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Mixed Company®

Mixed Company is written by Saint Paul Sunday staff, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the show and the classical music they love. We welcome your online comments.

« June 2005 | Main | August 2005 »

July 26, 2005

French surprise

When I think back to our session with Jean-Yves, I always come up with the words "surprise and delight." We were all a little nervous about welcoming him to the studio and worked hard with Jean-Yves' manager to make sure the session details were correct: The piano was in great shape; we had his favorite food on-hand, etc. But when he arrived, it was really like the sun coming out from a cloud. He is such a happy man; I swear his eyes truly twinkle (and his accent is so charming).

Something else that twinkled was his remarkable array of jewelry that somehow seemed entirely appropriate to his personality. He takes it all off to play, of course, and we were more than a little astounded to see it all sitting in a little mound on the table right next to the coffee and sandwiches!

You'll hear in the program that he was quite relaxed during our session and felt entirely at ease. There is always some controversy when classical musicians play jazz and Jean-Yves' work is no exception. But you have to respect the sincerity and commitment he brings to this music. Tell us what you think….do classical musicians have to stick to the classical catalog?

Posted by Mary Lee at 1:19 PM | Comments (23)


July 20, 2005

E Pluribus Unum

The ensembles that captivate me most quickly are usually those whose playing, in one way or another, reflects diverse artistic and life experiences.
In the case of the Johannes Quartet, its members’ varied musical lives hum along at an exceptionally high level—the group brings together the first American to win the Paganini Violin Competition in 24 years, a co-concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony, an associate principal of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Each of these notable players holds unique wells of insight and experience…But what’s most thrilling, as you’ll hear in this program, is how they’ve combined those respective backgrounds into a single whole, one that yields a very different kind of artistry than either solo or orchestral performance.
This comes across right away in both works the Johannes plays here. Their Haydn is brilliantly crisp and witty. The quicksilver pace they’ve mastered in its fast movements takes my breath away. And when they draw us into a very different soundworld—Alban Berg’s Opus 3 quartet—they’re equally up to the challenge, communicating all that work’s lushness and subconscious force. “It’s music that gets under your skin,” says Bill McGlaughlin. It sure got under mine. Yours too?

Posted by Vaughn Ormseth at 4:57 PM | Comments (4)


July 13, 2005

Fresh Ears

Unfortunately, I often need reminding that music does not follow a linear path of evolution. After developing "structures" and "rules," music of the 21st Century is not necessarily more experimental than music of, say, the 17th Century. Baroque violinist Andrew Manze and harpsichordist Richard Egarr are the perfect reminder for me this week on Saint Paul Sunday.

They begin their program with a sonata by Handel and a toccata by Bach, two composers whom everyone else copied for compositional style and structure. Then they turn to a little known composer named Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi. In the two pieces by Pandolfi that Manze and Egarr play, each musician has a turn at improvising. There are also moments of suspense—when one musician holds a note for what seems like an eternity while I squirm trying to figure out how the harmony will resolve. It's amazing how, with an open mind and a fresh set of ears, old music can sound new, experimental and daring.

Posted by Suzanne Schaffer at 9:55 AM | Comments (6)


July 6, 2005

Mixing it up

You'd think that after a while being a professional musician could make you jaded: another night, another Beethoven’s 5th. Of course that’s not true, but I’ve found that the most interesting musicians like to mix it up a bit and chamber music offers the perfect vehicle for that. One week it’s a Beethoven trio, the next it’s a quintet with a whole new ensemble. These four musicians have encountered each other in various ensembles along the way and decided it was too much fun playing together not to do it more often. As a result they bring a sense of fun and adventure to the studio that only long-time friends can risk.
OPUS ONE is a staff favorite and they are always on our “yes, of course” list when booking comes up for many reasons: they play with a fierce abandon that produces firework…or tears; they tell the best jokes of any visiting musicians and they believe that there is always more to discover about even the most familiar composers.
Pay particular attention to their performance of the Brahms quartet…and let us know what you think!

Posted by Mary Lee at 3:15 PM | Comments (4)