Stephen Hough: Foot Fetish?

You might wonder, after reading recent blog posts by this superb English pianist currently performing in Minneapolis.

Last week, he featured the fashion-forward feet of friend and former Juilliard colleague Bob Neu, now VP of the Minnesota Orchestra:

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A few days later, Hough featured his own feet — au naturel, this time — at a local Nicollette Avenue pedicurist:

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Be sure to tune in for Hough’s live broadcast this Friday night at 8p on Classical MPR!

You can't please 'em all

I was subbing for Steve the other day on Friday Favorites. I love hosting that show because it’s always interesting hearing what you like (and what you don’t like!) and what you want to hear more of.

One gal wrote a long missive begging us (with lots of explanation points and all-caps) not to play “On the Trail” from Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite” but to PLEASE play one of the other movements. “Help me get that donkey song out of my head!!!!” she wrote.

Another listener asked us to play a very long piece by John Adams that he heard for the first time as a teenager and ever since has been a new music afficionado. Needless-to-say e-mails poured in from those not quite as eager to hear 20 minutes of Adams.

So I laughed when I read this in the Times this morning about other displeased audiences.

St. Paul est tres francais, n'est pas?

Airline prices might be dropping, but I can’t just take the weekend off to fly to Paris. So I’ll do the next best thing: don my beret and head over to Saint Paul’s Church of the Nativity for a series of French concerts on their French organ.

The series might more accurately be called a “marathon” – it takes a whole month to present all ten of Charles Marie Widor’s Organ Symphonies played on an organ that sounds pretty much like the organ Widor wrote these pieces on and for at St. Sulpice in Paris.

Nativity’s Casavant-Freres organ is actually French-Canadian. 2,882 pipes in 52 ranks were installed a couple of years ago and I think every pipe is put to work in the marathon beginning Sunday.

This is the kind of music you feel in your solar plexus. The walls will vibrate and your teeth will rattle – it’s sensational stuff!

more info here

Four More Years! (For Osmo, That is)

Many people will be very happy to hear that Osmo Vanska has renewed his contract with the Minnesota Orchestra.

I can remember being strongly encouraged by a friend, years ago, to come to Orchestra Hall to hear Vanska’s work in a memorable concert with Joshua Bell as the soloist. At that point, Vanska was a guest, not yet music director. But there was a rapport that was hard to miss–which will now be continuing through the 2014-15 season. (That seems like five more years–though it’s actually a four-year extension to the agreement already in place.)

Do you have favorite moments from Osmo’s concerts or recordings? Future projects you’d like to see conductor and orchestra undertake?

Wilma Cozart Fine: She put Minneapolis on the classical map — with a bang!

Wilma Cozart Fine died Monday at age 82.

You may not know her name, but you probably have been touched by her work. She was a record producer for Mercury Living Presence in the 1950’s and early 60’s. Mercury Living Presence recordings gained a cult following among audiophiles, and popular success among music lovers for their great artists and spectacular impeccable production.

The group that became the most famous was the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra and conductor Antal DorĂ¡ti. They scored a Gold Record hit with their 1958 recording of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” a hi-fi extravaganza that included historic canons from West Point, giant bells at Riverside Church, and extra brass from the U of MN Band. Remember the cover art?

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Wilma Cozart Fine started her career as Antal Dorati’s personal secretary. She became vice president of Mercury Records in 1954. She came out of retirement in the 1990’s to produce again, this time to satisfy fans who were clamoring for CD re-issues of the Mercury Living Presence LP’s.

Boos at Met Opera's Opening Night

A preview piece in yesterday’s New York Times predicted that “the Tosca that makes its debut tonight at the Metropolitan Opera is bound to annoy a least a few opera patrons.” That proved to be an understatement.

The crowd was enthusiastic about soprano Karita Mattila in the title role, and had great applause for James Levine and the orchestra. But when Swiss stage director Luc Bondy and his production team came out to take their bows, the booing from the audience was so vehement that the management brought down the curtain.

Bondy’s production replaced a traditional and much-beloved Franco Zeffirelli production that had been in the Met’s repertory since 1985.

Read more about the new production and the audience’s reaction to it here.

Read Mr. Zeffirelli’s rather catty remarks about Mr. Bondy and his work here (registration required).

Dancin' with the Opera Stars

A recent New York Times profile calls her “Opera’s Coolest Soprano.”

While I’m always a little suspicious of the press-agency hype lurking behind such epithets, Danielle de Niese certainly is a performer of charisma and pedigree. She just released a new Mozart CD, and this summer found her back at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, where in 2005 she showed off not only her ability to fearlessly tackle Handel’s soprano fireworks, but also to do so while showing off her considerable Terpsichorean skills. The New York Times profile mentions that she travels with 20-30 pairs of shoes. Presumably some of those are dancing shoes. Check out the moves: