Musical Notes – A Blog

Here’s how you win a world-class piano contest

BY LAWRENCE TOPPMAN   You don’t take the gold medal in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, as Yekwon Sunwoo did last year, without massive musical chops.   But the victor, who comes to Halton Theatre March 1 to close the Charlotte Concerts season with a...

read more

So who was Van Cliburn, anyway?

BY LAWRENCE TOPPMAN   Yes, he lent his name to America’s most famous piano competition, one that takes place every four years in his adopted hometown of Fort Worth. Each winner comes to the Queen City via Charlotte Concerts, as 2017 champion Yekwon Sunwoo will do...

read more

The greatest songwriters of the 20th century?

BY LAWRENCE TOPPMAN   The greatest songwriters of the 20th century?   Like discussions about boxing champs or baseball all-stars, this category starts endless arguments. Witty Cole Porter has fervent fans. Jerome Kern, no slouch himself, said Irving Berlin “has no...

read more

George Gershwin: Half a Genius

BY LAWRENCE TOPPMAN   George Gershwin: Half a Genius   The title “An American Rhapsody: The Gershwin Songbook” is missing a letter. It should actually be “Gershwins.” Without brother Ira, George would be remembered as…what? Perhaps a composer of a few significant...

read more

Three Geniuses That Died Young

Three Geniuses That Died Young BY LAWRENCE TOPPMAN   Three geniuses who died young   Any artist who still has a creative spark dies too early, whether he’s 56 (Beethoven) or 69 (Wagner) or even 87 (Verdi). But we mourn most deeply the ones who don’t reach half a...

read more

Siblings — but without the rivalry

BY LAWRENCE TOPPMAN   Siblings -- but without the rivalry   They’re all in their 30s, they all went through Juilliard as pianists -- after starting before elementary school -- and they’ve toured for 13 years as the world’s most famous ensemble of classical siblings....

read more

Is ‘Star Wars’ classical music? You bet your lightsaber.

BY LAWRENCE TOPPMAN   Is ‘Star Wars’ classical music? You bet your lightsaber.   Which of these does not belong? a) Chopin b) Mozart c) Stravinsky d) Beethoven e) Williams (yes, John)   It’s a trick question: They all belong, and that’s why the 5 Browns put all of...

read more

Five brains, 50 fingers, one mighty sound

BY LAWRENCE TOPPMAN   You’re onstage with four siblings, blazing through an adaptation of “The Rite of Spring,” rocking 440 piano keys with Stravinsky’s ever-shifting rhythms. What does that sound like? To tell the truth, Desirae Brown isn’t sure. “We work quite a bit...

read more

What Was Dvořák Doing in Iowa?

BY PAUL ANDERSON   Antonín Dvořák, the world-famous Czech composer, spent the summer of 1893 with his family in Spillville, Iowa, a small town with a population of about 350. “What was Dvořák doing in Iowa?” you might ask. Here’s the story: At the height of a...

read more