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Classical Crib Sheet: Top 5 Stories This Week

By Anastasia Tsioulcas | NPR
Tuesday, December 18, 2012

There's no way around what a sad week it's been in music.

  • Charles Rosen, prodigious pianist, scholar and polymath, died Sunday in New York at age 85.
  • Swiss soprano Lisa Della Casa died at age 93 Monday. She sang more than 400 times at the Vienna State Opera.
  • Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya — for whom Shostakovich and Britten both wrote music, and who was the wife of Mstislav Rostrophovich — died Tuesday at age 86.
  • And Indian sitarist, composer and musical ambassador Ravi Shankar died in California at age 92, also on Tuesday.
  • If you haven't seen the short clip of the Landfill Harmonic yet, go watch it right now. It is amazing and inspiring and humbling.

Classical geek? Keep going...

  • Speaking of videos: have you seen this lovely and very sad little film — a short story, really — about the a piano left out on the curb in upper Manhattan? I will keep the memory of the pure joy of that boy at 00:45.
  • And speaking of pianos: the New York Times wonders what's going to happen to the Steinway & Sons showroom in New York, now that the famed piano maker is selling its building: "The $195 million deal contains a provision for Steinway to pack up the pianos and move out if the buyer — who has not been identified — or Steinway itself gave 12 months' notice. 'There's a chance we'd stay and a chance we won't,' [a spokesperson] said. 'It's potentially our decision, but it's potentially the buyer's.'"
  • The Italian press is afire about La Scala's decision to open its new season with Daniel Barenboim conducting Wagner rather than Verdi — both composers were born in 1813. According to the prominent Milan-based newspaper Corriere della Sera: "This choice is a smack for Italian art, a blow for national pride in a moment of crisis."
  • I had no idea that cellist Han-Na Chang was exploring a career as a conductor. Not only that — the Emirati newspaper The National reports that the 29-year-old Korean artist was just named music director of the burgeoning Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, which was founded four years ago.
  • Did you see that the score for a video game was nominated in the Grammy category that used to be the exclusive purview of film soundtracks? Austin Wintory's score for the PlayStation 3 game Journey is up against a trio of film legends: John Williams (Tintin), Howard Shore (Hugo) and Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Rises). Wintory told Wired: "It's a long time coming. I almost feel ashamed that so much great stuff has been done over the last decade that for reasons unknown didn't make the cut."
  • Not even two years after he promised to reinvent the Brooklyn Philharmonic with a five-year plan, Richard Dare is sailing across the Hudson to take the reins as president and chief executive of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
  • I love this in Wendy Lesser's review for Prospect of the new tome A History of Opera: The Last 400 Years: "No rock musician miming sex with his instrument or destroying it on stage, no art installation that creepily mirrors its visitors or pummels them with senseless questions, is nearly as crazy as opera. And yet, because it has been around for so long, and because its devotees pay so much money for their seats and then sit passively in them for such inordinate lengths of time, nobody seems to notice. The formal rules disguise the strangeness. The unnatural is successfully passed off as routine."
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