Anniversaries: Dmitri Shostakovich Born 110 Years Ago

Many consider Dmitri Shostakovich the greatest composer of the 20th century. Born September 25, 1906, he might not have lived past his teens if he hadn't been talented. During the famines of the Revolutionary period in Russia, Alexander Glazunov, director of the Petrograd (later Leningrad) Conservatory, arranged for the poor and malnourished Shostakovich's food ration to be increased. Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1, his graduation exercise for Maximilian Steinberg's composition course at the Conservatory, was completed in 1925 at age 19 and was an immediate success worldwide. He was The Party's poster boy; his Second and Third Symphonies unabashedly subtitled, respectively, "To October". (celebrating the Revolution) and "The First of May". (International Workers' Day).

His highly emotional harmonic language is simultaneously tough yet communicative, but his expansion of Mahlerian symphonic structure, dissonances, sardonic irony, and dark moods eventually clashed with the conservative edicts of Communist Party officials. In 1936 he was viciously denounced by Pravda
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A Comparative Listening Survey of Dvořák's Ninth Symphony, Part I

Dvořák (1841-1904), from Bohemia (at the time, part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and later in Czechoslovakia) peppered his colorful, amiable music with folk rhythms. The Ninth, subtitled "From the New World" and inspired by and written during his time in the United States, is Dvořák’s most beloved symphony and contains both Bohemian and American influences. Prompted by the current exhibit of the work's original manuscript in New York City at the Bohemian National Hall, I have followed up my review of Jiří Bĕlohlávek's new Dvořák symphony cycle box set on Decca and his concert with the Czech Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall with a trawl through my collection of "New World" recordings, selectively augmented by streaming recordings available on

There is much debate concerning the materials of the Ninth. The composer himself said that its middle movements were intended to depict scenes from Longfellow's narrative poem The Song of Hiawatha,
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Anniversaries: The Rite of Spring Premiered 100 Years Ago

The thing about Pierre Monteux's May 29, 1913 premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), by Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris for Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, is that it's not just the anniversary of the first time a famous piece was played in public. It's the anniversary of the most famous scandal in music history (and ballet history).

The audience was so violently divided in their opinions of the performance that there was an actual riot; there are widely disparate accounts of the evening, and some say the police removed some audience members, so contentious did things become. The orchestra was bombarded with projectiles, and the audience's vocal disapproval (combined with Rite supporters' vocal disapproval of the anti-Rite faction's demonstrations) drowned out the music often enough that the choreographer, Vaslav Nijinsky, had to spend much of the performance standing in the wings shouting directions to the dancers,
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What I'm thinking about ... conducting Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick ditched the original score for 2001: A Space Odyssey – and replaced it with Ligeti and Strauss. Robert Ziegler reflects on the challenges of conducting live with the film

It is hot and busy in this corner of Australia called Adelaide. The festival atmosphere is town is buoying us all up through long days and late nights, here in the 30+ degrees heat – for me a welcome change from a miserable March in the UK.

I was last here in 2000, to conduct a pair of concerts for the then artistic director (and all round Australian arts heroine) Robyn Archer. Then, it was a series on the east German composer and Brecht collaborator Hanns Eisler, performed with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Adelaide Chamber Singers. These two ensembles are back again this year, to perform in a special project that originated at London's South Bank: 2001 A Space Odyssey – Live.

Live film
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All Of Verdi In One Big Box

Verdi: The Complete Works (75-cd boxed set) Decca.

From the ever-popular "Aida" to the obscure "Alzira," all 28 of Giuseppe Verdi's operas have been repackaged in a boxed set to commemorate the great Italian composer's 200th birthday – along with his other compositions: the "Requiem," songs, choral works, even a string quartet and capriccio for bassoon and orchestra.

This exhaustive collection of 75 CDs comes from Decca, which has drawn on the catalogs of Philips, Deutsche Grammophon and Emi. The suggested retail price of $200 makes it a bargain at less than $3 per CD.

The great conductors of the 1960s, `70s and `80s are represented, from Herbert von Karajan to James Levine, from Georg Solti to Riccardo Muti. The casts are mostly exemplary, with generous contributions from the "three tenors" – Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras (seven operas each) and Luciano Pavarotti (three). The soprano lineup includes Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballe and Katia Ricciarelli.
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Anniversaries: Claude Debussy Born 150 Years Ago

Born August 22, 1862 in St.-Germaine-en-Laye, France, Claude-Achille Debussy was a child prodigy pianist who was admitted to the Paris Conservatory at age 10. Now generally considered to have been the greatest French composer, Debussy is proof that great art can come from terrible human beings. He was supremely self-centered and selfish. Two women -- one his wife -- attempted to kill themselves after he ended his relationships with them in cruelly casual fashion; his behavior was so beyond acceptable norms, even by bohemian French standards, that many of his friends turned their backs on him. In the midst of his greatest personal controversy, when he'd left his wife for a married woman and moved with the latter to England for awhile after to escape the constant recriminations, he wrote his biggest masterpiece, La Mer.

But, of course, there's nothing the French enjoy more than a controversy. Debussy's music was controversial as well.
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Anniversaries: Mahler's Ninth Symphony Premiered 100 Years Ago

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 9 Vienna Philharmonic/Bruno Walter (Emi Classics)

Written after Gustav Mahler had been diagnosed with a life-threatening heart disease, his Ninth Symphony -- the last the composer completed-- has been widely interpreted as reflecting that knowledge, but of course there are many reactions produced by the prospect of death. The lengthy first movement is a meditation on the mysteries, terrors, and -- yes -- consolations of death. Leonard Bernstein, who never shied away from romanticizing biographical details, proclaimed the asymmetrical rhythms at the beginning to be a portrayal of the composer's irregular heartbeat.

The cries of the muted brass are poignant, a bit afraid, but somewhat assuaged by the occasional reappearance of a beautiful melody that seems to promise relief from earthly cares. But the nervous twitterings of the winds, and the lengthy sections of quiet foreboding, display an overriding unease. The dances of the second
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Henri-Georges Clouzot

  • MUBI
Clouzot and Romy Schneider on the set of L'Enfer

"Watching a film by the French master Henri-Georges Clouzot, you often feel as if the walls were closing in on you — even when there are no walls," writes Terrence Rafferty in the New York Times. "The Wages of Fear (1953), the movie that opens the Museum of Modern Art's Clouzot retrospective [today], takes place almost entirely out of doors, yet it's as claustrophobic as a stretch in solitary confinement…. It is perhaps fortunate, for the sanity of his viewers, that he managed to complete only 11 features between 1942, when his deceptively light-hearted L'Assassin Habite au 21 (The Murderer Lives at No. 21) was released, and 1968, when his last movie, La Prisonnière, came out.... All 11 will be screened before the series ends on Dec 24, along with odds and ends like a couple of early-40s pictures for which he supplied screenplays and a 2010 documentary, Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno,
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Anniversaries: Anton Bruckner Died 105 Years Ago

Despite circumstances that would make most men bitter, Anton Bruckner (Sept. 24, 1824 – Oct. 11, 1896) in his mature symphonies and choral works wrote some of the most spiritual music since Bach's. Insecure, he spent his thirties studying with the dictatorial music professor Simon Sechter, who had briefly taught Franz Schubert. Brucker didn't compose a symphony until 1863, the "Study" Symphony, which he withheld (as he did the later so-called No. 0).

In Vienna, Bruckner was considered by many to be a naïve country bumpkin; he got unfairly entangled in the bitter Brahms-Wagner debates that split the city. Bruckner's symphonies were thus the object of myopic criticism from some in the Brahms camp, including powerful critic Eduard Hanslick (however, Wagner, Liszt, and Emperor Franz Joseph I were among those who praised or supported Bruckner). The unprecedented length of Bruckner's symphonies, which develop in slow-moving monoliths of sound, was an impediment for some listeners. Bruckner, an excellent organist,
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HeyUGuys IMDb250 Project – Week 38

  • HeyUGuys
The IMDb250. A list of the top 250 films as ranked by the users of the biggest Internet movie site on the web. It is based upon the ratings provided by the users of the Internet Movie Database, which number into the millions. As such, it’s a perfect representation of the opinions of the movie masses, and arguably the most comprehensive ranking system on the Internet.

It’s because of this that we at HeyUGuys (and in this case we is myself and Barry) have decided to set ourselves a project. To watch and review all 250 movies on the list. We’ve frozen the list as of January 1st of this year. It’s not as simple as it sounds, we are watching them all in one year, 125 each.

This is our 38th update, my next five films watched for the project. You can find all our previous week’s updates here.
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