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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: December 16, 2010 Archive

Too Many Messiahs

Posted at 1:40 PM on December 16, 2010 by Steve Staruch (4 Comments)
Filed under: Musical philosophy

I recently received an email request from a new listener to Classical MPR. The listener wanted a recommendation for the "perfect" Messiah recording. My response was that I have several favorites, that there is no "perfect" Messiah and that my recommendation for a first Messiah purchase would be a newer recording. I recommended a very clean, clear sounding small ensemble CD with the Dunedin Consort and Players. (Linn 285). What catches my heart with this recording is that it is a Messiah for a hall like the Fitzgerald Theater, intimate and sweet. Nothing is forced in this performance and the words take center stage. Right after mentioning this on-air I received the following from Bruce in Stillwater:

"Steve - I was just listening to your comments about a listener who asked for your favorite Messiah performers, and while I enjoyed the ones you played for her I would like to share mine with you. I agree - I hate it when the sopranos sing with a mouth full of mashed potatoes or the bass gets tangled up in his shorts, but years ago I found a recording of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Kiri Tekanawa, Anne Gjevang, Keith Lewis and Gwynne Howell, conducted by Sir George Solti on the London label - it's the best I've ever heard and I listen to it several times all year long. It's a winner, as was GF Handel"

Let the discussion begin! What's your favorite Messiah performance?

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A 3D Holiday Classic

Posted at 2:26 PM on December 16, 2010 by Elena See
Filed under: Events, In the media

For a lot of us, it's a Christmas tradition - listening to the music from Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" or, if we're lucky enough to have a ballet company near us, going to see it.

If you're not familiar with the story, here's a very brief synopsis (with thanks to the Houston Ballet's website): It's the story of a little girl named Clara who wakes up one night at midnight to find herself being attacked by giant mice. Life-size toy soldiers come to her rescue and they are led by a Nutcracker who, after he wins the battle with Clara's help, turns into a prince.

After the battle, the Nutcracker Prince turns Clara's house into the Land of the Snow and we meet the Snow Queen and the Snowflakes. Clara and her prince jump into an enchanted sleigh and head toward the Kingdom of Sweets. When they arrive, they meet the Sugar Plum Fairy who arranges for dancers to entertain them while they feast. Eventually, Clara drifts off to sleep...and when she wakes up, she's back in her bed.

Sounds like just a lovely tale, doesn't it? And Tchaikovsky's music is beautiful. So I admit I was intrigued when I heard that director Andrei Konchalovskiy was making a movie based on the ballet, The Nutcracker in 3D. With the addition of several storylines, lyrics by Tim Rice (some set to Tchaikovsky's music) and some pretty heavy political satire, the reviews have not been great. So it brings up a question: Mess with a classic? Or just leave it alone? And if you've seen it - well, what did you think?