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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: March 24, 2010 Archive

Dr. James Black: Saving Lives, and Saving Symphonies

Posted at 9:29 AM on March 24, 2010 by John Birge
Filed under: In the media, The blog

The New York Times says "[His] discoveries are considered among the most important medical advances in the 20th century, and the drugs have been among the most prescribed in the world."

Nobel Prize-winning pharmacologist Dr. James Black died March 22, at age 85.
He developed two of the world's most important medicines - H2 antagonists, used for treating gastric ulcers, and beta-blockers, effective against heart disease.

But there's more to beta-blockers than heart disease. They're also widely used by professional musicians for treating symptoms of stage fright. A survey by the International Conference of Symphony Orchestra Musicians revealed that 27% of the musicians in the 51 largest orchestras in the United States had used beta blockers for performance anxiety related issues.

In 2004, the New York Times reported on this phenomenon, with stories from many distinguished musicians who find beta-blockers to be an invaluable tool in an extremely high-stress profession where missed notes can cost you your job.

So next time you're at a symphony orchestra concert, enjoying a highly polished, musical performance, there's a good chance that some of the credit goes to Dr. James Black.

Two days to learn new role - no probs!

Posted at 1:03 PM on March 24, 2010 by Alison Young
Filed under: Concerts, Fun finds, In the media, Musician stories

Soprano Marlis Peterson had two days to learn a new role for the Met's new production of Thomas' "Hamlet."

Natalie Dessay was scheduled to play Ophelia and dropped out at the last minute. Marlis was already singing in Vienna, so had to show up in New York for a crash course.

She got rave reviews - you can hear her performance with the Met Opera broadcast this Saturday at noon on Classical MPR.

Villazon Is Back; RIP Blanche Thebom and Susana Walton

Posted at 4:51 PM on March 24, 2010 by Rex Levang (1 Comments)
Filed under: In the media

Some classical news stories from the last few days:

Rolando Villazon, whose vocal problems had forced him to take a hiatus, is back --triumphantly back--on the opera stage.

Blanche Thebom, the American mezzo, is dead at 91. She may be most remembered for participating in the classic Wilhelm Furtwangler recording of Wagner's Tristan, where she took on the secondary, but indispensable role of Isolde's lady-in-waiting.

Let's also note the passing of Lady Susana Walton, widow of composer William Walton. After her husband's death, she devoted herself to the spectacular gardens at their home in Italy--check out these photos.

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