Presto News - 8th July 2016

Valery Gergiev and the LSO perform Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette

I hope I won't get in too much trouble if I admit that I've always found Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette to be a slightly odd piece. Full of marvellous music, of course, but unusual in terms of its structure: although it is highly programmatic in nature, and employs a chorus and vocal soloists, it was described by Berlioz not as an oratorio but as a “Symphonie dramatique”. Indeed there are long stretches, including almost the entire second part, that are purely orchestral, and of the three soloists, two of them appear only in the first part (the tenor's sole contribution to the whole 90-minute work lasts barely three minutes!)

Valery Gergiev
Valery Gergiev

As one might expect from Berlioz, his orchestration is fascinatingly idiosyncratic, and this allows every section of the LSO to show off their credentials right from the start: the stormy, angst-ridden fugal opening from the strings is immensely impressive, including a great viola sound. Similarly, the trombone and tuba-dominated recitative that follows demonstrates their matchless skill: on paper it’s quite a simple line, almost always either in unison or in octaves, but the unanimity of articulation and phrasing just makes it one of many remarkable features of this performance.

Mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina makes the most of her all-too-brief contribution, a delightful aria accompanied by delicate harp and cellos. No less noteworthy are the Guildhall School Singers, who make up the Petit Choeur that Berlioz asks for during the Prologue, where their clarity, diction and intonation are all faultless. They come into their own during the tenor aria: their rapid-fire, tongue-twisting back-and-forth with Kenneth Tarver is a real delight.

The centrepiece of the work is the 18-minute Scène d'amour in Part Two, and the LSO strings play with absolutely ravishing tone here: hushed and barely audible one moment, ardently surging the next. I think it's here that Gergiev's experience in the opera house really comes into play, as he knows just how to pace a long dramatic stretch like this one. In the Queen Mab scherzo that follows (perhaps the best-known part of the work), there is virtuosity aplenty, with immaculately nimble woodwind giving way to a shimmering, alluring central section, with glowing string harmonics and pleasingly tinkly harps and antique cymbals.

It's not until the third and final part that the chorus are given anything substantial to do, but they certainly make up for their earlier absence: Juliet's Funeral Procession, with the chorus’s repeated, mournful refrain of “Jetez des fleurs pour la vierge expirée!” (“Throw flowers for the dead maiden”), is very moving. Part Three also contains some of Berlioz's most extraordinary music, not least the orchestral interlude of Romeo at the Capulets' Tomb, where Gergiev brings out every weird and wonderful touch of orchestration.

Continuing in the tradition of soloists who just pop up for a little bit out of nowhere, about fifteen minutes from the end, Friar Laurence appears, sung here with gloriously rich tone by Russian bass Evgeny Nikitin. It's not a brass-heavy work by any means, and so when Nikitin, the chorus, and the full brass section do finally let rip at the very end of the piece it's quite thrilling. Rather than an inconsolably tragic ending, Berlioz instead focuses on the combined oath from the Montagues and Capulets that they will swear to unite the two houses following the deaths of the two young lovers, and Gergiev strikes just the right note of noble optimism without spilling over into vulgarity. It makes for a refined end to a tremendous performance of an eccentrically brilliant work.

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Berlioz: Roméo et Juliette

Olga Borodina (mezzo-soprano), Kenneth Tarver (tenor), Evgeny Nikitin (bass), Guildhall School Singers, London Symphony Chorus & Orchestra, Valery Gergiev

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Presto Interview – Christopher Purves on Glyndebourne's Saul

The biblical story of Saul has all the ingredients you'd expect of a grand opera - war, jealousy, forgiveness and more - so it's no surprise that Barrie Kosky staged a theatrical production of Handel's oratorio at Glyndebourne last year.

Bass-baritone Christopher Purves took on the title role, bringing a hauntingly believable intensity to the increasingly unhinged monarch - Katherine spoke to him last week about preparing for this role, and what he feels sets this production apart from the large number of other Handel stage productions out there.

Read the full article...

James Longstaffe - james@prestoclassical.co.uk

New Releases

8th July 2016

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.

Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro, K492

Thomas Hampson (Conte), Sonya Yoncheva (Contessa), Angela Brower (Cherubino), Christiane Karg (Susanna), Luca Pisaroni (Figaro), Anne Sofie von Otter (Marcellina), Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Yannick Nézet-Séguin

This is the fourth of Deutsche Grammophon’s series of Mozart operas conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, recorded in July 2015 in the stunning venue of Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. The stellar cast includes Luca Pisaroni as Figaro, Thomas Hampson as the Count, Sonya Yoncheva as the Countess, and Christiane Karg as Susanna.

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Khachaturian & Rautavaara: Flute Concertos

Sharon Bezaly (flute), São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Enrique Diemecke (Khachaturian), Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Dima Slobodeniouk (Rautavaara)

When flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal asked Khachaturian to compose a flute concerto, Khachaturian instead suggested that he should transcribe his violin concerto. Rampal did so, reworking the solo part completely. Rautavaara's concerto is written for all four instruments of the family: the normal 'flauto grande', piccolo, alto flute, and bass flute. He also made a revised version in which the bass flute was replaced by the alto flute. Sharon Bezaly here includes both versions.

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Taverner: Missa Mater Christi sanctissima & Western Wynde Mass

Westminster Abbey Choir, James O'Donnell

Two choral masterpieces from sixteenth-century England, by one of the greatest English composers: John Taverner’s Missa Mater Christi sanctissima and Western Wynde Mass. Both works are here given sublime performances by the Westminster Abbey Choir under James O'Donnell.

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George Butterworth: Orchestral Works

James Rutherford (baritone), BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Kriss Russman

George Butterworth started his Orchestral Fantasia just before war broke out in 1914: a 92-bar manuscript is all that survives. Kriss Russman has taken up where the manuscript breaks off, developing Butterworth's ideas and combining them with material derived from his other music. This disc also includes some of Butterworth's best-loved pieces, such as The Banks of Green Willow, and the Rhapsody, A Shropshire Lad.

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Reger: Songs

Sophie Bevan (soprano) & Malcolm Martineau (piano)

The sunset glow of Max Reger’s late Romanticism is perfectly suited to the lustrous soprano voice of Sophie Bevan, here making her Hyperion debut in a programme of thirty-three of his songs. Malcolm Martineau accompanies.

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Corigliano: Symphony No. 1

National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic, David Alan Miller

The works on this disc reflect the richness and variety of the American repertoire. A work of immense poignancy and power, John Corigliano’s Symphony No.1 is a commemoration of friends of the composer who died during the 1980s and 90s. Michael Torke’s Bright Blue Music evokes rich lyricism couched in the composer’s favorite key of D major. The suite from Copland’s Appalachian Spring is one of the quintessentially American works.

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Shchedrin: The Left-Hander (DVD & Blu-Ray)

Andrei Popov, Edward Tsanga, Vladimir Moroz, Kristina Alieva, Maria Maksakova, Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus, Valery Gergiev (conductor)

Specially written for Valery Gergiev's sixtieth birthday, The Left-Hander is a comedy of Russians and Englishmen, new technology, old traditions and strong drink. Based on Nikolai Leskov’s satirical novella of 1881, The Tale of Cross-Eyed Lefty From Tula and the Steel Flea, the work is a gloriously wry exploration of Russia’s relationship with the West in general and England in particular.

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Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (DVD)

Stephen Gould (Tristan), Evelyn Herlitzius (Isolde), Georg Zeppenfelds (König Marke), Iain Paterson (Kurwenal), Raimund Nolte (Melot), Christa Mayer (Brangäne), Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, Christian Thielemann (conductor)

A new production of this immortal tale of love and longing by the composer's great-granddaughter Katharina Wagner. This is the first instalment of an exclusive partnership between Deutsche Grammophon and the Bayreuth Festival, in which the Yellow Label will release productions on DVD and Blu-ray. This production was premiered on 25th July 2015 and marked the high-point of last year’s Festival.

Blu-ray version also available...

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09-Apr-2012 -New and forthcoming Opera DVDs
02-Apr-2012 -Claude Debussy
26-Mar-2012 -Wagner - Klaus Florian Vogt and a new Parsifal
19-Mar-2012 -Haydn from Thomas Fey and the Heidelberger Sinfoniker
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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