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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.

« September 2005 | Main | November 2005 »

October 28, 2005

Trying on the new

If you look at the photos on the web page for today’s program, you’ll see one with Natalie Zhu playing the violin, Bill McGlaughlin at the piano and Hilary Hahn turning pages. It was a moment of fun in the studio, where the three of them decided to try changing roles, but it also says a lot about Hilary and her sense of curiosity. She’s always ready to try new things.

So, speaking of new things…had you heard the Bloch Sonata before?

Posted by Mary Lee at 5:24 PM | Comments (2)


October 21, 2005

Noble Accents

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

My response to the music making of eighth blackbird feels a lot like my affection for them—intense and multilayered—so it’s hard to tease apart just one strand of our Saint Paul Sunday experiences with them here.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about these six is the soundworld they charted for themselves in the first place, now almost a decade ago. It makes perfect sense to me that they took their name from stanzas by Wallace Stevens, a poet who carved realms of new possibility out of the apparently depleted material he’d inherited.

Putting this week’s show together was itself a little like composing, maybe even a little more like choreography. Wherever eighth blackbird goes, it hauls a vast complement of percussion instruments. Once they’re arranged, Matt Duvall stands in the heart of them like a sorcerer in a magic wood, beckoning sounds at the precisely right moments, regardless of the contortions it puts him through. But Matt’s not the only athlete/poet in the bunch—each of the others channels the ensemble's demanding repertoire with physical as well emotional artistry. And for this program’s final work, "Split Horizon," composer David Schober joins Lisa at the piano, occasionally darting behind her to smash a bass drum.

You won’t see this clockwork interaction on the radio, of course, but you’ll hear, among other miracles, the beauty of inflections and the beauty of innuendoes.

Posted by Vaughn Ormseth at 4:22 PM | Comments (8)


October 12, 2005

A rose is a rose, but a cello is not a cello

A flute is a flute. A piano is a piano, right? But this cello is not just any cello. I've never heard a cello like this.

I know that I am greatly simplifying the differences between makers of other instruments, but when Zuill Bailey played his cello, it sounded to me like a different instrument, especially during the Brahms sonata. The instrument has such a dark, full-bodied sound that it seemed to fill up the entire studio. This particular 1693 Goffriller cello has an interesting history behind it, but rest assured the gorgeous sound comes from a lot of hard work by a masterful musician. Working equally hard, and elegantly, Awadagin Pratt is an assertive and nimble pianist. It helps that Zuill and Awadagin are best friends and intuitively aware of each other's every gesture. Does this cello sound different than others to you? How would you describe its tone? Do you hear a difference in Awadagin's musical tone compared to another pianist?

One side note that I can't help but mention: I was walking to the studio with Zuill when we passed another producer in the hallway. The producer literally did a double-take and later told me, "I thought that was Johnny Depp."

Posted by Suzanne Schaffer at 4:17 PM | Comments (6)


October 7, 2005

Beautiful Belcea

We love welcoming old friends to the studio but we also spend a lot of time looking for new artists and ensembles to introduce to you. The New York Times, MPR colleagues, and blogs are all sources for us. I can’t quite remember when I first heard about Belcea, but it was probably the fact that they were named quartet in residence at London’s Wigmore Hall that grabbed my attention.

I’ve only been to Wigmore once in my life, but it lived up to any romantic vision you might have about a great chamber music experience. The location (a beautiful residential section of London) and the building are remarkable, but it’s the hall’s acoustics which have attracted chamber ensembles since its opening in 1901. It’s a place where musicians want to play, and that creates an artistic pulse in a hall that is different than most. Because of this, Wigmore has become synonymous with chamber music…and when a quartet is named in residence there, a good producer makes the call to find out more.

We were lucky that they could find time for a visit to St. Paul on one of their first U.S. tours and they came with much more music than we could fit into an hour so we created a program that allows you to hear a variety of composers and periods. So let us know…when Belcea returns, what would you like to hear?

Posted by Mary Lee at 11:52 AM