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Tuesday October 21, 2014
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Ringing Rachmaninoff's bells

 

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Blackstone may very well be the hottest classical act in town.

Since he arrived at the U-M music school, Blackstone has rejuvenated both the school's choral program and the University Music Society Choral Union, garnering praise from listeners and critics alike for his clear textures, crisp articulation, sculpted balances, and irresistible sense of momentum. On Wednesday, February 18, Blackstone and the University Symphony Orchestra and choirs return to Hill to take on another monumental late Romantic work: Sergey Rachmaninoff's setting of Konstantin Balmont's translation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Bells"-a massive four-movement choral symphony depicting the whole life cycle through the sound of bells.

By common agreement, it is Rachmaninoff's greatest work. Even the hypercritical composer himself thought so: "I worked on this composition with feverish ardor," Rachmaninoff told his biographer, "and it remains, of all my work, the one I like best." One can see why. In every way, it appeals to his strengths as a composer and as a human being.

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