Classical 101

Set design by Marcel Jambon for the 1895 production of Verdi's 'Otello' in Paris.
Wikipedia- public domain

Welcome to Opera Abbreviated, your very own series of podcasts designed to give you a pithy sense of the operas being presented by the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD series. A new production of Giuseppe Verdi's Otello is presented live from the Met on October 17.

color image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red suit

Mozart's Prague Symphony is one of his most popular symphonies. And we might have the city of Prague itself to thank for it.

Columbus Symphony Orchestra

It's no secret that the Columbus Symphony Orchestra is excited about what is being called, "the Milanov Era," since Maestro Rossen Milanov has signed a five-year contract with our city's orchestra. To express this excitement, the CSO is opening the season this weekend with some of the most electrifying music in the repertoire; the Carmina Burana and extraordinary local composer Donald Harris's Lyric Fanfare

Avi Avital
© Harald Hoffman / Deutsche Grammophon

Avi Avital is a man on a mission with a mandolin.  He's performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, with stops along the way including the Berlin Philharmonie.  This young man from Israel is redefining the boundaries of the instrument to include Bach, Mozart and more.

Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons has made quite a rapid ascent in his career.  Still in his thirties, he has recently become the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and is the music director-designate of the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig.  He has conducted Wagner at Bayreuth and from 2007 till this year, been the music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in England.  Time to take a breather and look at the view from such lofty heights.

The Metropolitan Opera /

The Metropolitan's Opera's live in HD season gets underway this weekend with Giuseppe Verdi's Il trovatore. Opera Abbreviated will be your well-intended-- if cheeky-- guide to the operas on offer by the Met.

Unmute Episode 2: Music from Child of Light and Journey

Sep 30, 2015
Public domain

On this week’s episode of our series on video game music, we’ll listen to the music of two beautifully-crafted games – Child of Light and Journey.

Pope Francis (left) and Ari Schwartz is Cantor at New York's Park Avenue Synagogue.
Wikipedia / Central Synagogue

Pope Francis participated in an interfaith service at Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center in New York.

Nicola Hall's Virtuoso album cover

British guitarist Nicola Hall made only a few recordings in the 1990s before a tendonitis-type hand injury forced her to abandon her career as a top-notch classical guitarist.  What a shame.  She's really good.  

From what I understand, she studied with Segovia and John Williams.  I've played selections from her albums in the past on Fretworks, and it's time for another reminder of her fine artistry.

Violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt (right) and cellist Camden Shaw of the Dover Quartet playing their instruments.
Nick Houser / WOSU

Earlier today, the award-winning Dover Quartet - hailed by The New Yorker as "the young American string quartet of the moment" - joined me for a live performance and interview on Classical 101. 

In case you missed it, here's some of what the Dovers had to say and play this morning - including a special musical treat exclusively for Classical 101 listeners.

Stephan Cohen /

Fifty years working in any profession is quite a long time, but fifty years setting the standard for piano performance is just incredible. Pianist, author and artist Misha Dichter turns 70 this Sunday. 

color image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat

Like many young adults seeking independence, the twenty-something Mozart searched high and low for a plum gig. His journey for a job took him all around Europe, and he effectively took a portfolio of his work with him, performing (from memory) a piano sonata here, a violin concerto there to get his work "out there."

Among the works Mozart took with him on the road were his first six piano sonatas (K. 279-284), which racked up as many miles and almost as much air time as their creator did.

Otello performance at The Metropolitan Opera.
Ken Howard / Met Opera

The Metropolitan Opera opened earlier this week with a new production of what is arguably the greatest Italian opera, Giuseppe Verdi's Otello. 

The opera is based on Shakespeare's play, Othello the Moor of Venice. The bard's text was the basis for Arrigo Boito's Italian libretto, which condenses Shakespeare's plot has been called the greater achievement in literary circles. I'm not getting into that argument.

color photograph of a group of singers performing a scene of Porgy adn Bess
Princeton Festival / Creative Commons/Flickr

Eighty years ago, on Sept. 26, 1935, something happened on Broadway that had never happened before. 

Under the direction of composer George Gershwin and stage director Rouben Mamoulian, an all-black cast premiered a folk opera portraying the lives and times of a South Carolina Gullah community in music that blended jazz and other popular music idioms with classical music.

The work, Porgy and Bess, ​left people tapping their toes to some of the most ear-catching tunes ever penned. This week on The American Sound we'll enjoy some of Gershwin's timeless hits - along with some little-heard moments only recently recorded and reflections by Columbus-based Porgy and Bess expert David Weaver - in a program that celebrates the 80th anniversary of the premiere of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess6 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Tuesday on Classical 101.​

Russian pianist Denis Matsuev won the 11th International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1998.  As one of Russia's leading pianists, he can be heard in a recent recording of Tchaikovsky's First and Second piano concertos with the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev conducting, surely a great combination.

color photo of the Dover Quartet with their instruments
publicity photo

The New Yorker has called the Dover Quartet "the young American string quartet of the moment." You'll have a chance to hear why when the Dover Quartet joins me live on Classical 101 Friday at  11 a.m.

The quartet will talk about their work as one of the most-watched new quartets on the international scene today. They'll also perform a preview of their upcoming concert on the chamber Music Columbus series.

Cheri Mitchell

Cheri Mitchell had a lot going for her. She'd been embedded in Columbus's arts community for over 20 years. She ran CATCO and she ran Ballet Met. She was smart as hell. She was a warm and generous person. She was gorgeous.

Unmute Episode 1: The Music of Fallout 3

Sep 23, 2015
Mildred Pierce, CC

Think video games are just for teenage boys? Think again – video games are a massive industry that are producing a huge variety of incredible music that we’ll explore throughout this five-part series.

Wikipedia images

The Fantasia para un gentilhombre ("Fantasy for a Gentleman") from 1954, was the concerto Andres Segovia did get from Joaquin Rodrigo as a way to make amends.  Segovia, who was already the most famous guitarist around, was reportedly upset that he did not get to premier the earlier Concierto de Aranjuez.  Instead, Regino de la Maza first performed that piece in 1940.  It immediately brought Rodrigo to the attention of the public, and it remains his most popular and often performed work.

image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat

As the saying goes, it takes one to know one. Mozart knew all kinds of characters, on and off the opera stage. He also knew good drama when he saw it, which, given the drama that is life, was pretty much every day.

So it's not surprising that, when a little scene transpired while Mozart was strolling about one day in 1783 with his wife, Constanze, and a friend, Mozart would rip the action from the pages of reality, pluck the people involved out of real life and transport all of it to the page and to the stage.

Opera Columbus / Opera Columbus Facebook page

The fatal attraction between a sorceress and a Christian Crusader in Lully's opera Armide is the very definition of angst. For a work written in 1686, Armide was also way ahead of its time since it features a plot driven by the continuous character development of a female anti-hero. Who better to portray a woman of such dynamic power than Opera Columbus's own Artistic Director, Peggy Kriha DyePlus, it seems she has some tricks up her sleeve off-stage, as well.

CBCManitobaScene's channel /

The "Rach 3" as it's sometimes called, strikes fear into the heart of lesser pianists--but not Stewart Goodyear, who will be heard as the soloist in a new recording on the next Symphony @ 7 on Classical 101.  His elegant and polished reading belies the thorny technical difficulties of this famously challenging work.

Pablo Villegas
Courtesy of the artist

Classical guitarist Pablo Villegas has been called the "natural heir" to Andres Segovia, the great Spanish guitarist of the 20th century who became the best-known ambassador for the guitar as a serious concert instrument.  


Arvo Pärt is probably best described as a touchstone composer of the 20th Century. His work has shaped a branch of minimalist composition both for composers and dedicated listeners. 

image of a portrait in which Mozart wears a bright red coat

It's a scene fit for the opera stage: The curtain rises. The emperor sits on his throne while three young composers clutching scrolls of parchment inked with music notes take turns singing arias extolling the beauty, the drama – in short, the virtue of their new operas. The men volley recitatives. The emperor declares a victor. A chorus of his courtiers sings a final hymn to art. The curtain falls.

When this scene (or something like it) went down in Mozart's day, the powers-that-be were the Holy Roman Emperor. And the composers included two court favorites and a relative outsider who happened to be one of the greatest musical geniuses the world has ever known.

Carl Van Vechten / Wikipedia, public domain

President Obama has presented the National Medal of the Arts to ten organizations and individuals who are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence,  growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States.

Huntington Park
ColumbusCameraOp / Flickr Creative Commons

What do Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and every baseball game ever played have in common?

The quest for self.

It's a common question at cocktail parties and cookouts.  "So what do you do?"  It's a great ice breaker and can open up some great conversations.  I've always found being in the radio business makes for some great questions about how an airshift works, ("what do you do while the music's playing?"), and some odd requests, ("say something in your radio voice.")  Hmmm...I thought I just did.

The cool kids are coming home to Columbus from Brooklyn and Seattle these days, and the members of the art-rock band/new music ensemble/avant-garde trio, Tigue are on their way this week.

The next Fretworks for Labor Day weekend and the second week of September will begin with a rousing rendition of George Gershwin's Three Preludes for Piano arranged for four mandolins and performed by the Modern Mandolin Quartet.