm...

Violin 03b.jpg

...or you can just relax with it...

Violin 04b.jpg

...or you can really relax with it.

Violin 05b.jpg

You can hold it over a giant countertop...

Violin 06b.jpg

...or you can sling it over your shoulder like a Continental soldier.

Violin 07.jpg

You can peek over the top of it...

Violin 08b.jpg

...or around the side of it...

Violin 09b.jpg

...or around the other side of it...

Violin 10b.jpg

...or around the side of it upside down.

Violin 11b.jpg

...or, you can just turn it around and cradle its strings to your heart.

Violin 12b.jpg

Photos, top to bottom: Sonja Harasim, photo by Richie Hawley; Nigel Kennedy, photo by Paul Marc Mitchel for Sony Classical; Hilary Hahn, photo by Michael Patrick O'Lear; Ray Chen, courtesy the artist; Rachel Barton Pine, photo by Andrew Eccles; Capucon Brothers, linternaute.com; Pinchas Zukerman, photo by Paul Labelle; Pamela Frank, courtesy IMG Artists; Jennifer Koh, courtesy Hemsing Associates; Nicola Benedetti, courtesy the artist; Sergey Khachatryan, photo by Marco Borggreve


3 Fun Facts about Eric Whitacre's Virtual Youth Choir

Posted at 5:00 PM on July 23, 2014 by Tesfa Wondemagegnehu (0 Comments)
Filed under: Choral Music

VYC Square.jpg
#3 There will be 2292 singers from 80 countries across the world performing tonight.

Final map.png

#2 The screen is 300 feet wide, over 40 feet tall and weighs over 83,000 pounds. Here is exclusive video of the screen from the stadium.

#1 Event organizers predict that an audience of more than 1.5 billion people will be watching the games from every country and territory.

Bonus Fact: Eric Whitacre Hangs out with the COOLEST people! Come and hang with Eric and over 2000 singers tonight at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. EW Glasgow.JPGThe performance can be seen towards the end, before the grand finale. 


Daniel Barenboim and Mariam Said issue joint statement on Israel and Palestine conflict

Posted at 1:41 PM on July 23, 2014 by Jay Gabler (0 Comments)
Filed under: In the media

West Eastern Divan Orchestra.jpg

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was founded in 1999 by Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian-American academic Edward Said as a youth ensemble uniting musicians from countries across the Middle East and Europe, aiming to promote intercultural understanding. Via Facebook, Barenboim and Said's widow Mariam have issued a joint statement on current events in Israel and Palestine.

"We are deeply saddened and concerned by the news reaching us from Israel/Palestine and share the worries of our members. During these trying times, we must stress the importance of the art of listening. Listening skills are learnt and perfected by playing in the orchestra. We must remember how important it is to apply what we learn on stage to other aspects of our lives as well. To quote Schopenhauer, 'Nothing will bring us back to the path of justice so readily as the mental picture of the trouble, grief, and lamentation of the loser.' In this conflict, both sides are losers. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is a community that is built on trust, respect, empathy, and a culture of listening and understanding. These values are the core of our work together. That is why the Divan is a beacon of hope for all."

Hear the orchestra play Beethoven's ninth symphony last year at Carnegie Hall, in a broadcast co-produced by WQXR and American Public Media:


On the Air This Week

Posted at 5:59 PM on July 22, 2014 by Jennifer Allen (0 Comments)
Filed under: On the air

Highlights from July 22 to 29

Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans: veterinarian Kate An Hunter.
Tuesday, 7 pm: Carnegie Hall Live: The National Youth Orchestra.
Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: David Finckel and Wu Han play Debussy, from a 2013 Music in the Park recital.
Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Bach's the Best.
Sunday, noon: From the Top.
Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: Music for Two Violinists and Orchestra, played by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
Monday, noon: Learning to Listen.
Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans: writer Charlotte Sullivan.


Minnesota Varsity alumnus Evren Ozel is a finalist at the Cooper International Competition

Posted at 2:19 PM on July 22, 2014 by Jay Gabler (0 Comments)
Filed under: Education

We were pleased to learn that Evren Ozel, a participant in this year's Minnesota Varsity showcase, is a finalist in the concerto round of the Thomas & Evon Cooper International Competition, a competition for young musicians ages 13-18 at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio.

The three top finalists will perform on Friday night with the Cleveland Orchestra. Evren's next performance is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT/6:00 p.m. CDT; you can watch Evren's performance, as well as others in the competition, streaming here. Congratulations and good luck to you, Evren!


Click on Classical: Sopranos speak out, reports from the Range, and rock meets Bach

Posted at 8:30 AM on July 21, 2014 by Jay Gabler (0 Comments)
Filed under: Click on Classical


Every Monday morning at 9:15, I join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about a few of the stories we've been featuring on our website. Here's what we'll be discussing today.

Our writer Gwen Hoberg was up at the Northern Lights Music Festival on the Mesabi Iron Range last week, and she filed a series of "Reports from the Range" sharing her experiences. In the series's final post, she took her horn to the top of a ski hill and, figuring that to be about as close to a mountaintop as Minnesota offered, tried to sound some famously majestic horn calls from the classical repertoire.

Some of the most widely-read posts ever published on our site are our "section's-eye view" essays: tongue-in-cheek appraisals of the choral experience from different sections in the risers. The four-part series concluded this week with "a soprano's-eye view of choral music," written by leading lady Sonja Tengblad.

Guns N'...Rosenkavalier? In a show coming to the Mill City Museum on July 21 and 23, baritone Andrew Wilkowske performs some of the greatest hits of recent decades in his "opera voice." You have to hear — and see — this to believe it.​


On the Air This Week

Posted at 3:24 PM on July 15, 2014 by Jennifer Allen (0 Comments)
Filed under: On the air

Highlights from July 15 to 22

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: Imogen Cooper plays Schubert, from a Chopin Society recital.
Friday, 8 pm: Minnesota Orchestra: Mozart and Rachmaninoff.
Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: From the Mailbag.
Sunday, noon: From the Top.
Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra plays Beethoven and Haydn.
Monday, noon: Learning to Listen: Carnegie Hall.
Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans: veterinarian Kate An Hunter.
Tuesday, 7 pm: Carnegie Hall Live: The National Youth Orchestra.