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The Classical Beat
Anne Midgette takes the measure of the classical music scene.
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Catching up on reviews from the past few days. Robert Battey was sorely disappointed by the much-anticipated appearance of the Moscow Soloists under Yuri Bashmet and Misha Maisky. He also weighed in on the Perlman Quint Bailey Trio at the Jewish Community Center, which needed more rehearsal. (Link to come.)

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2 years ago | |
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The Washington National Opera’s new “Nabucco” got people in town talking. I’ve gotten quite a bit of mail about it, from people who really enjoyed the evening and from people who absolutely hated it. I find the response really intriguing, because I didn’t feel this was “Konzeptregie” in the slightest: the director, Thaddeus Strassberger, had an idea about the piece that he wanted to get across, and it worked in some ways and not in others, but to me it was a fairly straightforward, literal staging — certainly in comparison with Hans Neuenfels’s production of the same opera in Berlin. I shudder to imagine what might happen if one put a chorus of bees on stage at the Kennedy Center. Others, however, found Strassberger’s take an offensive imposition of a concept on an innocent opera that did nothing to deserve it.

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2 years ago | |
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Every year, the WPAS season announcement gives rise, among some classical fans I know, to a certain amount of what-might-have-been. There is a school of classical programming, however, that firmly holds that too much adventurousness won’t sell tickets anywhere outside New York — and to some extent that may spill over into artists’ thinking as well (as in, “I’d better play Mahler in DC and save Cage for Carnegie Hall”). I, of course, don’t have to worry about selling tickets, so it’s easy for me to say that vision and artistic risk are rewarded with commensurate audience excitement. I also hear a lot about how sick classical fans are of hearing the same old pieces (often with regard to WETA).

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Mariss Jansons, Christian Thielemann, and Gustavo Dudamel will be conducting their orchestras in Washington in the 2012-13 season. Yes, the Washington Performing Arts Society announced its season this week, and those artists are among the highlights of a roster that, following WPAS’s now-familiar template, reads like a Who’s Who of the very familiar names of classical music.

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This weekend marked Norman Scribner’s final concert at the head of the Choral Arts Society, the group he founded and led for 47 years as one of Washington’s flagship choruses.

Katherine Boyle wrote a wonderful profile of Scribner in Sunday’s Washington Post.

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2 years ago | |
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It was another big weekend for classical music. Here is the wealth of reviews that have appeared over the last few days in the Washington Post.

Tom Huizenga heard a Concerto Köln performance that went on in spite of visa problems that kept the group’s concertmaster stuck in Germany.

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Meanwhile, coming next weekend, everybody’s favorite piece of early-Verdi blood-and-guts that many Americans haven’t heard. The burning question: how will they handle the (obligatory, traditional) repeat of “Va, pensiero?” In Sunday’s paper I wrote some of my thoughts about the opera, and some of the thoughts of Thaddeus Strassberger, who is directing its first-ever WNO production, opening Saturday night.

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When you’re a writer they tell you that the first sentence of your story should convey the most important information. I keep sitting down to write about the Argento festival at UMD and getting stuck on sentences along the lines of, “So there’s this great festival at UMD this week and you all should definitely go.”

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Congratulations to Kevin Puts, whose first opera, “Silent Night,” won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for music.

The opera premiered in November, 2011 at the Minnesota Opera; Mark Campbell, familiar to area audiences (“The Inspector,” “Rappahannock County”), was the librettist. Here are some critical appraisals of the premiere: by Heidi Waleson in the Wall Street Journal; by Larry Fuchsberg in Opera News.

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