Bill Evans: Some Other Time

To finish the week, let’s step into the jazzy, dreamlike serenity of Bill Evans’ Some Other Time. The melody is by Leonard Bernstein. It comes from the end of the second act of On the Town. The 1944 musical, which offers its own touch of dreamy surrealism, follows three American sailors on a 24-hour shore leave in wartime New York City. In its original form, the song flirts with the blues with its surprise lowered seventh. …

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Frank Almond’s “A Violin’s Life,” Volume 2

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond released the second volume of A Violin’s Life last week. An exciting companion to his 2013 disk, the recording celebrates the 300 year history of the 1715 “Lipinski” Stradivarius, a violin once owned by Giuseppe Tartini. The two volumes are the first modern recordings to feature the instrument, which resurfaced in 2008 after spending years in a bank vault. In January, 2014 the “Lipinski” briefly fell into the hands …

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American Neo-Romanticism: Barber’s Symphony in One Movement

The opening of Samuel Barber’s First Symphony tells us everything we need to know about the piece that lies ahead. It hits us immediately with an almost overwhelming sense of bigness, as if a force of titanic strength has suddenly been released. Majestic, intensely passionate, yet made up of raw, primal energy, it roars to life with a series of wide open fifths. A soaring theme takes flight, opening boldly with an …

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Puccini’s Butterfly: Opera’s Most Tragic Mother?

Opera is full of deranged mothers. Consider The Queen of the Night from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. In this fiery aria (one of the most famous, and virtuosic in all of opera) she pays a terrifying visit to her daughter, Pamina. The vengeful Queen of the Night gives Pamina a dagger and vows to disown her if she fails to assassinate Sarastro. Or consider Bellini’s Norma who contemplates murdering her two children in their …

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Leonidas Kavakos’ New “Virtuoso” Album

Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos’ newest album, Virtuoso, was released on the Decca Classics label on April 1. It’s a fascinating collection of short violin showpieces. Some are well known favorites: Sarasate’s Caprice Basque, Op.24  and Romanza andaluza, Op. 22, No.1, Paganini’s Introduction And Variations On “Nel Cor Piu Non Mi Sento” and Variations on God Save the King. But there are also some fascinating surprises. One of the recording’s seldom-heard gems is the haunting Reveille, a piece written in 1937 by a 24-year-old …

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Adolph Herseth and the Chicago Sound

Adolph “Bud” Herseth, the longtime principal trumpeter of the Chicago Symphony passed away in April, 2013. Herseth’s 53-year association with the Chicago Symphony began in 1948 when conductor Artur Rodzinski invited him to audition for the CSO’s principal trumpet position. Herseth will forever be associated with the distinct sound of the Chicago Symphony brass section, which developed in the 1950s and 60s during Fritz Reiner’s tenure as music director and flourished during Georg Solti’s tenure …

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