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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: July 11, 2013 Archive

I hope you like Chopin!

Posted at 9:56 AM on July 11, 2013 by Melissa Ousley (0 Comments)

It was just after 9 last night when the five finalists for the International e-Piano Junior Competition were announced. I've been following this competition since 2006 and this year I had the hardest time choosing my top five. In fact, by this time there is often a clear leader among the contestants. I would say, that's not the case this year.

What does that mean for you? Head to Ted Mann Concert Hall Friday afternoon to hear the Final/Concerto Round and decide for yourself. The free concert starts at 4 o'clock. If you can't make it, we'll broadcast the event live on Classical MPR. Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and conductor Mark Russell Smith have one rehearsal (that's it!) this afternoon. Here's the rundown:

Yuanfan Yang, 16 from the UK: Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1
Christopher Son Richardson, 14, USA: Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1
Carmen Knoll, 15, USA: Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2
JiaXin Min, 17, China: Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3
Eric Lu, 15, USA: Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1

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Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in Minnesota

Posted at 12:05 PM on July 11, 2013 by Emily Reese (0 Comments)

Last night, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra performed in Somsen Auditorium in Winona as part of the Minnesota Beethoven Festival.

Orpheus is my second-favorite orchestra (the Minnesota Orchestra and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra are in a tie for first), and I've always wanted to hear them live. Last night was OCO's first trip to Minnesota in their 40 years of performing together.

It was incredible. I did not want the show to end.

For insight into what makes Orpheus so special, check out this conversation (at least the first few moments) between three Orpheus members and Jeffrey Kimpton, president of Interlochen Center for the Arts.

As for Wednesday night, it was mesmerizing to watch the players work together. After each piece, they left the stage, only to return to a completely different seating organization for the next tune.

The final piece on the program was Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings.

I've never been a massive Tchaikovsky fan, and before you hate on me in the comments, let me just say that his Serenade for Strings is one of the most exquisitely written pieces of music by anyone ever. I have such a deep respect and love for that piece, and for Tchaikovsky himself, even if he's not one of my favorites.

On top of that, Tchaik's Serenade is one of OCO's signature pieces. It seems logical then, that they played it beautifully.

I've never heard the 3rd movement played like they played it last night. It was as if the music came from their own breath. This recording will give you a sense of how delicately it can be played with a large orchestra.

When OCO began those opening notes to that third movement, it was like petals of a flower unfolding in the morning sun. My heart ached from the beauty of the music. I wanted to stay in that moment far longer than the moment allowed.

It was one of several magical spells they wove throughout the evening.

The Tchaik was the last official piece on the program, and OCO turned to Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances for the encore. I never expected Bartok, following Rossini, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and it was the perfect end to the show.

After Orpheus Chamber Orchestra's performance last night, I decided that were I to strike it rich, I'd hop a plane on a whim to go hear whatever orchestra I want, whenever I want. Berlin, London, New York, LA, or wherever OCO is scheduled. Who are your favorite orchestras?

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