Western music has absorbed influences from other cultures at highly specific junctures. Mozart encountered Turkish Janissary music when he came to Vienna in 1781, and it found its way into his next opera’s percussion section. Debussy heard a Javanese gamelan at the 1889 Paris World Exhibition and it transformed his concept of harmonic progression. When…

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On rare occasions, during a rapturous performance of great music, I am tempted to think that I will never again hear this work played so well. This has happened while hearing Yo-Yo Ma play an entire recital of J. S. Bach’s unaccompanied Cello Suites; Christopher Taylor play Messiaen’s “Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jesus,” and recently when…

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In the mid-20th century, American politicians saw subversion in popular music, from the anti-capitalist stanzas of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” to Malvina Reynolds’ anti-nuclear “What Have They Done to the Rain?” to Bob Dylan’s counterculture manifesto “Blowin’ in the Wind.” But in the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin feared the power of classical…

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San Diego Opera’s lavish production of Camille Saint-Saens’ Samson and Delilah captures the spectacle and excitement of French grand opera at its best. At Saturday’s (Feb. 16) opening performance the audience relished the rousing choruses, vivid orchestral playing, opulent sets, and voluptuous dancing in the celebrated bacchanal. We were moved by Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Nadia Krasteva…

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Punk Rock is a potent cocktail of teen angst, bravado, and terror, fiercely shaken and currently served with cynical sangfroid at ion theatre in Hillcrest. Written by the assured young Brit Simon Stephens, a former teacher at the U.S. equivalent of high school in a suburb of Manchester, the play immerses the audience in the…

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If you pose the question about the place of Edward Elgar in the musical pantheon, you are likely get a conflicting barrage of answers. To some he is that great late Romantic voice who restored “English” as a credible adjective to the noun “composer.” To others he is only a second tier craftsman, and to…

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