Presto News - 23rd April 2012

Kathleen Ferrier

One of my all-time heroines would have been 100 years old yesterday, were it not for her untimely death at the age of just 41 – and what a redoubtable centenarian ‘Klever Kaff’ (as the great Lancashire-born contralto ironically styled herself) would surely have been! To mark the anniversary, we have commemorative boxed sets from Decca (the label with which she was most closely associated) and from EMI, where she made some notable early recordings and returned for her iconic 1949 account of Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder.

Kathleen Ferrier
Kathleen Ferrier

When we first cracked the boxes open, there was much debate in the Presto office about exactly what it is makes the voice so immediately recognisable and, to modern ears, so quaintly antediluvian – the first suggestion was the simple fact of being a bona fide contralto rather than a mezzo. Certainly the true contralto voice is a rarity, perhaps even more so now than in Ferrier’s day, but I’d argue that reports of its death have been exaggerated: Sonia Prina, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Nathalie Stutzmann and Ewa Podles are just a few of the singers currently flying the flag for the lower-voiced ladies.

But Ferrier’s serene, ‘eternal feminine’ tone quality has little in common with the current crop. Unlike many modern contraltos, there’s nothing androgynous or butch about her timbre (even in the trouser-role of Orfeo she exudes mellow womanliness), nor does she display the matriarchal chutzpah of Podles or the bosomy sensuality of Lemieux (Britten wrote The Rape of Lucretia for her because, as he charmingly phrased it, he ‘couldn’t have a sexy dame’ in the title role!). There’s also the speed of vibrato, which is far faster and more constant than one usually hears today, and the consistent beauty of tone: Ferrier never went in for the extremes of colour, dramatic gear shifts or even flirtations with tonal ugliness that many modern singers of all voice types employ, yet somehow her unselfconscious immersion in text and music made every performance unique and involving.

A late bloomer who only sang professionally for just over a decade, it’s astonishing that Ferrier managed to commit such a range of repertoire to disc, but also impossible not to pine for what might have been. Many have lamented that she did not live to take up the offer to sing Erda and Brangaene at Bayreuth, but my big regret is that this pint-swigging, earthy northern lass was never persuaded to take on Mistress Quickly in Falstaff.

Ferrier famously disliked opera (Orfeo and Lucretia were her only two stage roles), lamenting that she felt awkward on stage, but the dramatic instinct that blazes forth from every bar of her Orfeo (Che faro may be the plum, but listen to the lightening changes of mood and intention in those recitatives!) suggests that the right director could have overcome her reluctance. It’s also a huge pity that she didn’t survive to see the Handel revival: as was the fashion at the time, the Handel arias here are English-language versions with piano in parlour-song tradition, but she would surely have made a noble, plangent Cornelia in Giulio Cesare and a wonderfully stoic Irene in Theodora.

Both boxes feature re-issues of classic recordings, with a few extras and new discoveries. EMI offer previously-unreleased takes of Kindertotenlieder, whilst Decca include the DVD documentary ‘An Ordinary Diva’ (sound throughout is much improved thanks to new re-masterings, and there are lovely individual sleeves with different photos of ‘Kaff’ on each cover).

The myriad highlights are, I’m sure, already familiar and much-cherished by many readers. Aside from the Orfeo, I was overwhelmed by the simple sincerity of the Matthew Passion arias, the shy, confiding eroticism of Frauenliebe, and of course the two great Mahler cycles. The searing performance of the final two Rückert songs, moving from fear to acceptance of death, is almost unbearably poignant, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I still can’t make it through with dry eyes.

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Kathleen Ferrier: The Complete EMI Recordings

Kathleen Ferrier (contralto)

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Kathleen Ferrier: The Complete Decca Recordings

Kathleen Ferrier (contralto)

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Katherine Cooper - katherine@prestoclassical.co.uk

New Releases

23rd April 2012

This is just the pick of the recent releases. The New Releases and Future Releases pages are always available for browsing all the new and forthcoming releases.

Weinberg: Symphony No. 6

St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, Vladimir Lande

Weinberg is increasingly recognised as one of the outstanding composers of the second half of the twentieth century. His Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes is a concise medley of tunes that embrace folk influence, both melancholic and high spirited, culminating in a joyous and unstoppable dance. Scored for a very large orchestra and a children’s choir, Symphony No. 6 is a work of huge expression, anguished and dynamic, encompassing lament, circus gallops, burlesque, and a cataclysmic and heartrending slow movement.

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Johan Halvorsen: Orchestral Works Volume 4

Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Neeme Järvi

This is the fourth and final volume of colourful and highly appealing orchestral works by the Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen. The series is performed by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under Neeme Järvi.

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Handel & Caldara: Carmelite Vespers

Roberta Invernizzi, Robin Johannsen (sopranos), Martin Oro (countertenor), Markus Brutscher (tenor), Antonio Abete (bass), Academia Montis Regalis, Alessandro de Marchi

In early 18th-century Rome the holiday of Madonna del Carmine was celebrated with a lavish musical pasticcio. Italian Early Music specialist Alessandro de Marchi, his Academia Montis Regalis and an excellent ensemble of solo vocalists present the reconstruction of such a service as it might have been performed in 1709 under the direction of Venetian master Antonio Caldara (1670–1736). The programme combines lesser-known but stunningly beautiful pieces by Caldara himself with famous motets by his predecessor Handel such as “Dixit Dominus” or “Laudate pueri”.

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Gesualdo: Madrigali libro quinto, 1611

The Hilliard Ensemble

For their latest album for ECM, and over 20 years after their first recorded foray into Gesualdo with his Tenebrae Responsories (8438672), The Hilliard Ensemble turn again to the music of the Italian nobleman, this time to sing the entire Fifth Book of Madrigals.

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Heggie: Dead Man Walking

Joyce DiDonato, Philip Cutlip, Frederica von Stade, Measha Brueggergosman, Houston Grand Opera & Chorus, Patrick Summers

“Cathartic, uplifting and humanizing” wrote the Houston Chronicle, reporting on this Houston Grand Opera production of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. Joyce DiDonato as Sister Helen Prejean, who becomes a counsellor to murderer on death row in Louisiana, shares the stage with her idol, veteran mezzo Frederica von Stade, here making her farewell to opera.

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Grant The King A Long Life: English Anthems & Instrumental Music

The Choir of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge & Fretwork, David Skinner

Thomas Weelkes was a notorious drunkard and blasphemer, in regular conflict with the authorities of Chichester Cathedral where he was organist, Informator Choristarum, and a singing-man from 1602 until his death in 1623. At least that is his modern reputation. But regardless of the man’s personal flaws, his music firmly stands as sublime.

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32 Short Films about Glenn Gould

The Sound Of Genius A Film By François Girard

Internationally renowned pianist Glenn Gould had all the marks of genius – blinding talent, a craving for perfection and absolute bullheadedness. In Thirty Two Short Films about Glenn Gould, director François Girard goes directly to the centre of Gould’s ideas, his passions and his music. Using thirty-two elegantly constructed vignettes, the film span Gould’s life from the age of four until his untimely death aged fifty.

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Collectors Edition

6 new re-issues

The latest batch of bargain priced collectors editions include Claudio Arrau playing Beethoven, the Angeles String Quartet playing Haydn, Sir Colin Davis’s Sibelius cycle with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Messiaen’s orchestral works in recordings from mainly Chung and Boulez, Abbado’s Rossini Operas, and The English Concert under Trevor Pinnock performing 55 Vivaldi Concertos.

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Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 CD Review

Saturday 21st April 2012

Building a Library - Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, Op. 100

First Choice

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Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

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Disc of the Week

Dobrzynski & Lessel: Piano Concertos

Howard Shelley (piano & conductor), Sinfonia Varsovia

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12-Mar-2012 -Jules Massenet - Werther & Don Quichotte
05-Mar-2012 -Brahms choral discs from Gardiner and Herreweghe
27-Feb-2012 -Vivaldi: Sacred vocal works and concertos
20-Feb-2012 -Aleksandra Kurzak and Renée Fleming
13-Feb-2012 -Schoenberg and Berg
06-Feb-2012 -Alison Balsom
30-Jan-2012 -Britten Violin Concerto
23-Jan-2012 -Beethoven Symphonies from Thielemann and Chailly
16-Jan-2012 -New Year’s Concert from Vienna
09-Jan-2012 -Mariusz Kwiecień
02-Jan-2012 -Fritz Kreisler
26-Dec-2011 -The year ahead and our latest new development
19-Dec-2011 -Two legendary performances
12-Dec-2011 -Maurizio Pollini plays Chopin
05-Dec-2011 -Christmas roundup
28-Nov-2011 -Havergal Brian’s Gothic Symphony
21-Nov-2011 -Duetti da Camera: Philippe Jaroussky & Max Emanuel Cencic
14-Nov-2011 -Bruckner and Mahler from Haitink and Pappano
07-Nov-2011 -Haydn from the Takács Quartet
31-Oct-2011 -Sublime Schubert from Paul Lewis
24-Oct-2011 -Franz Liszt
17-Oct-2011 -The Decca Sound
10-Oct-2011 -Pavel Haas Quartet the big winners at the Gramophone Awards
03-Oct-2011 -Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts from Paul McCreesh
26-Sep-2011 -Handel – Agrippina & Germanico
19-Sep-2011 -Wagner’s Flying Dutchman starts PentaTone’s 10th anniversary celebrations
12-Sep-2011 -Schubert's Schwanengesang from Padmore and Lewis
05-Sep-2011 -Gergiev and the LSO conclude their Mahler cycle
29-Aug-2011 -BIS - Maxim Rysanov, Sibelius and a special offer
22-Aug-2011 -Sublime Ravel from Ibragimova and Tiberghien
15-Aug-2011 -Gustavo Dudamel
08-Aug-2011 -Brahms/Schoenberg from Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker
01-Aug-2011 -Lucia from the Mariinsky
25-Jul-2011 -Bayreuther Festspiele
18-Jul-2011 -Benjamin Grosvenor
11-Jul-2011 -Rossini’s William Tell
04-Jul-2011 -Bach Motets from Herreweghe
27-Jun-2011 -Sublime Vivaldi from Nathalie Stutzmann
20-Jun-2011 -Beethoven’s Fidelio from Abbado and Kaufmann
13-Jun-2011 -Byrd’s Complete Consort Music
06-Jun-2011 -Vaughan Williams’s The Garden of Proserpine
30-May-2011 -Beethoven's Diabelli Variations from Paul Lewis
23-May-2011 -New DVDs from Glyndebourne
16-May-2011 -Martha Argerich
09-May-2011 -Handel's Ariodante
02-May-2011 -Daniel Barenboim plays Chopin and conducts Tchaikovsky
25-Apr-2011 -Fliter and Ibragimova excel in Beethoven
18-Apr-2011 -Julia Lezhneva sings Rossini
11-Apr-2011 -Lully’s Bellérophon
04-Apr-2011 -Mining the archives
28-Mar-2011 -Rachmaninov's Second Symphony
21-Mar-2011 -Suk's Asrael Symphony
14-Mar-2011 -Pergolesi's Stabat Mater
07-Mar-2011 -Striggio: Mass in 40 Parts
28-Feb-2011 -Tomás Luis de Victoria
21-Feb-2011 -Lisa Batiashvili - Echoes of Time
14-Feb-2011 -Kate Royal: A Lesson in Love
07-Feb-2011 -Simon Rattle's new Mahler 2
31-Jan-2011 -Percy Grainger
24-Jan-2011 -Arne: Artaxerxes
17-Jan-2011 -Handel and Strauss from Dessay and Damrau
10-Jan-2011 -Nielsen Symphonies from Colin Davis and the LSO
03-Jan-2011 -The Genius of Mozart
27-Dec-2010 -The year ahead
20-Dec-2010 -Sheet Music now online, and other recent developments
13-Dec-2010 -Robert Schumann
06-Dec-2010 -Vivaldi Operas - Ottone in Villa and Ercole
29-Nov-2010 -Christmas Releases
22-Nov-2010 -Bach Cantatas - the Gardiner pilgrimage
15-Nov-2010 -Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
08-Nov-2010 -Schubert: Piano Duets
01-Nov-2010 -Verdi's Otello from the LSO and Colin Davis
25-Oct-2010 -The Three Baroque Tenors
18-Oct-2010 -Dame Joan Sutherland
11-Oct-2010 -Bach's Violin Concertos from Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque
04-Oct-2010 -Gramophone Awards announced last Friday
27-Sep-2010 -Jonas Kaufmann: Verismo Arias
20-Sep-2010 -Wagner's Parsifal from the Mariinsky and Gergiev
13-Sep-2010 -Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte from René Jacobs
06-Sep-2010 -Puccini's forgotten masterpiece - La Rondine
30-Aug-2010 -Santiago a cappella
23-Aug-2010 -Elīna Garanča goes Spanish
16-Aug-2010 -Rued Langgaard - Music of the Spheres
09-Aug-2010 -Gramophone Awards - The Finalists
02-Aug-2010 -50 Years of the Grosses Festspielhaus Salzburg
26-Jul-2010 -Gustav Mahler
19-Jul-2010 -Sir Charles Mackerras
12-Jul-2010 -Beethoven - Paul Lewis and the BBC Proms
05-Jul-2010 -A Russian Sibelius cycle
28-Jun-2010 -Ronald Brautigam's Beethoven
21-Jun-2010 -Carlos Kleiber
14-Jun-2010 -Handel's Berenice
07-Jun-2010 -Channel Classics
31-May-2010 -Alfredo Casella
24-May-2010 -Shostakovich Preludes & Fugues from Melnikov
17-May-2010 -The multi-talented Julia Fischer
10-May-2010 -Nimbus
03-May-2010 -Leonard Bernstein's Omnibus Broadcasts
26-Apr-2010 -Frédéric Chopin
19-Apr-2010 -Wagner Lohengrin - BBC Awards
12-Apr-2010 -Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique
05-Apr-2010 -Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia and Joyce DiDonato
29-Mar-2010 -Romantic Piano Concertos
22-Mar-2010 -Robin Ticciati and Brahms' Choral Works
15-Mar-2010 -Mozart Symphonies from Mackerras - Volume 2
08-Mar-2010 -Bernard Coutaz and Harmonia Mundi
01-Mar-2010 -Thomas Adès
22-Feb-2010 -Strauss: Alpine Symphony
15-Feb-2010 -Handel: Giulio Cesare and the Brockes Passion
08-Feb-2010 -Debussy and the Prix de Rome
01-Feb-2010 -Testament
25-Jan-2010 -BBC Music Magazine Awards Shortlist
18-Jan-2010 -Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet
11-Jan-2010 -Bach for Violin and Voice
04-Jan-2010 -A Ring cycle for the 21st Century
28-Dec-2009 -Anniversaries - 2009 and 2010
21-Dec-2009 -Richard Farrell
14-Dec-2009 -Thomas Tallis's Secret Garden
07-Dec-2009 -El Sistema
30-Nov-2009 -Christmas Releases
23-Nov-2009 -Kirsten Flagstad
16-Nov-2009 -Nikolaus Harnoncourt
09-Nov-2009 -Two important Elgar rarities
02-Nov-2009 -Felix Mendelssohn
26-Oct-2009 -Cecilia Bartoli and the world of Castratos
19-Oct-2009 -Winterreise from Padmore and Lewis
12-Oct-2009 -Tchaikovsky's Moscow Cantata
05-Oct-2009 -The Quatuor Ebène and the Gramophone Awards
28-Sep-2009 -Unknown Britten
21-Sep-2009 -Australian Eloquence
14-Sep-2009 -Julia Fischer plays Schubert
07-Sep-2009 -Bach Cantata bargain of the year
31-Aug-2009 -Rattle conducts Brahms
24-Aug-2009 -Bruckner from the Concertgebouw
17-Aug-2009 -Gramophone Awards 2009 - Finalists
10-Aug-2009 -Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
03-Aug-2009 -The Vivaldi Edition
27-Jul-2009 -Diaghilev and The Ballets Russes
20-Jul-2009 -Sir Edward Downes
13-Jul-2009 -Brilliant Classics
06-Jul-2009 -Tomás Luis de Victoria
29-Jun-2009 -Britten's homage to Purcell
22-Jun-2009 -The Three Tenors
15-Jun-2009 -Penguin Rosettes and Building a Library
08-Jun-2009 -Masterclasses
01-Jun-2009 -Gergiev at the Mariinsky
25-May-2009 -Two recent re-discoveries light up Martinu year
18-May-2009 -Idomeneo from René Jacobs
11-May-2009 -A&R and Kate Royal's Midsummer Night
04-May-2009 -Chandos Records - 30 years young
27-Apr-2009 -Rachmaninov Preludes
20-Apr-2009 -20 Years of NMC
13-Apr-2009 -BBC Music Magazine Awards
06-Apr-2009 -Shostakovich 11 from the RLPO
30-Mar-2009 -BIS and the Sibelius Edition
23-Mar-2009 -Haydn - 'The Father of the Symphony'
16-Mar-2009 -George Frederic Handel
09-Mar-2009 -Bach's Brandenburg Concertos
02-Mar-2009 -Angela Gheorghiu in Puccini's Madama Butterfly
23-Feb-2009 -The world's most celebrated violins
16-Feb-2009 -Copyright to be extended
09-Feb-2009 -A feast of Early Music
02-Feb-2009 -Sarah Connolly gets Purcell year off to a flier
26-Jan-2009 -Monteverdi as you've never heard it before!
19-Jan-2009 -Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin put Platti firmly on the map
12-Jan-2009 -Hamelin proves his real class with Chopin
05-Jan-2009 -Lindsays lead the bargains
29-Dec-2008 -Jerusalem - in search of peace
22-Dec-2008 -Looking ahead - Handel, Haydn and more
15-Dec-2008 -2008 - A great year for DVDs
08-Dec-2008 -Top new Christmas recommendations
01-Dec-2008 -Richard Hickox
24-Nov-2008 -The World's Great Orchestras, and Euros and US Dollars now accepted
17-Nov-2008 -Lost manuscripts continue to be found
10-Nov-2008 -Haydn's String Quartets
03-Nov-2008 -Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony
27-Oct-2008 -Contemporary Music
20-Oct-2008 -Sir Peter Moores
13-Oct-2008 -Vivaldi in a new light
06-Oct-2008 -Americans in Pyongyang
29-Sep-2008 -Paul Lewis and the Gramophone Awards 2008
22-Sep-2008 -Songs her mother taught her
15-Sep-2008 -Vernon Handley
08-Sep-2008 -Zig Zag and the Atrium Quartet
01-Sep-2008 -Gramophone Awards nominations
25-Aug-2008 -Beautiful Messiah and Exquisite Morales
18-Aug-2008 -Great Pianists of the Past
11-Aug-2008 -Classical Television Broadcasts on the Internet
04-Aug-2008 -Chloë Hanslip and the unfamiliar
28-Jul-2008 -Leopold Godowsky and the virtuoso pianist
21-Jul-2008 -Linn Records
14-Jul-2008 -Vaughan Williams
07-Jul-2008 -Olivier Messiaen
30-Jun-2008 -Reginald Goodall's revelatory 'Mastersingers'
23-Jun-2008 -The French Baroque - 200 Years of Versailles
16-Jun-2008 -Bach Fugues from Onyx and the Emersons
09-Jun-2008 -New DVD page and Special Offer
02-Jun-2008 -Time to re-evaluate Miaskovsky
26-May-2008 -Superb Scholl sings Dowland and his circle
19-May-2008 -Fiesta! - Dudamel and the Venezuelans
12-May-2008 -The Guarneri Piano Trio and the label Praga
05-May-2008 -A La Bohème for all
28-Apr-2008 -Beethoven and Period Instruments
21-Apr-2008 -The Jerusalem Quartet
14-Apr-2008 -Nigel Kennedy
07-Apr-2008 -Paul Lewis's Beethoven
31-Mar-2008 -Ingrid Fliter
24-Mar-2008 -Mel Bonis
17-Mar-2008 -Stunning new Haydn Creation from Paul McCreesh
10-Mar-2008 -Hilary Hahn plays Schoenberg and Sibelius
03-Mar-2008 -Rattle and Gergiev on Mahler
25-Feb-2008 -Handel Organ Concertos
18-Feb-2008 -Late Mozart Symphonies
11-Feb-2008 -Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project
04-Feb-2008 -Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel
28-Jan-2008 -Undeservedly neglected music - John Marsh and Juan de Araujo
21-Jan-2008 -New Bach Cantatas page
14-Jan-2008 -Composers' Own Recordings
07-Jan-2008 -Francis Xavier and Jordi Savall
31-Dec-2007 -50 Years of Harmonia Mundi
24-Dec-2007 -Last thoughts on 2007, first on 2008
17-Dec-2007 -Discs of the Year
10-Dec-2007 -Stockhausen
03-Dec-2007 -25 Years of the Compact Disc
26-Nov-2007 -Pacini and the importance of first performances
19-Nov-2007 -Christmas music worth hearing
12-Nov-2007 -The forgotten Maria
05-Nov-2007 -Why composers marked repeats
29-Oct-2007 -Bach B minor Mass from Suzuki
22-Oct-2007 -New Mahler 8 from Pierre Boulez
15-Oct-2007 -Lucerne Festival Orchestra
08-Oct-2007 -Julia Fischer and the Gramophone Awards
01-Oct-2007 -Mozart - Don Giovanni from René Jacobs
24-Sep-2007 -Natalie Clein and the Elgar Cello Concerto
17-Sep-2007 -Joshua Bell
10-Sep-2007 -Luciano Pavarotti
03-Sep-2007 -Kate Royal
27-Aug-2007 -Gramophone Awards - finalists revealed
20-Aug-2007 -Exciting new baroque rediscovery - Conti's David
13-Aug-2007 -Venezuelan Youth Orchestra the envy of the world
06-Aug-2007 -Music's Best-kept Secrets
30-Jul-2007 -Haydn - the most underrated great composer
23-Jul-2007 -Beethoven Piano Sonatas
16-Jul-2007 -BBC Proms 2007
09-Jul-2007 -Elin Manahan Thomas
02-Jul-2007 -Open minds and superb Bernarda Fink
25-Jun-2007 -Excited by another batch of re-issues?
18-Jun-2007 -Composer Works lists now published
11-Jun-2007 -Padmore and Bostridge sing Handel
04-Jun-2007 -Elgar's Enigma Variations
28-May-2007 -Still suffering some seventy years on?
21-May-2007 -Buying Opera on CD or DVD
14-May-2007 -Debussy's new champion
07-May-2007 -Schütz's Legacy
30-Apr-2007 -Mstislav Rostropovich
23-Apr-2007 -Missed Opportunities
16-Apr-2007 -BBC Music Magazine Awards
09-Apr-2007 -The way we listen
02-Apr-2007 -Too much Mozart?
26-Mar-2007 -Harpsichord or Piano?
19-Mar-2007 -Strauss's Four Last Songs
12-Mar-2007 -The importance of government support
05-Mar-2007 -Do today's musicians all sound the same?

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