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So Opera Isn’t “All Greek” to Young Audiences, Lyric Unlimited Premieres “Jason and the Argonauts”


Production design for “Jason and the Argonauts,” a Lyric Unlimited comission, by Joe Schermoly (Photo: Jaclyn Simpson)

“Art for young audiences doesn’t have to be dumbed down in any way,” playwright and librettist Kathryn Walat said as she prepares for the premiere of her new opera, Jason and the Argonauts: An Opera for Young People. The work is the fourth world-premiere commissioned and presented by Lyric Unlimited, Lyric Opera’s community engagement initiative.

Walat collaborates with composer Greg Spears. Previously, the two developed a new work with American Opera Projects and the Prototype Festival called Paul’s Case, which was based on the story by Willa Cather.

For Jason and the Argonauts, the team has turned to myths from classical antiquity. “We start in the forest, where young Jason is being raised by Chiron,” Walat explained. “He is 19 and ready to rush off and conquer the world when it is revealed to him that the throne was actually taken from him by his uncle, the evil King Peleus. Peleus tells Jason that he can have the throne if he brings him the Golden Fleece.”


Playwright and librettist Kathryn Walat

“Jason gathers his friends,” Spears continued, “he builds a boat, and they set off on three adventures on their way to the land that the Golden Fleece is being kept. Once they get there, he meets Medea and there is a dragon guarding the fleece so they come up with a plan to get the fleece.”

The adventures of Jason and the Argonauts have inspired other operas throughout history. The most notable, perhaps, is Francesco Cavalli’s Giasone, which was the most popular opera of the 17th century.

“I worked as a stage hand on the North American premiere of Giasone in the late 90’s,” Spears said, “so it was the piece that really introduced me to Baroque music. While our Jason and the Argonauts has very little to do with Giasone, story-wise, there is a lot of Baroque sounding music. It’s scored for harpsichord, viola, violin, and cello.”

One of the more well-known versions of the Jason story in recent times may not be Giasone, but the 1963 fantasy film Jason and the Argonauts starring Todd Armstrong as the titular hero. Jason’s encounters with all kinds of fantastic characters and creatures offer opportunity for on-screen spectacle.

Jason’s adventures also make for a spectacularly action-packed story to excite young audiences. “I feel like kids like action,” Spears said, “so we really wanted to make an opera that was about action and tasks and those factors are central to Greek myths.”

But this Jason isn’t all about action and adventure, Walat said. “The different characters also allow Jason to explore different aspects of family relationships.” Spears added, “Family is important to kids in a totally different way; for certain kids, it can be their whole universe.”

Compsoer Gregory Spears in rehearsals for "Jason and the Argonauts" (Photo: Jaclyn Simpson)

Compsoer Gregory Spears in rehearsals for “Jason and the Argonauts” (Photo: Jaclyn Simpson)

“You have a lot to learn from a parental figure but sometimes you have to rebel against them and break away from them as well,” Walat said, “so we explore those themes with some characters. In other characters, maybe audiences can experience sibling rivalry or sibling camaraderie and the conflict and tension with that.”

What kinds of entertainment for young audiences have Walat and Spears enjoyed over the years? Walat said she’s always enjoyed Fantasia, and more recently, she’s liked Warhorse. She also said, “Juilie Taymor, before Lion King, had this great piece,  Juan Darien that just blew me away.” As a youngster, Spears loved two classic scores: Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. “Secret of Nimh was probably my favorite movie as a kid,” he said.

Jason and the Argonauts has its world premiere performances at Vittum Theater in Chicago on Saturday, August 20 and Sunday, August 21. Tickets are free, though reservations are required. The production will tour throughout venues in Chicago as part of Lyric Unlimited’s long-running Opera in the Neighborhoods program. For more information, visit Lyric Opera of Chicago’s website.


Poem of the Week: “ode to coffee/ oda al café” by Urayoán Noel



In this episode of PoetryNow, Urayoán Noel says, “It’s almost an inside joke. You can’t be a certain kind of Caribbean poet without having a coffee poem.” Noel’s poem ode to coffee/ oda al café considers the pleasures of coffee and how those pleasures may differ between the English and Spanish languages. The poem is also a tribute. He said, “This poem is dedicated to the merengue musician Juan Luis Guerra and specifically to his song “Ojalá que llueva café,” (“Let it rain coffee”). Read his poem or hear the author read his own work in the episode of PoetryNow below.

ode to Coffee/ oda al Café

from Africa to a Caribbean hill

            de África a las lomas del Caribe

to the smiling ruin of our cities

            a la feliz ruina de ciudades

anoint the neural vessels we refill

            al matorral neural en donde vive

until your acid muse drowns our pities

            tu agria musa que ahoga soledades

return us to our tribe that grew dark beans

            devuélvenos al semillero isleño

cut through the grease of our late-night omelets

            metaboliza la grasa nocturna

and warm this empty diner by the club

            trae tu calor a nuestro desvelo

where luckless lovers stare at tiny screens

            haz que el amante no muera de sueño

and poets brew old socks into psalmlets

            tu borra es poema que embadurna

while dreaming it rains coffee from above.

            y sombría tu alegría de cielo.

More About the Author

Urayoán Noel was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and attended the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, Stanford University, and New York University. As a poet, Noel is the author of Buzzing Hemisphere/Rumor Hemisférico (2015), a Library Journal Top Fall Indie Poetry selection; Hi-Density Politics (2010), a National Book Critics Circle Small Press Highlights selection; Kool Logic/La Lógica Kool (2005), an El Nuevo Día Book of the Year; and several books of poetry in Spanish, most recently EnUncIAdOr (2014). Other works include the DVD Kool Logic Sessions (2005), a collaboration with composer Monxo López; the artist’s book/performance/website The Edgemere Luyayoan-noeletters (2011), a collaboration with artist Martha Clippinger; and the critical study In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam (2014), winner of the LASA Latina/o Studies Section Book Award and recipient of an honorable mention in the MLA Prize in Latina/o and Chicana/o Literary and Cultural Studies. Noel’s ongoing and forthcoming projects include the improvisational poetry vlog WOKITOKITEKI and a bilingual edition of the poems of Pablo de Rokha.

Noel has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Bronx Council on the Arts, and CantoMundo. He has served as a contributing editor of Mandorla and NACLA Report on the Americas. Formerly an assistant professor of English at SUNY Albany, Noel currently lives in the Bronx and is an assistant professor in the departments of English and Spanish and Portuguese at NYU.

3 Brazilian Composers Who Aren’t Heitor Villa-Lobos



Brazilian musical titan Heitor Villa-Lobos created over 1,000 works in his lifetime and many consider him to be the greatest composer from Brazil. Along with his substantial work, Villa-Lobos also had a big personality that overshadowed many great composers from his country. But there are other Brazilian composers that deserve their moment in the sun, including the three below.

  1. Edino Krieger

    Born in 1928, Brazilian, Edino Krieger received a well-rounded education as a young man. Studying with Edith Reis and Hans-Joachim Koellreutter in Brazil, Aaron Copland at Tanglewood, and Peter Mennin at Julliard. He became a major force in Brazilian contemporary music holding many leadership roles in music institutes and cultural programs in South America. Outside his native Brazil, Edino Krieger is mostly known for his substantial work for the piano. But he was also a very imaginative orchestrator, as you can hear in his 1955 piece Abertura Brasileira (Brazillian Overture).

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  2. Camargo Guarnieri

    Camargo Guarnieri (1907-1993) was born in São Paulo and his birth name is actually Mozart Camargo Guarnieri. He studied piano and composition at the São Paulo Conservatório and subsequently worked with Charles Koechlin in Paris. He received important prizes in the United States in the 1940s, which gave him the opportunity to conduct them in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago.

    A distinguished figure in Brazilian music, he served as conductor of the São Paulo Orchestra, was a member of the Academia Brasileira de Música, and was director of the São Paulo Conservatório, where he taught composition and conducting. In his Sinfonia No. 5, you can hear him use a variety of textures within the orchestra.

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  3. Antônio Carlos Gomes

    Antônio Carlos Gomes (1836 –1896) was one of the first New World composers whose work was accepted in Europe. His opera Il Guarany was successful in its premiere at La Scala. Verdi said his work was an expression of “true musical genius”. Liszt said that “it displays dense technical maturity, full of harmonic and orchestral maturity.” Later, La Scala produced two additional operas by Gomes, Fosca and Maria Tudor. Listening to the overture to Il Guarany, it’s easy to understand why he such a success in Italy.

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Learn more about the music of Brazil on Fiesta, and tell us your favorite Brazilian composers in the comments!

VOTE: What’s Your Favorite Violin Concerto?


Hear excerpts from these concertos below.

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The Queen of Classical Music Plays n’ Slays on Violin, Viola & Cello


Throgy Thor is a classical musician and drag queen who was feature on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8

“I grew up as the orchestra kid,” said Thorgy Thor, who many know from her appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8. Born Shane Thor Galligan, this queen of classical music is a triple threat who plays violin, viola, and cello. She has performed at some of today’s most prestigious venues including Le Poisson Rouge, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall.

“There are two things I love,” she said in a recent interview, “being able to completely change your identity artistically from head-to-toe and have a blast, and exploring this intensely meticulous musical side where you fall in love with your instrument.”

Clearly, Thorgy isn’t your typical drag queen. She confessed, “I feel like in a lot of my life and in drag culture that I’m the most conservative person in the room. I attribute that to studying music for as long as I did because you have a relationship with an instrument, and a practice schedule. It’s very demanding of your time. You have to perfect your craft. In clubs, it’s like, ‘Yeah, whatever!’”

When performing in clubs, she’s not always playing her favorite music. “I’m always listening to classical music, in my car, everywhere. I can’t really stand a lot of pop music to be honest. If something plays on the radio over and over and over I just can’t get into it.”

In fact, the more popular a piece of music is, the less likely she is to enjoy it. “When something is shoved in my face that I should like, I’ll immediately not like it. I’ve always been that person. With pop music you gotta give me time so I can tear it apart.


Source: makeagif

“Lady Gaga? It took me a long time to come around to her. When you listen to some of her music, you realize it’s actually really well written. Then you look at what she’s doing artistically on top of it, and then you hear her talk, and she makes me think, ‘You know, you’re really brilliant. You’re an artist.’ Now I’m in love with Lady Gaga.”

But for Thorgy, other pop musicians don’t often measure up. “I didn’t know who Selena Gomez was. I don’t know who half these people my friends listen to are. It just flies right by me because I don’t pay attention to pop culture as much as I should. Shame on me. I should pay attention more. Does that have something to do with my background? Probably.”


Source: slaypress

Thorgy got her start as a musician very early. “I was a very, very active kid. My parents couldn’t handle all of my energy. I did a lot of sports. Sports and sports and sports. I was a competitive swimmer until I found out I was allergic to chlorine. Once I couldn’t do swimming any more, my parents encouraged me to do every musical thing possible. That’s when I really started to take it very seriously.”

Growing up on Long Island, Thorgy participated in “competitions, and all the festivals, and all the summer programs.” She said, “My babysitter played violin, so I always knew that instrument attracted me. Violin was always my first choice. When I started getting tall quickly, my teacher put me on viola. So I learned viola quickly. Everybody knows a good violist is someone you hold on to.”

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Later in life, she taught herself how to play cello. “It’s funny,” she mused, “now, I work more on cello than I do violin or viola. My violin player friends are always like, ‘You play cello too?’ Because it’s very different. It took me a very long time to tell myself, ‘Don’t put your thumb there, don’t put your thumb there!’”

She pursued a degree in music, first at the Hartt School of Music, Dance, and Theater at the University of Hartford. “I felt like I wanted to move into the city because I wasn’t working enough. I’m a very business-minded individual. In high school I started my own business. I would hire out string players to play weddings and events on Long Island.

Source: theannie5000

Source: theannie5000

“I heard about the conservatory at Purchase College and they had a work program that really hired you out.”  There, she finished with a dual degree in violin and viola in performance. “But I always tell people I minored in drag history,” she said. “Going to a conservatory, Thorgy had the opportunity to explore many diverse interests.

Reflecting on her days as an undergraduate, she said, “It was a very open campus, and it was great to experiment with art. I just remember people bringing out instruments into the open spaces on campus and dancers would come out and we’d just play and dance and do this for hours.”

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What is some of her favorite repertoire?

“As an orchestra player, I’ve had the honor of playing first violin, second violin, viola, and cello in many of Brahms’s symphonies. The listening is so much different when you have to listen to other parts that you don’t hear when you’re playing first violin. I always encourage everyone to learn every string instrument. It really does change the way you play. It gives you a different perspective.”

But as much as she loves Brahms, she said, “There’s nothing more rewarding than sitting back and playing Bach cello suites. My teachers used to tell me when I was very young, ‘Bach’s cello suites and all the string sonatas and partitas are pieces you learn but you never stop learning.’ You can come back 20 years later, and still be like, ‘Wow!’

“I think one of the foundations of being a good player is coming back to repertoire to perfect things and change the way you see something. I like to go back and play something that I used to play on violin and see how I’ve changed as a person. I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels that way.”

Another of her perennial favorites? “The Borodin String Quarter No. 2 in D is something I could play every day. I’m just a sucker for the Romantics.”

Thorgy loves exposing classical music lovers to drag, and drag lovers to classical music.

“Find what you love and tell everyone about it. When I’m in an orchestra setting I tell everyone, ‘I love doing drag, and I love the make up, and the theatrics.’ I watch people watch me enjoying it and then they come to the shows and say, ‘This is so much fun.’ More people just need to experiment and try new things and talk about it. Don’t be ashamed that you’re liking new things.”

Source: tumblr

Source: tumblr

She also plans to combine her two loves in a big way: the Thorchestra.

“Everyone hears that and thinks it’s funny. But I want to form a drag orchestra that I conduct,” drawing from her friends and colleagues, and perhaps even fans. When Thorgy encounters fans, she said, “One out of every five people say to me, ‘I’m a French horn player, I wanna play for your Thorchestra.’ I’ve gotten hundreds of emails through my website from people all over the world. ‘Hey  I’m from London and I play harp.’ I’ve gotten like six harp players that wanna play in the Thorchestra.”

“It would be a big dream to conduct and share stories with audience like about how if Brahms were still alive today I’d probably sleep with him.”

Source: giphy

Source: giphy

Plans for the Thorchestra are still in the works. “It’s very important for me to present this and have it be something very special rather than be thrown together. I hate when things are thrown together. I think that’s why I might’ve appeared neurotic in RuPaul’s Drag Race. I just want the Thorchestra to be so good.”

Learn more about Thorgy Thor on her website.

Italian soprano Daniela Dessi dies at 59 after brief illness



MILAN (AP) — Italy’s La Scala opera house says soprano Daniela Dessi has died. She was 59.

Last month, Dessi wrote to her fans on Facebook saying she had to cancel all her summer performances due to an undisclosed health problem. The ANSA news agency quoted her companion, Fabio Armiliato, as saying she died in Brescia after a “brief, terrible and incomprehensible illness.”

In a statement Saturday, La Scala said Dessi’s solid technique, strong temperament and “rare interpretative sensibility” made her one of the “most notable figures on the international operatic scene.”

It added that her performances “remain among the unforgettable pages of La Scala’s history from recent decades.”

Aside from La Scala, Dessi performed in major opera houses including the Metropolitan in New York, Vienna’s Staatsoper and the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


5 Dogs That Really Dig Debussy V●ᴥ●V


Claude Debussy is doubtless one of the most popular composers among classical music lovers today. But it turns out humans aren’t the only ones who dig Debussy. Dogs can’t seem to get enough Debussy.

There’s science that might explain why. The Clinical Sciences Department of Colorado State University concluded in a recent study that, “classical music leads to kenneled dogs spending more time sleeping and less time vocalizing than when exposed to other music types or no music.”

Here are five dogs enjoying Debussy in different ways: some singing along, some sleeping along, and one dog just being a dog. What Debussy does your dog dig?

  1. Dogs + Sprinklers + Debussy = Perfection
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  2. We could snuggle up with you for hours, little pup <3
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  3. So fluffy…can’t take it…must CUDDLE!!!
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  4. Mezzo, contralto, or Zwischenfach?
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  5. Cute overload!!!
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VOTE: What Do YOU Want in a WFMT Residency?


3 Latino “Mozarts” Classical Music Lovers Should Know



There are three Latino composers who have often been compared to Mozart. Two of them were called “Mozarts” by their contemporaries:  Chevalier de Saint Georges, born in the French-Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in the 18th century and the 19th century composer Spanish-Basque Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga. The third is the 20th century Brazilian composer Camargo Guarnieri whose first name was actually Mozart! Learn more about these composers and enjoy some of their music below.

  1. “Le Mozart Noir”


    Fencing Match between St.-Georges and ‘La chevalière D’Eon’ on April 9, 1787, by Abbé Alexandre-Auguste Robineau.

    Joseph de Bologne, known as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was born December 25, 1745.  In addition to being a virtuoso violinist and conductor, he was also a champion fencer and was colonel of the Légion St.-Georges, the first all-black regiment in Europe.

    His skill on the harpsichord and violin earned him dedications from major composers, beginning with Antonio Lolli in 1764. He studied with the French composers François-Joseph Gossec and Jean-Marie Leclair. He became first violin, or concertmaster, of Le Concert des Amateurs, when he was given the nickname Le Mozart Noir or black Mozart. His string quartets were among the first in France and were performed in 1772 and published in 1773. Listen to his Quartet No.3 in F minor below.

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  2. The “Spanish” Mozart
    Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga was born January 27, 1806, near Bilbao, Spain, in the Basque country. He was a spanish violinist and composer of extraordinary precocity whose had an early death, in 1826. Stylistically, his music stands between the Classical tradition of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Romanticism Franz Schubert; it shows abundant invention, freshness, and technical resourcefulness.

    After the success of his operas, Arriaga enrolled in the Paris Conservatory, where by age 18 he became an assistant professor and was given his nickname “The Spanish Mozart.” His other compositions include three string quartets and a symphony. Below is an overture to his most famous opera Los esclavos felices (The Happy Slaves).

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  3. The “Brazilian” Mozart
    Mozart Camargo Guarnieri was born in 1907 in São Paulo, Brazil. He was the fourth child of a family wholly named in homage to great composers (Rossini, Bellini and Verdi).

    He received his first musical lessons from his father who immediately noticed his great talent. He studied piano and composition at the São Paulo Conservatório, and worked with Charles Koechlin when he was offered a scholarship to study in Paris. Guarnieri is also an important figure in Brazilian national music. He was conductor of the São Paulo Orchestra, member of the Academia Brasileira de Música, and Director of the São Paulo Conservatório, where he taught composition and orchestral conducting. Below, hear his Sinfonia No.2 “Uirapuru.”

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Learn more about Three Latino Mozarts on Fiesta, and tell us your favorite “Mozarts” in the comments!


10th Annual Chicago Dancing Festival Presents 5 Days of Free Dance Performances


Taking a family to a live performance can be an expensive affair. But you don’t need to shell out big bucks to see great dance in Chicago, thanks to the Chicago Dancing Festival. The 10th annual festival will present five days of performances from August 23-27, 2016 and will feature some of the world’s greatest dancers and choreographers. But the best part? Every performance is free.

Jay Franke, who co-founded the Festival with choreographer Lar Lubovitch in 2007, said he hopes that each performance presented by the festival is “accessible and well-curated because if this is your first opportunity to see dance, you should see the best.” All programs presented feature a diverse range of works and artists, from classical ballet to contemporary dance.


Martha Graham Dance Company’s Lloyd Mayor and Mariya Dashkina Maddux in “Appalachian Spring.” (Hibbard Nash Photography)

The festival’s Opening Night Celebration features two works by George Balanchine. The first is Who Cares, set to songs by George Gerswhin and performed by Stars of American Ballet. The Pennsylvania Ballet makes its festival debut with a performance of Concerto Barocco, set to J.S. Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins. The program also includes Appalachian Spring, performed by Martha Graham Dance Company, which created the work alongside composer Aaron Copland in 1944. Franke said Appalachian Spring “is a masterpiece and felt that it was very relevant to do it on our program at that particular venue for our opening night.” Alexander Ekman’s Episode 31, performed by the Joffrey Ballet, rounds out the evening.


Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener

The second festival program, Modern Men, provides a counterpoint to its first ever all-female program, Modern Women, from the 2015 festival. The Modern Men program will include predominately male choreographers, including Joshua Beamish, Rennie Harris, Brian Brooks, and Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener. However, Franke said,”We wanted to focus on male dancing and not just male choreographers. We were able to insert this trio by a female choreographer, Aszure Barton, into the mix, which I think changes it dramatically.”

Dancing at the Harris, the third program in the festival, presents Martha Graham Dance, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Rennie Harris Pure Movement, and Aszure Barton + Artists. The Joffrey Ballet will perform an excerpt from a work by festival founder and artistic director Lar Lubovitch himself, a pas de deux from his full-length ballet Othello. Franke said, “I remember seeing the dance when I was a student at Juilliard. I was completely mesmerized by his story-telling skills. Lar has such a distinct voice in dance and what he creates.”

For the first time ever, the festival will present at Navy Pier. Locally-based companies Forward Momentum Chicago, Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, and Natya Dance Theatre will all perform at different locations on the pier. “It’s going to be exciting and something very different,” Franke said. “It’s kind of a roaming performance,” which will also invite audiences to participate.

MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet (1965). (Photo: Leslie E. Spatt)

MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet (1965). (Photo: Leslie E. Spatt)

The final festival program, Dancing Under the Stars, will take place at the Pritzker Pavilion, allowing thousands to experience the power of live performance in Millennium Park. This year’s program includes the Balcony Pas from Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet performed by the Royal Ballet soloists Francesca Hayward and Marcelino Sambé. Franke explained, “MacMillan has a long history with the Royal Ballet so when we were looking for dances to bring in, he was the most obvious of choices. The dancers there have been coached and trained beautifully in his work.”

Though the festival began with just one performance at the Pritzker Pavillion in 2007, it has since grown considerably. “I’m in utter disbelief that we’re in year ten; I’m not even sure how that happened. We feel like what we’ve been able to accomplish is kind of unprecedented. There’s really nothing we can be compared to because we’ve been able to complete ten years of free programming to tens of thousands of people.”

While all performances are free, the only non-ticketed events are at Navy Pier and Millennium Park. For more information and to check availability of free tickets to other events, visit the Chicago Dancing Festival website.







Should Classical Concerts Be Shorter to Attract New Audiences? Pianist Stephen Hough Thinks So…

Pianist Stephen Hough (Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke)
Pianist Stephen Hough (Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke)

Pianist Stephen Hough (Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke)

If you love classical music and have a connection to the internet, you’ve doubtless read more than a handful of think pieces about either a) the death of classical music, b) how to revive classical music from its impending death, or c) why classical music isn’t dying and doesn’t need to be brought back to life.

Pianist Stephen Hough, who recently spoke with WFMT in a live interview and performed in a broadcast from the Grant Park Music Festival, has just suggested one way to attract new audiences to classical music concerts. In an article for Radio Times, Hough said:

“At some point in the early 20th Century we settled into a pattern: Concerts should start early evening and last roughly two hours with a liquid interval, either to drink a glass of wine or visit the ladies / gents…I think we should consider removing the interval and starting either earlier or later than 7:30pm – 60 to 80 minutes of music, then out.”

Do you think classical music concerts should be shorter? Should intermissions be eliminated? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Chicago Latino Music Festival Announces 2016 Line-Up


From the 9th Latin Music Festival, (L to R) Pianist Andy Cohn, Sixto Franco, Naomi Culp, Victoria Moreira, and Elbio Barilari. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

If there’s one thing Chicagoans love, it’s festivals. The 11th Chicago Latino Music Festival just announced its lineup for 2016. Between September 8 – December 1, the Festival will present over a dozen programs that include music from five centuries, featuring six world premieres and three U.S. premieres. The best part? Many events are FREE!


Dúo Belcorde
Instituto Cervantes of Chicago, 31 W. Ohio Street
Admission: Free with RSVP
Program to include: “Danzas Cervantinas” for guitar by Gaspar Sanz (1674); “Danza del molinero” by Manuel de Falla (1919); “Canciones populares españolas” by Federico García Lorca (1921-1924); “Suspiros de España” by Antonio Álvarez Alonso (1902); “Danzas españolas” by Enrique Granados (1890); “María de la O” by Manuel Quiroga (1935); “Música nocturna de Madrid: Pasacalle” by Luigi Boccherini (1780); “Gallito” by Santiago López Gozalo; “España Cañí” by Pascual Marquina Narro (1923)

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2:00 p.m.

Centro Mexicano para la Música y las Artes Sonoras (CMMAS) – 10th Anniversary Concert
Harold Washington Library, Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, 400 S. State Street
Admission: Free
Program to include: “Por los Andes” for violin and electronics by Francisco Colasanto (2014); “Repas du Serpent & Retour a la Raison” for violoncello, video and tape by Javier Álvarez (2009); “Curva ao Infinito” for piano and electroacoustic sounds by Edson Zampronha (2012); “Tolerance” for cello and tape by Rodrigo Sigal (2002); “Corson” for trumpet and tape by Gustavo Leone (2014)

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 7:30 p.m.

University of Illinois (UIC) Orchestra with Conductor Javier José Mendoza
Merit School of Music, Anne and Howard Gottlieb Hall, 38 S. Peoria Street
Admission: Free


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 6, 6:30 p.m.

KAIA String Quartet
Harold Washington Library, Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, 400 S. State Street
Admission: Free
Program to include: String Quartet No. 2 Op. 26 by Alberto Ginastera (1958); String Quartet No. 3 by Gustavo Leone (2015) – World Premiere ; “Three Pieces” by Astor Piazzolla (1988)


Avalon String Quartet
Harris Theater, Cube Space, 205 E. Randolph Street
Admission: $15 General / $5 Students
Program to include: “Bitcoin” by Enric Riu (2016) – World Premiere; “Musing on the Nature of Time” by Elbio Barilari (2011); String Quartet No. 4 by Gustavo Leone (2016) – U.S. Premiere

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15, 7:30 p.m.

Chicago Arts Orchestra with Conductor Javier José Mendoza
Studebaker Theater, Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Avenue
Admission: $25 General / $35 Patron / $15 Students and Seniors



Pablo Sáinz Villegas, classical guitar – Embrace The Journey Here
Old Town School of Folk Music, Maurer Hall, 4544 N. Lincoln Avenue
Admission: Free with RSVP

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2:00 p.m.

San Ignacio: Ópera de las Misiones Jesuíticas
featuring Baroque Ensemble with Conductor Emanuele Andrizzi
Art Institute of Chicago, Fullerton Hall, 111 S. Michigan Avenue
Admission: $10 donation at the door
Program to include: Ópera de las misiones jesuíticas (Opera from the Jesuit Missions)


Cuarteto Q-Arte

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2:00 p.m.

Avalon String Quartet & Cuarteto Q-Arte
Art Institute of Chicago, Fullerton Hall, 111 S. Michigan Avenue
Admission: Free with paid entry into museum
Program to include: Cuarteto de Cuerdas No. 6, op. 250 by Blas Atehortúa – U.S. Premiere; String Quartet No. 4 by Gustavo Leone (2016); “Last Round” for nonet by Osvaldo Golijov (1996)

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 6:30 p.m.

Don Quixote’s Piano
featuring Mauricio Nader (piano) and Welz Kauffman (narrator)
Harold Washington Library, Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, 400 S. State Street
Admission: Free
Program to include: “Pensive Quixote” by Víctor Carbajo (1970); “Quixote in Love” by Víctor Carbajo (1970); Excerpts from Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s “Don Quixote” (1605, 1615); Passages from the ballet “Don Quixote” composed by Ludwig Minkus (1869); “Tres Quijotadas de un Hidalgo” by Marvin Camacho (1966); “Vihuelas y guitarrones” by Domingo Lobato (1965); “Castilla” (from “Suite Española”) by Isaac Albéniz (1886); “Maese Pedro’s Puppet Show” by Manuel de Falla (1923)

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 8:30 p.m.

Don Quixote’s Piano
featuring Mauricio Nader (piano) and Welz Kauffman (narrator)
Ravinia, Bennett Gordon Hall, 200 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park
Admission: $10 Reserved Seat / $45 Dinner & Concert
Repeat of November 17 program

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2:00 p.m.

Adam Levin, classical guitar
Art Institute of Chicago, Fullerton Hall, 111 S. Michigan Avenue
Admission: Free with paid entry into museum
Program to include: Two Sonatas, K. 53, K. 209 by Domenico Scarlatti; “Trimountain” by Anton Garcia-Abril (2015); “Yemanjá Sonata” by Eduardo Morales-Caso (2015); “Fandanguillo” by Joaquín Turina (1925); “Junta de mi Corazon” by Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1929)

Hedwig Dances presents choreographer Victor Alexander’s Line of Sighs

Hedwig Dances presents choreographer Victor Alexander’s Line of Sighs


Havana-Chicago Connections
featuring Choreographer Victor Alexander
Studebaker Theater, Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Avenue
Admission: $30 General / $25 Students, Seniors and ILCC Members
Program to include: “Ritmos Cubanos” (traditional Cuban music); “Sinuosa Fuga del Cambio” by Gustavo Leone – World Premiere; “Cuban Canvas” by Elbio Barilari – World Premiere; “Black Decameron” by Leo Brouwer (1972)

Hear Kirill Gerstein Play Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 the Way Tchaikovsky Intended



Pianist Kirill Gerstein performs Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor the way the composer originally intended at the Grant Park Music Festival on August 12, 2016.  This version has not been heard in the United States since Tchaikovsky’s U.S. tour in 1891. In anticipation of the performance, he visited WFMT to explain the difference between the version that is most well-known today and Tchaikovsky’s original version.

Read Gerstein’s explanation of the differences between the original concerto and the version you may be familiar with below. Also below, hear him perform excerpts from the concerto in an Impromptu broadcast recorded live at WFMT on August 11, 2016. Or, tune in to hear him play the concerto with the Grant Park Orchestra live at 6:30 pm on August 12 from WFMT,, or our streaming apps.

“Tchaikovsky wrote the concerto in 1875, and it was premiered in the United States in Boston by German pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow, one of Liszt’s most important students. As it typically happens with composers and new pieces, there were a few quite minor optimizations in the piano part that Tchaikovsky himself introduced.

“In 1879, the second version was printed, from Tchaikovsky’s own changes.  Eight days before his death, Tchaikovsky conducted this version.  The score he used for that concert with his markings was rediscovered in the archives in Russia.  It serves as the basis for the new edition of the concerto that was published last year by the Tchaikovsky Museum and Archives in Russia.  That score, among other things, serves as the last and best known intentions of the composer.

“The version that prevailed was introduced posthumously with many changes by an editor.  Most evidence points to Alexander Siloti, another student of Liszt’s!  Siloti made a number of changes in his opinion – on the superficial side of 19th century sensibilities, he thought this would make it more flashy and effective.

Tchaikovsky PC1 score photo 1

Tchaikovsky’s conducting score in the 1879 version of the concerto, showing broken chords when the piano soloist enters.

“Looking back, I think what he manages to introduce is rather inorganic and makes it more superficial by not making it truly, deeply brilliant and virtuosic.  The fact that this version was not authorized by Tchaikovsky, and it was repeated through printers, thus spreading throughout the music world, is what led to the version we’ve heard most often.  But calls to return to what Tchaikovsky actually wrote came even earlier.

“Sergei Taneev  was a student of Tchaikovsky, and in 1912, there’s a letter from him saying it’s high time to turn away from the editorial interventions of the concerto and actually play what was written.  Taneev knew because he was the first pianist to play it in Russia, and even his hand is the copyist’s hand in sources of the original version.  He was there for the conception and was very close to Tchaikovsky until his death.

“It’s an interesting backstory to a piece that we all think we know.  It’s a piece that’s not only musically one of the most popular pieces but also popular in broader culture.  It’s an ever-present landmark.

“One of the differences that hits you on the head immediately is the opening.  We’re used to the piano entering with certain chords. Usually, the louder the pianist plays, the more heroic he feels and the orchestra feels as well.  For the pianist, it actually says mezzo forte.  It’s not shouting, but then when the pianist plays louder, the orchestra says, “Why should we be left behind since we actually have the melody!” So you have these Soviet bombs falling on the head of this poor melody, and there’s a Cold War situation from the beginning.

Tchaikovsky’s autograph of the concerto reveals a cut was made in the posthumous version of the third movement.

“But when we look at Tchaikovsky’s score, we see the strings aren’t marked so loud and it turns out to be more lyrical than bombastic.  The piano is actually playing arpeggiated chords in the second and third chords.  It’s really a variation of a harp-like instrument.  But what it also does is that it allows the melody in the orchestra to be shaped more flexibly.  The piece opens in a more Romantic way.

“Another example that is quite significant is that normally there are about 45 seconds of extra music cut from the third movement from the version we are used to hearing.  The middle trio section of the third movement is longer in this original version.  I can’t demonstrate since it’s very involved with the counterpoint of the orchestra.  But by lengthening the third movement, it makes the proportion of the entire movement and the entire concerto more organic and balanced.

“There’s a few major differences and then about 100-150 wrinkles – accents, dynamics, tempo markings.  All of these little differences combined with the bigger differences results in a more lyrical piece.  Perhaps closer to Schumann than the Olympic sports or a war horse treatment of the piece.

“There’s a lot of interest from conductors and orchestras to come back to this refreshed version of the piece.  I think we’re hoping to start a trend and to at least make the issue known.  If someone feels like playing the posthumous and edited version, that’s fine, but we need to be aware of what we’re hearing.

“The second version also has a Chicago connection. At the very first concert of the Chicago Symphony, this concerto was played.  When I was in the archives at the CSO, they showed me Theodore Thomas’ score, and that is Tchaikovsky’s second version that I will be playing at Grant Park.”