Alisa Weilerstein’s Newest Album: Shostakovich Cello Concertos

It’s always fascinating to consider musical lineage. Great musicians pass along ideas about a given piece to their students based on what they were taught. Eventually, the line runs back to the performer who premiered the music and worked directly with the composer. We get a sense of this lineage with Alisa Weilerstein’s new recording of Dmitri Shostakovich’s two Cello Concertos. Shostakovich wrote both concertos for Mstislav Rostropovich, with whom Weilerstein studied. She talks about …

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Art Under the Soviets: Shostakovich and the Music of the October Revolution

Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas. – Joseph Stalin Art and totalitarianism don’t mix. Dmitri Shostakovich’s uneasy coexistence with the Soviet authorities is one of music history’s most prominent examples of this axiom. Shostakovich’s relationship with the Soviets was full of contradictions. He produced numerous scores for Communist propaganda films (listen to the finale of The Fall of Berlin, …

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Shostakovich’s Enigmatic Sixth

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony is an outlier…a rule breaker. At first glance, its form seems startlingly unbalanced and arbitrary. It’s cast in three movements rather than four: A slow, darkly ominous first movement followed by two short, almost frivolous scherzos. The result is schizophrenic and unsettling…a jarring juxtaposition of starkly contrasting moods. It’s the quintessential anti-heroic symphony, shattering our hopes and expectations. By the time we reach the final movement, a simultaneously …

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Kleinhans Music Hall Turns 75

  Today marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, New York. Home of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Kleinhans is considered one of the world’s most acoustically perfect concert halls. It’s also one of Buffalo’s most significant architectural landmarks. Located in a leafy residential neighborhood just north of the city’s downtown, it anchors majestic Symphony Circle, part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s extensive parkway system which runs throughout …

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Happy Birthday, Yo-Yo Ma

The Listeners’ Club wishes Yo-Yo Ma, who turns 60 today, a happy birthday. Ma is one of a handful of front-rank musicians who can be described as a cultural ambassador. Over the years, he has been at home, not only at Carnegie Hall but also on Sesame Street (watch “The Jam Session,” “The Honker Quartet,” and “Elmo’s Fiddle Lesson”), Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and at a presidential inauguration. At the age of seven he performed for President John F. Kennedy. …

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On the Town with Misty Copeland

  Tomorrow, Misty Copeland, the first African-American woman to be named a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater, will begin a two week stint on Broadway. Copeland will join the cast of the latest production of On the Town, playing the role of Ivy Smith. Here is a preview and here is Terry Teachout’s review of the production. In the world of ballet, Misty Copeland is a ground breaker, redefining long-held views regarding the …

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The Joy of Wrong Notes

The element of surprise is an important ingredient in every great melody. Each note of a melody sets up expectations which are either fulfilled or delightfully challenged. Often subconsciously, we enjoy the unexpected “wrong” notes that take a melody in a bold new direction. We listen closely to hear how the disruption will work itself out. For an example, listen to the jarring appoggiaturas in the second movement of Mozart’s otherwise serene Piano Concerto …

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