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Today's best free listening includes Gerald Finley at the Met and a sparkling 1939 piano concerto

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Gerald Finley as Don Giovanni at the Met today

Spectacular Canadian baritone Gerald Finley leaps backward from his steady diet of contemporary operatic fare to star as the Don himself in Mozart’s ever-loved Don Giovanni in Michael Grandage’s nice, year-old production. It comes almost live from the Metropolitan Opera this afternoon — brought to us by CBC Radio 2’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera.

Finley’s comic sidekick/valet is sung by Bryn Terfel, which should make for a zesty combo. Sir Andrew Davis conducts.

For more details, click here.

The broadcast starts at 1 p.m. Eastern (an hour behind the live performance in New York).



Pianist Nathalia Romanenko

Flamboyant young French-based Ukranian pianist Nathalia Romanenko has taken a keen interest in the composers who lost their lives or careers to the horrors of Nazi Germany.

Thursday, she sparkled in a live webcast by the Orchestre National de la Capitole de Toulouse of a Piano Concerto by Austrian-Czech composer Viktor Ullmann, who was sent to the gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. He was 46.

The Piano Concerto, Op. 25, dedicated to pianist Juliette Aranyi (also killed at Auschwitz in 1944, aged 32), dates from 1939. Ullmann self-published it the following year. As a Jew he couldn’t get anyone in central Europe to publish it, nor perform it in public. (He was taken away to the Terezín concentration camp in 1942.)

According to the concert’s programme notes (available in French here), Ullmann studied with Schoenberg in Vienna. The concerto contains a lively mix of traditional tonal writing and some experimentation.

Ullmann pleaded with the director of Terezín, where all sorts of artists had been rounded up to showcase the humaneness of Nazism to busloads of visitors, to grant a performance of the concerto, but was refused.

The concerto didn’t get its premiere until until 1992, in Stuttgart. Schott published it in 1998, with corrections Ullmann had made at Terezín.

Romanenko does an excellent job, as does American conductor Joseph Swensen. The four-movement concerto has nice structure as well as a fine balance of virtuosic show and satisfying interplay between soloist and orchestra.

The concert programme also includes compelling readings of Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Symphony No. 2 by Robert Schumann.

You can see and hear it all in high definition on, here.

John Terauds

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