Seven Times When The Encore Outshined the Concert

Yuja Wang

As concert life has gradually returned in this pandemic season, so too, have encores. In the April 2022 issue of BBC Music Magazine I look at the uneven history of this beloved and occasionally contentious practice, from moments when encores were banned to examples of supreme encore creativity. In researching the piece, I encountered a number of examples that rose above the routine. Here are seven standouts.

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Chicago Symphony Brass: A History – Part 3

Michael Mulcahy leads his fellow section members in the annual holiday concert by the CSO Brass. | ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017

Back in 1991, the Chicago Bulls had clinched their first of six NBA Championships, a Daley was returning to the mayor’s office, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was ushering in the Daniel Barenboim era. The successor to Sir Georg Solti arrived at an orchestra with the most celebrated brass section in the world, and one whose character he would help shape over the next 15 years as Music Director. 

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Chicago Symphony Brass: A History – Part 2

Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Mahler 5 recording from 1970 showcases the brilliance of the brass (London).

Jay Friedman knew early on what kind of sound Georg Solti was after when the Hungarian maestro became the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s music director in the fall of 1969.  “When he first came — and this is regarding the brass section — you couldn’t play loud enough for him,” the orchestra’s principal trombone recalls. “It didn’t matter what it was. Even Schubert’s Ninth Symphony could not be played loud enough. He’d always say, ‘Give me more! Give me more!’”

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Chicago Symphony Brass: A History – Part I

The Chicago Symphony Brass

Every devotee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra brass section can point to a goosebump-worthy moment in a past performance or recording. Maybe it’s the ping of Principal Trumpet Adolph “Bud” Herseth’s solos in Richard Strauss’ Don Juan, recorded in 1954. Or the riotous blaze of horns that conclude Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, from 1971. Or the low brass delivering the stentorian opening theme of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, released in 2017 (on CSO Resound).

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When Your Recording Has An Unintended Noise

Glenn Gould recording Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations in 1955 (Fred Plaut, Sony Music Entertainment)

In the recording business they’re known as sonic artifacts. They’re the non-musical noises that periodically turn up on recordings – and sometimes add to their historical significance. In the May 2021 issue of BBC Music Magazine, I highlight 15 notable examples, from the sounds of war to subway rumbles to coughs, barking dogs, traffic noise, and singing conductors.

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Before Arena Rock, There was Lewisohn Stadium

Lewisohn Stadium in 1915

Outdoor concerts are a perennial summer pastime for New York City residents, and perhaps none is more beloved than the New York Philharmonic’s traveling summer series to the parks throughout the boroughs. Before the series began in 1965 (and which for a time included visits to Long Island and elsewhere), the Philharmonic held a longstanding residency at Lewisohn Stadium, a Greek-style amphitheater and athletic facility owned by the City University of New York. I looked into its remarkable history in the February 2021 issue of BBC Music Magazine.

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The Crown, Season 4 Puts Opera in the Spotlight

Scene from "The Crown" (Netflix)

When characters in “The Crown” attend the opera, one can usually expect some pointed commentary on the fictionalized British royal family. The genre serves a plot device twice during the fourth season of the Netflix series, as Prince Charles and Diana visit the Royal Opera House at various stages in their troubled relationship (I’ve previously looked at the uses of classical music in seasons one, two and three of “The Crown”).

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The Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Composer and Swordsman

Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges

As concert presenters overhaul their programming amidst the pandemic, several are taking up the works of Joseph Bologne, better known as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Bologne’s largely unsung chamber music, symphonic and even operatic repertoire is turning up in advance of a planned Hollywood biopic, and mirrors a larger racial reckoning across the United States.

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Long-Distance, Online Performances Without the Latency?

Concordia Quartet low latency

The question has perplexed a lot musicians since the start of social distancing and quarantines: Is it possible to hold an online performance when performers are spread out in remote locations? The presence of latency, or lag, in the video connections makes such collaboration especially difficult. And most video-conferencing platforms (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime) allow only one person to speak or sing at a time.

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