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Performers: May 2008 Archives

Oooo, That's Scary

Moog Theremin

Ghost in the machine

They make the sound of aliens, magic and the cosmic unknown. But just how do you get music out of the theremin and the ondes Martenot?

By Pascal Wyse
Guardian UK

In Pamelia Kurstin's Vienna apartment, I have my back up against the wall and am attempting not to breathe. My hands are stuck in mid-air like a neglected shop dummy, and I am told to imagine I'm in a tub of "very thick fluid". Before me is what could be a little robot with two antennae. I carefully reach out towards it and it makes a seasick whooping sound.

Kurstin lets out the first of many enormous giggles. She is giving me a lesson on the theremin: an early electronic instrument that became the universal sound of aliens, ghosts and other voices from the B-movie ether.

Read more about this at the Guardian UK website:,,2281481,00.html

Love Triangle


Making noise

Misunderstood and underappreciated, percussion players step forward to tell their story.

By Graydon Royce
Star Tribune

For three hours, Joe Nathan sits and watches the Minnesota Twins play ball. Then, the relief pitcher is asked to get three quick outs in the ninth inning. In 2007, the Twins played 1,458 innings. Nathan pitched in 72. Yet if he fails, a victory is lost. He is indispensable to the club.

Imagine now the percussionist perched at the back of the Minnesota Orchestra. He waits in fretful anticipation as the instruments around him furiously exhaust themselves, playing Mahler's Ninth Symphony. Finally, Osmo Vänskä fixes his eyes on the percussion section and gestures for the cymbals.

Read more about this at the Star Tribune website:

Great Music and Fine Food

Fine Food

The best meals and the best music make up a menu for the senses

By Paul Horsley
Kansas City Star

It's the night before Dubravka Tomsic's recital on the Friends of Chamber Music's piano series, and dinner is served.

The guests have worked up a sharp hunger in the living room with appetizers of Cognac-cured salmon on cocktail loaf, spread with butter-horseradish mustard.

Hosts Cynthia Siebert and Larry Hicks have spent the day preparing a gourmet meal for their guests, among them the Slovenian pianist who the next night would deliver two hours of stellar pianism to a Folly Theater audience.

Such dinners are an integral part of the Friends series, Siebert said, engendering a relationship that nourishes body and soul.

Read more about this at the Kansas City Star website:

Concert for the Lost & Found


Cabdriver Thanked for Returning a Stradivarius

By Richard G. Jones
New York Times

Newark, New Jersey – The violinist stood on a makeshift stage between two lampposts crowned with a patina of bird droppings, under a weathered vinyl canopy hastily erected outside Newark Liberty International Airport in the taxicab holding area. The audience watched him in awe, about 50 drivers in three rows, their yellow cabs a few feet behind, some lined up neatly, others askew.

As Philippe Quint spent half an hour playing five selections, the cabbies clapped and whistled. They danced in the aisles, hips gyrating like tipsy belly dancers. "Magic fingers, magic fingers," one called out. Another grabbed the hand of Mr. Quint's publicist and did what looked like a merengue across the front of the "stage."

Afterward, the virtuoso was mobbed by drivers seeking his autograph on dollar bills, napkins and cab receipts.

"It was so pleasing to see people dancing – that never happens," said Mr. Quint, 34, a Grammy-nominated classical violinist. "These people, they work so hard, I doubt they get a chance to get out to Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center."

So Mr. Quint took Carnegie Hall to them, in a miniconcert that was his way of expressing a simple sentiment: Thank you.

Read more about this at the New York Times website:

Performers to the Rescue

Kristjan Jarvi, by Peter Rigaud

More power to the performer

By Matthew Westwood
The Australian

Classical music, as it grew progressively more complex through the romantic period onwards, evolved into a mind game where the composer always had the psychological lead.

Musical scores came to be written as if dogma, down to the last pedantic detail; performers, even brilliant ones, became mere instruments to the composer's vision.

That may be a bleak view of the concert hall. But Kristjan Jarvi, the energetic Estonian-born conductor, is disdainful of the pseudo-intellectualism of some contemporary music and the "academic blackmail" to which it subjects performers.

The pianist and conductor is doing his bit to address the perceived imbalance between composer and musician. It's not so much a contest of wills as a spectator sport in which music as well as audiences should benefit.

"It is really important to make the performers feel that they have freedom, that they can express music rather than just play the notes," Jarvi says on the phone from Hanover, Germany.

Read more about this at The Australian website:,,23624489-16947,00.html