The real heroes of Wagner's Ring. Check out this Wall Street Journal article about the unusual brass instruments called for, in some cases even invented for, Richard Wagner's mighty operatic tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen. You can hear them when WFCR's complete broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's Ring, stretched over six weeks, begins Saturday at 1:00 with Das Rheingold. As Wotan, Fricka and the gang make their way to their new home at the end of Rheingold , those are the Wagner tubas accompanying them in the music known as the "Entry of the Gods into Valhalla." We'll offer a kind of Cook's tour of the Ring, with the late Sir Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic playing orchestral highlights from each of the four operas, Friday morning at about 11:30.
Do we really need another recording of Beethoven's Sonatas? Sometimes. In his celebrated 1968 article "The Music of the Beatles," published in The New York Review of Books , American composer and writer Ned Rorem opens with this acidic assessment of the concert scene of the day:
I never go to classical concerts any more and I don't know anyone who does. It's hard still to care whether some virtuoso tonight will perform the Moonlight Sonata a bit better or a bit worse than another virtuoso performed it last night.
Talk about "the more things change, the more they stay they same!" Still, even in a glut of Beethoven Sonata recordings, it's possible for a new one to stand out, even one devoted to the three best-known of Beethoven's 32 Sonatas, the "Pathétique," the "Moonlight" and the "Appassionata." Mind you, I wouldn't claim that 30-year old Chinese pianist Yundi, on his new Deutsche Grammophon album of these three Sonatas, makes the earth move with any stunning interpretive insights. But he brings much more sheer pianistic firepower to these warhorses than is the norm, and renders them with terrific clarity, sonority and excitement. He sure got this jaded old Beethoven Sonata fan to take notice! See if you agree when Walter Carroll broadcasts Yundi's version of the "Pathétique" Friday afternoon at about 2:00 on WFCR.
Bravo, PVS! Congratulations to the Greenfield, Mass.-based Pioneer Valley Symphony for an impressive and important new venture — a youth orchestra, run in collaboration with Greenfield Public Schools and Artspace Community Arts Center. With all the laments one hears (and utters) about the dearth of musical opportunities in the school, and the lack of interest in classical music among young people, it's heartening to see a group of organizations coming together to do something about it. I wish them great success, and will be proud to be on hand when the PVS and the other worthy recipients receive the 2013 Arts and Humanities Awards from New England Public Radio at the Log Cabin, Holyoke on May 7. Please join us.