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Maria João Pires

Friday, February 27, 2015

Meeting in Music

November 30

Ein Bach wie ein Ozean (in dem wir versinken moechten...)

Meeting in MusicNo matter how far we travel in our quest to discover new music, sooner or later we have to come back to these supreme summits of the musical mind... A little heartfelt tribute, a few classic recordings I cherish dearly. Johann Sebastian Bach Das Wohltemperierte Klavier Teil 1 & 2 BWV 846-893 Walter Gieseking, Piano DGG 429 929-2 - 1950 Johann Sebastian Bach Six Partitas BWV 825-830 French Overture in B Minor BWV 831 Inventions and Sinfonias (2 & 3 parts-) BWV 772–801 Walter Gieseking, Piano DGG 453 980-2 - 1950 Johann Sebastian Bach Das Wohltemperierte Klavier Teil 1 BWV 846-869 Friedrich Gulda, Piano Philips 446 545-2 - 1972 Johann Sebastian Bach Das Wohltemperierte Klavier Teil 2 BWV 870-893 Friedrich Gulda, Piano Philips 446 548-2 - 1973 Johann Sebastian Bach Das Wohltemperierte Klavier Teil 1 BWV 846-869 Keith Jarrett, Piano ECM 1362/3 - 1988 Johann Sebastian Bach Das Wohltemperierte Klavier Teil 2 BWV 870-893 Keith Jarrett, Harpsichord ECM 1433/4 - 1990 Johann Sebastian Bach French Suites BWV 812-817 Keith Jarrett, Harpsichord ECM 1513/4 - 1993 Johann Sebastian Bach Goldberg Variations BWV 988 Keith Jarrett, Harpsichord ECM 1395 - 1989 Johann Sebastian Bach English Suites BWV 806-811 András Schiff, PianoDecca 421 640-2 - 1988 Johann Sebastian Bach French Suites BWV 812-817 Italian Concerto in F Major BWV 971 French Overture in B Minor BWV 831 András Schiff, Piano Decca 433 313-2 - 1991 Johann Sebastian Bach Goldberg Variations BWV 988 András Schiff, Piano Decca 417 116-2 - 1982 Johann Sebastian Bach Six Partitas BWV 825-830 András Schiff, Piano Decca 411 732-2 - 1983 Johann Sebastian Bach Six Partitas BWV 825-830 András Schiff, Piano ECM 2001/2 - 2007 Johann Sebastian Bach Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue BWV 903 Four Duets BWV 802-5 Italian Concerto in F Major BWV 971 French Overture in B Minor BWV 831 András Schiff, Piano Decca 448 908-2 - 1991 Johann Sebastian Bach Keyboard Concertos BWV 1052-1058 Chamber Orchestra of Europe András Schiff, Piano Decca 425 676-2 - 1989 Johann Sebastian Bach French Suites BWV 812-817 Joanna MacGregor, Piano Sound Circus 901 - 1993 Johann Sebastian Bach Goldberg Variations BWV 988 Angela Hewitt, Piano Hyperion 67305 - 1999 Johann Sebastian Bach Goldberg Variations BWV 988 Charles Rosen, Piano Sony 48173 - 1969 Johann Sebastian Bach Goldberg Variations BWV 988 Rosalyn Tureck, Piano DGG 459 599-2 - 1998 Johann Sebastian Bach Keyboard Concertos BWV 1052-54-56 Violin Concerto BWV 1042 Christophe Rousset, Harpsichord Jaap Schröder, Violin The Academy of Ancient MusicChristopher Hogwood Decca 448 178-2 - 1981/94/95 Johann Sebastian Bach Partita No. 1 BWV 825 English Suite No. 3 BWV 808 French Suite No. 2 BWV 813 Maria João Pires, Piano DGG 447 894-2 - 1995 Johann Sebastian Bach Partita No. 4 BWV 828 Partita No. 6 BWV 830 Italian Concerto in F Major BWV 971 Alexis Weissenberg, Piano DGG 423 592-2 - 1987 Johann Sebastian Bach Three Partitas for Solo Violin BWV 1002-4-6 Viktoria Mullova, Violin Philips 434 075-2 - 1993 Johann Sebastian Bach Three Partitas for Solo Violin BWV 1002-4-6 Three Sonatas for Solo Violin BWV 1001-3-5 Marco Rizzi, Violin Amadeus AM 148-2 - 2000 Johann Sebastian Bach Four Orchestral Suites BWV 1066-69 Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Frans Brüggen Philips 442 151-2 - 1994 Johann Sebastian Bach Die Kunst der Fuge BWV 1080 Kenneth Gilbert, Harpsichord DGG Archiv 427 673-2 - 1987 Johann Sebastian Bach Die Kunst der Fuge BWV 1080 Emerson String Quartet DGG 474 495-2 - 2003 Johann Sebastian Bach Musikalisches Opfer BWV 1079 Ensemble Sonnerie Virgin Veritas 45139 2 - 1994 Johann Sebastian Bach Musikalisches Opfer BWV 1079 Barthold, Sigiswald & Wieland Kuijken, Robert Kohnen, Marie & Gustav Leonhardt Sony SBK 63189 - 1974 Johann Sebastian Bach Violin Concertos BWV 1041-2 Concerto for 2 Violins BWV 1043 Concerto for Oboe and Violin BWV 1060 Nigel Kennedy, Daniel Stabrawa, Violin Albrecht Mayer, Oboe Berliner Philharmoniker EMI 57016 2 - 2000 Johann Sebastian Bach Violin Concertos BWV 1041-2 Violin Concerto BWV 1056 Concerto for Oboe and Violin BWV 1060 Viktoria Mullova, Violin François Leleux, Oboe The Mullova Ensemble Philips 446 675-2 - 1995 Johann Sebastian Bach Magnificat BWV 243aCantata 'Christen, ätzet diesen Tag' BWV 63Sanctus BWV 238 Catherine Bott, Elizabeth Scholl, Soprano Paul Agnew, Andrew King, Tenor Christopher Robson, Countertenor; Michael George, Bass New London Consort Philip Pickett Decca 452 920-2 - 1995 Johann Sebastian Bach Mass in B Minor BWV 232 Felicity Lott, Soprano; Anne Sofie von Otter, Mezzo-Soprano Hans Peter Blochwitz, Tenor William Shimell, Baritone; Gwynne Howell, Bass Chicago Symphony Chorus & Orchestra Georg Solti Decca 430 353-2 - 1990 Johann Sebastian Bach Motets BWV 225-30 Kammerchor des Augsburger Domsingknaben Reinhard Kammler DHM 77436 2 - 1989 Johann Sebastian Bach Motets BWV 225-30 Cantus CöllnKonrad Junghänel DHM 77368 2 - 1997 Flac & Scans


November 12

Concerto Mixup Mashup (sprong ze in paniek op)

A couple of concerto mixup stories have been making the rounds. First, for some reason, this video from 1999 recently attracted some Internet buzz. It features pianist Maria João Pires realizing only as the orchestra begins playing that they're playing a different Mozart concerto than she'd expected! The story is not told very clearly in that video, but apparently this was a sort of open dress rehearsal in front of a live audience. Pires definitely looks distressed, but the calm conductor talks her into giving it a go (they'd played the piece before and he knew it was securely in her repertoire) and she apparently came through with flying colors. So next, Norman Lebrecht posts about how the Berlin Philharmonic intentionally started in on the wrong concerto as a prank in a Prokofiev rehearsal with their concertmaster. Not too surprisingly, the violinist was able to react on a dime and come in on time with Mendelssohn's great tune, though they only play a few bars. I think even I could make it that far into the Mendelssohn concerto, albeit with my patented one-finger L.H. technique. The Lebrecht post spawned a whole series of commenters retelling other stories about concerto mixups. It's likely that most of these stories are at least partly fabricated, but that doesn't mean they're not good stories! The eminent Martin Bookspan recounts that a pianist expecting to play Beethoven's 5th sat confused waiting for the opening orchestral chord while the orchestra waited for him to begin the piano intro to Beethoven's 4th. Bookspan couldn't recall who the pianist was, which made me wonder if his story had descended from this one described by Gary Graffman regarding Rachmaninoff's second concerto (which begins with piano chords) and the "Paganini Rhapsody" (which begins with violins): "Years ago in Los Angeles I was scheduled to perform the Piano Concerto No 2. Unfortunately, my manager had told me it was the Variations. Having just arrived in the city, I dashed to the rehearsal in the morning, took my place, and waited for the downbeat of the conductor. He turned around expectantly, stared at me quizzically, and waited. I waited. He waited. I waited. Where were the violins stating the familiar theme? Finally, in a burst of excitement and confusion we untangled the misunderstanding. ‘If you are set to play the Variations we can change our program,’ the conductor soothed. ‘Oh no, it really doesn’t matter to me at all,’ I stubbornly countered, ‘I know them both equally well.’ A few hours later we performed the Concerto.”I remembered this story because I read it at least 100 times on the back of this much-loved LP that belonged to my parents. (You can read the liner notes here.) I could make the case that this is the single most important record in my own musical life, as it's the first music I really fell in love with (first the rhapsody, and then some time later when I "discovered" the other side), so perhaps it can be blamed for all the words I'm spilling here. So there's that. Both I and another commenter chimed in with an old story about a conductor surprising a soloist by giving the orchestral downbeat too soon in the Schumann concerto (in which the pianist comes in right after) with the pianist getting revenge by starting the 2nd movement before the conductor was ready. I also like the version in which the unprepared pianist manages the cascade of Schumann chords and then promptly throws up. (My wife just told me her youth orchestra conductor used to tell that version of the story as well.) But my favorite commenter story was this: ....In the cello circles the famous Wierzbiłłowicz, a heavy drinker himself, asked the conductor: what key we are in? A minor, came the reply. Unfortunately, it was Schumann, not Saint-Saens.Here's how Schumann's cello concerto begins: Here's how Saint-Saëns' begins: And here's how I'd like to think Mr. Wierzbiłłowicz's apocryphal performance might've sounded, with the soloist suddenly sobering up 10 seconds or so in: You know what? It kinda works...

My Classical Notes

October 26

Mendelssohn: Watercolor Painter.

Mendelssohn and Schumann: Music conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner . This recording presents the first in a series of CD’s, exploring the complete symphonies of Felix Mendelssohn under the baton of Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Also featured on this release is pianist, Maria João Pires , in the piano concerto by Robert Schumann . The tracks on this recording are: Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3, Op.56, ‘Scottish’ Hebrides Overture, Op. 26 Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in A-Minor, Op. 54 Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra , Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting, and Maria Joao Pires, piano soloist. Inspired by his travels to the British Isles and full of the influence of the Scottish landscape, both Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Scottish’ and his Hebrides Overture were composed following these travels. What is less well known is that Mendelssohn was an outstanding landscape painter. He painted many scenes of his travels, and mostly in watercolor. (See photo, top left). Sir John Eliot Gardiner writes of this coupling of music by two German composers: “Even if they spoke with different accents, these genial Romantics were united in their ambitious fervor for ‘abstract’ music to be acknowledged as having the same expressive force as poetry, drama or the literary novel….” Here is the Mendelssohn: Symphony no. 3 in A minor, op. 56, with John Eliot Gardiner conducting the London Symphony Orchestra: And next, here is the Schumann Piano concerto in A minor, op. 54, with Maria João Pires, piano, and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Eliot Gardiner: Just for fun, here is another interpretation of the same Schumann Piano Concerto: Tags: Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, London Symphony, watercolor painter, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Scottish’

Arioso7's Blog

July 30

Going Solo with the Schubert Fantasie for 4-hands

I found the perfect solution to practicing the Schubert Fantasie in F minor without my duet partner, since she’s absent for 6 days of the week. While we rehearse on Thursdays, the piano bench literally shrinks putting us both at risk for hand collisions and body blows. In truth, the pushes and shoves have more to do with the way the composer has scored his music, doubling notes between players, and sometimes having one partner cross over the other’s arm. So when I’m alone at the bench mending my wounds on SECONDO, I do a lot of spot practicing, and scout a compatible You Tube recording of the Fantasie as a stand-in for Louise, my Primo. (When she’s propped up beside me using her two hands, she plays the upper part, notated with two treble clefs.) PHOTO: LOUISE, below, in a contemplative pose: Inconveniently, we both sit at my Steinway grand. *** Practicing Solo It’s not really a music minus one opportunity I’m seeking, but rather another experience to synch in my part and inch up tempo along the way. Of course, in practicality, one must work side-by-side with a LIVE musical partner to “feel” the pulse of a true collaboration. Therefore, trying to sniff out two overseas players who had their own breeding ground in the course of developing a personal ensemble, is a major challenge and accommodation. Just the same, I drew upon Pires and Castro, pianists, to help me hone one of the most difficult sections of the Schubert Fantasie–the final fugue section that leads to a big fortissimo climax with a pile-up of voices. While there were some synch issues, I still enjoyed playing along with these two fine musicians, though here and there, we were going our own separate ways.

getClassical (Ilona Oltuski)

July 15

Mostly Martha – The Progetto Martha Argerich in Lugano

“It is all of these great people here who ought to be thanked,” Martha says, surrounded by a throng of festival guests as she awaits that evening’s concert performer, “not me; I just show up,” she insists, gesturing some unruly tresses of her signature mane of grey hair into place. That in itself is no small virtue for the enigmatic pianist, notoriously known for changing her mind about her performances on short notice. She nods towards a tensely focused man of slender stature who, in close proximity yet with a respectfully guarded distance, watches her every move attentively from the corner of his eye. A glance exchanged between the two of them barely requires words. Carlo Piccardi, who as consigliere (advisor) is the festival’s other pillar, stands by Martha, the festival’s artistic director, ready to tend to her wishes or to settle any emergencies. Perhaps she wants to join some artists for dinner before heading back to the radio station for her customary late night practice time, or the other way around. Perhaps she would like to avoid the crowds who, mesmerized by their idol’s presence, long for a momentous photo with her, or, perhaps it may be a night when she just feels like accommodating their wishes.(photo of banner of the festival: Ilona Oltuski) All photos courtesy of Carlo Piccardi – Progetto Martha Argerich (unless specified) It is a ritual that bears witness to the intimacy of an alliance based on great understanding and admiration, and it perpetually repeats itself during these weeks in June: the time of Lugano’s music festival that carries the name of the legendary pianist and much-adored protégé: Progetto Martha Argerich. A musicologist and former director of Radio della Svizzera Italiana – Rete Due, Piccardi fell in love with the possibility of bringing chamber music and Martha Argerich to his region and into his life. The original initiative was sparked in 2001 by former EMI recording and TV producer, Jurg Grand, who approached Piccardi: Why should his great friend and pianist extraordinaire Martha have a festival in Buenos Aires (which today is not in existence anymore) and in Beppu, Japan, but not in Europe? It seemed the obvious next step for Martha, a resident of Brussels holding Swiss citizenship who possessed a fascination for all things Italian, to unite with Piccardi and utilize his strong relationships with the Radio and BSI (Banca Svizzeria Italiano – also a current major sponsor of the festival) to plant the seeds of chamber music culture in the Italian-Swiss region, which had heretofore been practically absent. As “Abdul” (Grand’s nickname, coined by Daniel Barenboim) suggested, the festival was inaugurated; he had the vision, Piccardi the perseverance and Martha the compelling persona that brought not only her singular artistry, but her international following of stellar performers, to Lugano. “Martha is like a river,” says Piccardi in between four very important phone calls he takes apologetically, “when we approached her about the possibility of starting a festival here, she said: “Hmm, yes it is possible, perhaps…” But the first installment in 2002 “was a disaster,” Piccardi recalls. “I was director of the culture and broadcast program of the second channel, but I had no experience whatsoever with programming live concerts. At the end I was with a fever, exhausted, and in despair. It was Martha and Jurg who took complete charge of all programs during the eight consecutive days. Concerts were held in the morning in the church, in the evening at the Radio station, and with 32 artists performing, we had to have rehearsals at night. Today we have a day in between for rehearsals and recordings, but with the number of artists reaching 82, the duration of the festival now is spread out to three weeks, with concerts recorded live or in rehearsal, and many of them broadcasted or streamed live.” During the festival’s second year, Piccardi was better prepared: “I was more familiar then with the problems of running the production and hosting the artists, but then a disaster happened: Jurg, the festival’s founder suddenly died. Martha was in Buenos Aires at the time and we had to make a fast decision, whether or not to continue, and came to the agreement to at least go through with the already planned out next season,” Piccardi explains. “Except when it comes to all things piano, Martha is not a systematic thinker,” Piccardi says. ”Her personality is ambivalent: when I ask her something she always remains vague, never definitive…it’s a maybe.” But perhaps it is this ‘out of the box thinking’, behind her “maybe”, aiding her in the constant search for new talent. Martha constantly discovers new artists while participating in juries at international competitions, or through recommendations from friends whose input she values. “She trusts my judgment as well, and I have suggested some of the young artists who have performed at the festival, but she is very spontaneous and sometimes enthusiastically discovers an artist she likes on YouTube,” says Piccardi, who is mostly in charge of the festival’s programming. Often it gets very late at night before Piccardi, who patiently waits for Martha to finish her nocturnal preparations for the many programs in which she partakes, takes her home; returning at 3:00am is not at all the exception. “Martha is a night owl,” he says, “she likes to practice sometimes right after a concert, to go over things and to prepare for the next one.” He tells me of her practice routine, taking only short breaks to come up for air or the occasional shared cigarette with one of her musician friends or colleagues. The sensitive artist with mood swings often dreads certain performances. This year, it is the Tchaikovsky Concerto No.1 that she performs with the Orchestra Della Svizzera Italiana under Alexander Vedernikov at the Palazzo Dei Congressi that has been making her nervous, even though the benchmark recording of her 1994 performance of that piece under the legendary Claudio Abbado for Deutsche Grammophone proves that she owns it. While Martha’s current state of mind becomes a general theme of interest amongst the festival’s participants and visitors, Piccardi does not seem to engage in such circling conversations or concerns. He rather relies on what has proven to work for Martha, like the comfort she finds staying in an old artists’ house made available to her for the whole month of June by the artist benefit foundation Pro Helvetia. Located in the small town of Carona, the house is filled with an atmosphere, unmoved by time and inspired by the residency of previously hosted artists, and it is conveniently located just steps away from Piccardi’s own house. “Martha is not the kind of person who can stay in a hotel room for a month, she needs that feeling of familiarity, and it is these little things that make all the difference,” Piccardi says. “When we return together to Casa Pantrova in the middle of the night, there is a sort of feeling of belonging, the ease of home,” he says. Now in its 13th year, the festival has grown into a celebration of chamber music, with programs that center on the piano in combinations with other instruments. Piano duos, trios, quartets, and quintets, even several pianos at a time, provide a sheer infinite variety for daily concerts, during many of which Argerich performs with young musicians and renowned friends and colleagues. “She is so wonderfully encouraging,” says Gabriela Montero, a Venezuelan pianist about Argerich, who was instrumental in the launch of young Montero’s career, having encouraged her to publicly improvise, which greatly contributed to her international success. Photo: Andrej Grilc Gabriela Montero and Ilona Oltuski-GetClassical at the festival The festival’s tradition of minimal bureaucracy, neither applications nor tedious acceptance procedures persist to this day. Martha embraces great and new talent in this musical incubator, offering first-hand experiences by performing with high-caliber international artists. Another quality of the festival is the great respect for its artists, past and present; violinist, pedagogue, and actor Ivry Gitlis for example, Argerich’s long-time friend who performerd at the festival for many years, while not perfroming any more on stage, continues to share his wisdom during his master classes. “Martha loves to be surrounded by other artists, sharing some of the burdensome aspects of the stage,” says Piccardy. Often, one sees her laughing with other artists or complaining about the difficulties within a particular score she is working on. Surrounded by her young colleagues, the now 73-year old pianist seems agelessly energetic. Lately, the decision of some of her colleagues to end their public performance career has made her think about the future as well. “But Martha is not interested in teaching, or likes giving master classes like Maria Joan Pires or Alfred Brendel, who have recently put a halt to their performance careers,” says Piccardi. “Martha needs to play concerts, at least a good amount of them; she can never be without music,” says Piccardi, who seems to know this from a place in his heart that understands her. He adds: “chamber music is like a life elixir for her,” and when one sees her in action, one has to believe him. Her playing remains fantastic no less: her tone is natural, highly imaginative, and brilliant, and it is exciting to watch her pour all of herself into the piano. Many artists come from near and far to the Progetto to make music together, rehearse, perform, and record, but also to rehash their personal relationships with Martha. Many of these friendships, built during her many years of celebrated performances throughout the world, are defined but not confined by her ability to share the limelight to support her fellow artists and causes close to her heart, making it a family affair of sorts: “Partaking in the festival can really put you on the map,” says Nora Romanoff, one of the young artists who has been attending the festival since age 16. The daughter of Dora Schwarzberg, a famed violinist based in Vienna, Romanoff was asked to jump into the deep end when, in its beginning, the festival was looking for an additional violist. “Can she do it?” Martha asked Schwarzberg about her talented daughter, and after a brief hesitation, Nora, who had no previous experience with playing chamber music, started as the youngest participant of the festival. ( The photo by Andrej Grilc shows Nora during one of her many performances during the festival) (Photo) Martha and Misha Maisky Illustrious cellist Misha Maisky, one of Martha’s regular musical partners and her friend of 40 years, brings his daughter, Lily (piano) and his son, Sasha (violinist), regularily to the festival’s programs, providing them with an education that puts learning by doing first. Another longstanding musical partner of Argerich’s, pianist Lilya Zilberstein, performs with pianist Akane Sakai, a former student of hers, and her two pianist sons, Anton and Daniel Gerzenberg. The connection of lives mutually spend together brings artists like Gidon Kremer, Stephen Kovacevich, and Charles Dutoit to Lugano, and while Martha shares the podium generously, it is she to whom all of these artists pay tribute. Annie Dutoit, Martha’s middle daughter from her marriage with conductor Charles Dutoit, made her artistic debut at this year’s festival with her adaptation of the role of dramatic narrator and performance of the devil in C.F. Ramuz/Igor Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat. Violist Lyda Chen, Martha’s eldest daughter from her first marriage to conductor Robert Chen, partakes regularly in the festival, often as her mother’s performance partner. (Photo: Annie Dutoit with Carlo Piccardi) Bloody Daughter, a film produced in 2012 and directed by Stephanie Argerich, Martha’s youngest daughter, was screened at last year’s festival; the screening afforded some private glimpses into the life of the usually evasive pianist, connecting archival footage of the performer with a uniquely personal portrait of the mother, seen through the eyes of the daughter. The title of the film depicts some of the heartrending circumstances that affected Martha’s family life, ranging from her separation from her oldest daughter to the conflicts between a superstar lifestyle and motherhood. Yet, as Stephanie’s father, pianist Stephen Kovacevich, explains in the film, Stephanie’s nickname “bloody daughter” is meant endearingly, and while it reveals many flaws, so is the overall outlook of the film. What resonates perhaps most imortantly throughout the film, is that this divinely brilliant artist is human after all. (photo from the movie Bloody daughter) “Martha liked the film. Even though she values her privacy and it must always feel uncanny to be portrayed so personally, the film certainly could not have been made by any other person than the daughter, so close to her,” says Piccardi. None of the artists leave the festival without saying fare-well to Martha. No matter in what language – she is fluent in Spanish, English, French, Italian and pretty fluent in German as well– the tone is always personal and engaging. Since the festival’s first year, EMI issued a series of recordings named Martha Argerich & Friends: Live from Lugano, which continued on the Warner Classics label. A 4-CD compilation produced by Deutsche Grammophon titled Martha Argerich: Lugano Concertos, a selection of the first ten years of the festival’s concerto performances with the Orchestra della Svizzeria Italiana, received last year’s ECHO KLASSIK award. From the beginning, all artists involved were paid equally for each performance, no matter their pedigree. “More concerts translate into more money. But it does not matter if they have a big name or not, every musician does his part,” Piccardi says. “In the beginning of the festival it was really just all about an extended artistic family, as the festival expands, more egos emerge and questions arise, who plays with whom and competitiveness seeps in; it is my role to keep everything according to the originating milieu of open-mindedness, music being in the center of attention, and to create challenging programs that express its artists’ full potential.” A goal, Martha Argerich and Carlo Piccardi should be able to achieve again in the future. The 14th Progetto Martha Argerich –Festival is planned to take place in Lugano again in June of 2015.

Classical music and opera by Classissima

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