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Virtuosity

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By STEVE EVANGELOU | November 18, 1994
Oakland, California. -- When virtual reality first loomed a few years back, someone must have ordered an extra-large bandwagon.Venture capitalists, Defense Department spooks, computer columnists and dweebs of all description came crawling out of their dark sanctuaries, salivating over the opportunity to make a lot of money, stay ahead of the Russians, fill column space or play with really cool technology. (I won't mention lawyers, though of course they were crawling around, too.) Conversations like the following ensued:Dweep to dweeb: ''It's way cool -- it's like your hand is in this big cyberspace, and when you move your hand you can actually see your hand moving!
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FEATURES
By Tim Smith and Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC | November 19, 2003
Maybe there really isn't such a thing as a perfect performance, but I think I heard the closest thing to it when the Berlin Philharmonic paid a visit to the Kennedy Center Monday night. As a demonstration of collective virtuosity - the whole orchestra can turn on a pfennig - the concert would be hard to surpass. As a demonstration of intensely committed music-making, it will be hard to forget. There are good reasons why this Berlin band ranks in the highest echelon of the world's orchestral institutions, and it sure was fun being reminded of them: supple, finely honed string tone; brilliantly controlled brass and woodwinds; spectacular responsiveness to the tiniest of technical details.
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FEATURES
By Stephen Wigler and Stephen Wigler,Music Critic | November 5, 1992
Kraushaar Auditorium is usually pretty well filled for the concerts of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. Last night it was absolutely packed.The reason was the evening's soloist -- pianist Leon Fleisher, who played Prokofiev's Concerto for the Left Hand with the BCO and its music director, Anne Harrigan. Ever since the mysterious affliction that deprived him of the use of his right hand in piano performance, the Prokofiev has been (along with the Ravel) one of the mainstays of his concerto repertory.
FEATURES
By Tim Smith and Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC | January 22, 2003
Virtuosos are a dollar a dozen these days; true musical artists remain as rare as ever. Put violinist Vadim Repin in the latter category. He epitomizes the marriage of virtuosity and artistry, as he reaffirmed in a recital Sunday afternoon for the Shriver Hall Concert Series. Barely into his 30s, the Siberian-born fiddler possesses a disarming command of the instrument. Consistency of pitch and precision of articulation can be taken for granted, whatever the speed or dynamic level. From the wispy slithering up and down the scale that haunts Prokofiev's F minor Sonata to the full-force, hyper-animation of Ravel's Tzigane, everything was perfectly under control here.
FEATURES
By J. D. Considine and J. D. Considine,SUN MUSIC CRITIC | December 9, 1999
Too often, virtuosity is presented as an end in itself. For audiences overaccustomed to spectacle, such aesthetic athleticism takes on an element of arena competition, as fans hope for ever faster, brasher and more dazzling displays of instrumental ability, even if it comes at the expense of the music.Thank goodness, there are still players like Evgeny Kissin.At 28, Kissin is perhaps the most gifted pianist playing. Speed, tone, agility, power -- he has it all. But, as he demonstrated at the Meyerhoff last night, his greatest gift is the ability to see a composition clearly and convey that vision to the audience.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Stephen Hunter and Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic | November 22, 1991
By the time you read this you will already know that the new Disney film "Beauty and the Beast" is quite good; what remains is only this question: how good?And here's the answer: very good.This is certainly Disney's best animated feature since "Peter Pan" in the mid-'50s, but it will actually put most animation buffs in mind of the classic "high" Disney period of the late '30s with its rich and voluptuous imagery, its almost medieval palette and its aggressive use of the multiplane camera, which takes us into the depth of the compositions and gives the figures a sense of life and weight.
FEATURES
By Stephen Wigler and Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC | June 8, 1998
The yin and yang of musical interpretation can be described as the oppositions of classical to romantic, exaggeration to sobriety, mere entertainment to nobility of purpose and pure virtuosity to musical meaning.Certain performers have to exult in external display, demonstrating to audiences the unusual gifts they were born with. Others have to subjugate their external skills to what they conceive as the composition's core meaning, selflessly dedicating themselves to artistic ideals in the service of music.
FEATURES
By Stephen Wigler and Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC | July 25, 1996
COLLEGE PARK -- In his excellent piano recital Tuesday night in Tawes Theatre, one did not have to know that Jean-Yves Thibaudet was an opera lover to guess the truth. One could tell it from the imagination and obvious affection with which he performed three of Liszt's operatic transcriptions and fantasies, which concluded the all-Liszt second half of his concert.The young French pianist played "O Du Mein Holder Abendstern" from Wagner's "Tannhauser" with beauty and simplicity that not only honored the fact that this was a transcription, rather than a full-blown fantasy, but also managed to suggest the human voice.
FEATURES
By Stephen Wigler and Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC | October 20, 1998
Violinist Gil Shaham gave a spectacular account of his abilities Sunday evening in the first concert of the Shriver Hall series.Spectacular is certainly the word that best applies to the closing piece on the printed program and to the encore that immediately followed it.The first of these was a Fantasy on themes from "Carmen." There are several violinistic tours de force based on the Bizet opera, most famously those by Pablo Sarasate, which was written for himself, and by Franz Waxman, which was written for Heifetz.
FEATURES
By Stephen Wigler and Stephen Wigler,Music Critic | November 21, 1992
Anyone who cares about violin playing is herein informed of a moral imperative to visit Meyerhoff Hall tonight or tomorrow afternoon. If he hears anything like what this listener heard last night, he will hear Maxim Vengerov give the kind of performance of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto that did not seem possible anymore.Since the rise to stardom of Isaac Stern and the advent of his two prize protegees, Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman, it has seemed that every violinist who plays in a large hall believes that he has to scrape and abuse his instrument in order to make an impression.
FEATURES
By Tim Smith and Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC | October 29, 2002
Vying for this year's What-A-Trouper Award is Pieter Wispelwey. The Dutch cellist played his recital Sunday night at Shriver Hall mere minutes after alighting from a limo that had just brought him through heavy traffic from Dulles Airport, where his flight from Europe came in three hours late. The audience sat patiently in the theater for about 30 minutes past the original starting time, awaiting bulletins: He's on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway! ... He's on MLK Boulevard! On second thought, maybe Wispelwey should get the Don't-Let-This-Happen-To-You Award instead.
NEWS
September 25, 2001
ISAAC STERN was the most influential violinist of our time. His range was breathtaking, his enthusiasm infectious. Mr. Stern, who died at age 81 over the weekend, was a man of strong convictions. He passionately fought to save Carnegie Hall. He ardently supported Israel. And his adamant boycott of Germany, because of the Holocaust, ended only two years ago when he finally agreed to go there for a nine-day teaching seminar. Despite his hectic concert schedules, Mr. Stern had a burning desire to teach.
FEATURES
By Tim Smith and Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC | February 5, 2001
Guitarists are the corporate raiders of classical music. Unlike pianists, they don't have a nearly inexhaustible supply of repertoire composed specifically for their instrument, so they're always on the lookout for something to pounce on and transform into fresh material. Franco Platino, an Italian-born, Baltimore-based classical guitarist, demonstrated this specialized art of borrowing during his exceptional recital Saturday evening at Catonsville Community College's Fine Arts Theatre.
NEWS
By Phil Greenfield and Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN | January 18, 2001
If the string quartet is master of the instrumental chamber music idiom, the woodwind quintet sleeps with the servants. Oh, how the great composers lavished extraordinary care on their string quartets. Franz Joseph Haydn, the inventor of the genre, wrote more than 80 of them. Beethoven gave us 16 that span each period of his artistic life. But works for an ensemble of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn in those two canons with no orchestra or piano to accompany them? Good luck trying to find one. Still, there is a marvelous woodwind quartet repertoire.
NEWS
By Phil Greenfield and Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN | November 9, 2000
The winds of change have brought calm seas and prosperous voyages to the Annapolis Symphony over the past few seasons. The most significant addition has been conductor Leslie Dunner, who is in his third year at the ASO helm. Under his baton, the artistic fortunes of the local orchestra have done nothing but climb. Instrumentally speaking, the most valuable player added to the orchestra in recent years could be Fatma Daglar, who has held the ASO's principal oboe chair since 1997. Daglar, who began studying her instrument as a high school student in her native Istanbul, Turkey, will take the solo spotlight at Maryland Hall this weekend.
FEATURES
By J. D. Considine and J. D. Considine,SUN MUSIC CRITIC | December 9, 1999
Too often, virtuosity is presented as an end in itself. For audiences overaccustomed to spectacle, such aesthetic athleticism takes on an element of arena competition, as fans hope for ever faster, brasher and more dazzling displays of instrumental ability, even if it comes at the expense of the music.Thank goodness, there are still players like Evgeny Kissin.At 28, Kissin is perhaps the most gifted pianist playing. Speed, tone, agility, power -- he has it all. But, as he demonstrated at the Meyerhoff last night, his greatest gift is the ability to see a composition clearly and convey that vision to the audience.
FEATURES
By Peter M. Krask and Peter M. Krask,Evening Sun Staff | April 29, 1991
Music critics aren't supposed to like the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto. It is over-played. It goes on too long. Its orchestration is soupy and its form is uninspired. But in the hands of a pianist like Ju Hee Suh, who played the piece with the BSO this weekend, even the crankiest critic has to abandon the ship of High Art and succumb to its unabashed loveliness.Suh, a last-minute replacement for Zoltan Kocsis, who canceled due to a case of contact dermatitis, played with taste, elegance and a velvety sound so invitingly warm, you wanted to take a bath in it. She is a pianist who does not draw attention to herself with empty virtuosity -- a temptation in this concerto.
NEWS
September 25, 2001
ISAAC STERN was the most influential violinist of our time. His range was breathtaking, his enthusiasm infectious. Mr. Stern, who died at age 81 over the weekend, was a man of strong convictions. He passionately fought to save Carnegie Hall. He ardently supported Israel. And his adamant boycott of Germany, because of the Holocaust, ended only two years ago when he finally agreed to go there for a nine-day teaching seminar. Despite his hectic concert schedules, Mr. Stern had a burning desire to teach.
FEATURES
By Stephen Wigler and Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC | October 18, 1999
The complaint that nothing is as good as it used to be doesn't hold water when it comes to the Berlin Philharmonic. The German orchestra, which performed Saturday at the Kennedy Center in the Washington Performing Arts Series, is not merely as good, it's even better than it used to be.First, let's dispense with the myth that Claudio Abbado, who conducted the program of Beethoven, Dvorak and Wolfgang Rihm and who completes his tenure as the orchestra's music...
ENTERTAINMENT
By J. D. Considine and J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic | March 14, 1999
In the world of English rock guitar gods, all roads lead back to the Yardbirds.In 1963, the young combo began playing clubs around London, and immediately earned a reputation, both for its devotion to the blues and for a stunning young guitarist named Eric "Slowhand" Clapton (the nickname being an ironic acknowledgment of his speed on the fretboard).Two years later, Clapton left the group, disgusted at how pop-friendly the Yardbirds had become. Desperate for a replacement, the group turned to Jimmy Page, then the hottest session guitarist in England.
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