VAN Beethoven hits the road Friday

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The Los Angeles Philharmonic VAN Beethoven truck will tour Los Angeles, Sept. 11 – Oct. 18, 2015, offering five minutes of Beethoven Fifth in immersive, 360-degrees. Visitors will be welcomed aboard the customized VAN Beethoventruck, complete with carpet and seating from Walt Disney Concert Hall, where they’ll put on the Oculus headset and be transported to the iconic venue. The immersive visual private experience is augmented by a soundtrack that adapts to the viewer’s perspective; whether the viewer is in front of the orchestra, behind or standing amidst the symphony, the music will subtly shift to reflect listener-specific positions and enhance the feeling of being up-close-and-personal with the renowned orchestra.

VAN Beethoven will visit diverse communities throughout Los Angeles, including parks, cultural festivals, museums, and more, providing access to audiences that otherwise may not be able to attend.

Read more here.

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All images courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Panel Discussion: Leonard Bernstein’s Mass

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Join Daniel Gilliam as he moderates a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Interfaith Relations and the Louisville Orchestra on Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” and its spiritual implications. Panelists will include Louisville Orchestra Music Director Teddy Abrams, Cantor David Lipp from Adath Jeshurun and Father David Sanchez of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Butchertown.

September 17, 2015 at 5:30pm at the Mary Anderson Room, Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. This event is at capacity.
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Summer Listening: Tchaikovsky Continued

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Here is the entire Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture featured on this morning’s Summer Listening. Enjoy!

An unusual viol

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The baryton is part of the viol family, but with a difference. Played between the legs like a cello, it has two sets of strings. The gut strings are strung like a normal cello, above the neck. But a second set of steel strings are behind and to the right of the neck. This allows the player to pluck them with the left hand’s thumb. The strings can be plucked to create a bass line with the melody, or they can be left alone to reverberate harmonically with the other strings.

The earliest barytons come from around the 1620’s but it was never a popular instrument. It is documented that the baryton was admired by King James. Walter Rowe was one of the first baryton players to be written about. Originally from England, Rowe ended up as the chief musician for the Marquis of Brandenburg. The fact that Rowe was from England had made many historians wonder if the Baryton was originally an English instrument.

The instrument’s popularity peaked in the 1700’s because of one man. Prince Nicholas Esterhazy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire played the unusual instrument. And in the Esterhazy’s employ as kapellmeister was Joseph Haydn. The prince reprimanded Haydn in 1765 for not composing enough for his employer’s favorite instrument. Haydn’s baryton composition output greatly increased to the point where he wrote almost 200 works for the prince.

The baryton quickly fell out of favor by the end of the 1700’s. It doesn’t appear that Johann Nepomuk Hummel, who replaced Haydn as Kapellmeister at the Esterhazy palace, composed music for the prince’s instrument. This may be part of the reason Hummel was ultimately dismissed from his post.

The baryton experienced a revival in the 1960’s due to the “historically-informed” performances that began to emerge. John Hsu was a major proponent of the baryton and brought Haydn’s unusual trios back into the limelight.

Enjoy this performance by Baryton Trio Valkkoog of the Trio No. 97 by Haydn. Notice when the baryton performer plucks the back strings with his thumb at about the half-way through the composition and at the end.

New Schubert Recording

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Violinist Tasmin Little and pianist Piers Lane have performed and recorded together for many years. They continue their fruitful musical partnership with a new 2-CD release featuring the chamber works by Franz Schubert.

British-born Tasmin Little has been on the international stage for two decades and stays very busy. Beside this 2-CD Schubert set, her most recent releases for Chandos include a disc of British orchestral works including Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, Moeran’s Violin Concerto and pieces by Delius, Elgar and Holst with the BBC Philharmonic and Sir Andrew Davis, a British Violin Sonatas disc of works by Ferguson, Britten and Walton with Piers Lane, a French Violin Sonatas disc of sonatas by Lekeu, Ravel and Fauré with Martin Roscoe.

Australian-born pianist Piers Lane has an active solo career along with long-standing partnerships with Little, clarinetist Michael Collins and the Goldner String Quartet. He has created original programming for BBC Radio 3, including a popular series called “The Piano.”

Schubert wrote a great deal of chamber works because he was able to get them performed (Many of his orchestral works remained unplayed during his short lifetime). The 3 sonatas, Op. 137, or “sonatinas” as they were called when published, were written in the spring of 1816. The Rondeau brilliant and Fantasie were written during the last year of Schubert’s life. The two works were written for the young Czech violinist, Josef Slavik, who was described by Chopin as a second Paganini.

By the time Schubert’s sonata for piano and arpeggione was published, the instrument it was written for was long forgotten. The arpeggione is a fretted instrument with six strings tuned exactly like a classical guitar and held vertically between the knees. Contemporary performances are usually played with guitar, cello or other lower-stringed instruments.

The 2-CD set from Chandos recordings consist of the 4 sonatas for violin and piano, the sonata for piano and arpeggione (played with cello by Tim Hughes), the Rondeau brillant, Op.70, The Fantasie, Op. 159 and the Adagio for piano, violin and cello.

Watch a performance with an actual arpeggione.