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The ESO Recommends

The ESO Recommends

A recent survey of ESO musicians confirms that the radio dials have been turning both at home and on the road. Members have also been exploring new works via streaming services and YouTube, as well as supporting fellow artists by listening to programming from orchestras around the world, among other music media. Some have even turned back the dial on time by dusting off CDs, LPs, and iPods to revisit old favorites. Here are some of the selections that rose to the top: 

  • Yo-Yo Ma’s “Songs of Comfort”: The acclaimed cellist kicked off this project in March with a recording of himself playing “Going Home,” based on the theme from the Largo of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9. He encouraged musicians of all abilities and ages to join him in sharing their own recordings, flagging each one with the hashtag #SongsOfComfort, and they responded enthusiastically. Take a listen to find out what tunes have been bringing peace to music lovers around the world. 
  • Ludwig van Beethoven: 2020 marked the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Not surprisingly, orchestra members have been engaging with various anniversary celebrations. To immerse yourself in all things Beethoven, NPR offers an impressive selection of videos, articles, and radio segments, and The New York Times gave writers and critics a year to select their favorite recordings, interview experts, and visit prominent locations in the composer’s life. In a unique cooperative endeavor, the Federal Republic of Germany, the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Rhine-Sieg District, and the City of Bonn joined forces to set up the Beethoven Anniversary Society, whose website also contains a wealth of information and resources.
  • Claudio Monteverdi: One ESO member explored works by this Italian composer, string player, choirmaster, and priest of the late Renaissance. Among other accomplishments, Monteverdi used dissonance more freely in compositions than did his counterparts, often to emphasize feelings evoked in the text, and through his rule-breaking, he played a part in inventing a new style of madrigal. He also helped to pioneer the development of opera, which was a new genre during this lifetime, and to transition music from the Renaissance into the Baroque period. Our Evanston Symphony listener recommends Vespro della Beata Vergine, a musical setting of the evening vespers, and L'incoronazione di Poppea, Monteverdi’s final opera and masterpiece. 
  • Alone and Acoustic by Buddy Guy and Junior Wells: Just one of many recordings produced by this extraordinary blues duo, this album, a spontaneous, all-acoustic set, was recorded in 1981 in the middle of a European tour. Unlike the typical Chicago blues sound guitarist Guy and harmonica player Wells were known for, which features highly amplified electric guitar and harmonica with a rhythm section of drums and bass, this album is more relaxed and intimate, featuring original songs, covers, and traditional tunes. 
  • Carnival of the Animals by the Kanneh-Masons, Michael Morpurgo, and Olivia Colman: For a new take on an old favorite, give this album a listen. Rather than the collection of verses by Ogden Nash that is often partnered with Camille Saint-Saëns’ beloved suite, this time the work is accompanied by a set of new poems written (and narrated) by War Horse author Morpurgo. He is joined by actress Colman, known for her roles in The Favourite and television’s The Crown, and the featured musicians are the seven young (ranging in age from 11 to 24) siblings of the Kanneh-Mason family. You may not know all of them, as this is their first album, but you will likely recognize Sheku Kanneh-Mason as the brilliant cellist who performed at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The recording also includes Morpurgo’s Grandpa Christmas story, set to classic pieces like "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," and "Flight of the Bumblebee," a new arrangement of Eric Whitacre’s ‘"The Seal Lullaby," and the Kanneh-Masons’ arrangement of Bob Marley’s "Redemption Song."

There are many more suggestions from our musicians. Keep an eye out for them in an upcoming post!

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