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Classical 101

Accordion Performance Not for the Faint of Heart

If your only memory of the accordion comes from Lawrence Welk reruns, there's someone you should check out.

KTU is a three-piece avant-garde fusion combo which showcases the talents of Finland's Kimmo Pohjonen, known in some quarters as the Hendrix of the accordion.

Finnish accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen loves to tell the story of the history of the instrument in his native country.  He and his group KTU (pronounced Kay-too) then proceed to make you forget about Myron Floren. Read Playing Accordion a Risky Business: Kimmo Pohjonen (Limelight) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZJC6F5jvwo

Choral Composer Making Big Noise in Britain

Every year, Britain's Classic FM publishes a list of listener favorites.  Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto is the perennial number one.  If there is music by a living composer on the list, it is usually by Karl Jenkins.  This year, things have changed.

Paul Mealor is a 35-year-old Welsh composer who composed music for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Now, he's being hailed as a "new romanticist of classical music."

He composed a work for charity, sung by The Military Wives Choir, which is now up for a Brit Award. Who is Paul Mealor...and how did the royal couple come to choose his music? Read Royal Wedding and Military Wives Composer Paul Mealor On Being the World’s Most Unlikely Rock Star (Wales Online) Watch The Military Wives Choir sing Wherever You Are http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0hR6O7VxKaQ

...But What DOES a Conductor Do?

I attended a recent concert by the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Osmo Vanska.  Anyone who has seen him conduct knows that he is...well...animated.  The reviewer of that concert spent so much time reviewing the conductor, that the music was almost an afterthought.  According to him, the orchestra played Beethoven's 5th Symphony in spite of the conductor.

I have seen a number of conductors, many of whom are quite animated. I have also seen some who are quite reserved and yet others who seem to not be conducting at all.

What makes a good conductor?  What the heck do they do up there, anyway?  One writer tries to unravel the mystery of The Maestro's Mojo. Read The Maestro's Mojo (NY Times)