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Vienna Phil Tonight on WQXR/NPR Music

Vienna Philharmonic Carnegie Hall

Apparently, WQXR (105.9FM) is the place to be on your radio today. This afternoon, they broadcast this season's final Met performance of Verdi's Aida, which featured the surprise Met debut of soprano Latonia Moore as the title character. As I wrote in 2008 when Robert Dean Smith made his Met debut as Tristan during a Saturday matinee, it's nerve-racking enough to perform for the first time in front of the world's largest - and greatest - opera house, much less tens of millions listening at home. Moore was superb, garnering a huge and raucous ovation from the house, bigger even than that for mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, the real star of this production. A total triumph: be on the lookout for Moore in future seasons. 

Tonight, the remote broadcast van moves a few blocks south to Carnegie Hall, where WQXR will broadcast live tonight's concert by the Vienna Philharmonic. They'll be joined by Lorin Maazel, who was recently named an honorary member of the Philharmonic in recognition of the 50th anniversary of his debut with the Vienna Phil. The program opens with one of Vienna's favorite son's, Mozart's Symphony No. 40, and ends with Maazel's own The Ring Without Words: a 70 minute distillation of Wagner's Ring, without the vocals. As Brian Wise points out on WQXR's website, Maazel's creation might seem like blasphemy to diehard Wagnerites, but whatever. I've had the Solti/Vienna Phil Ring in my CD collection for well over a decade, and listening to this orchestra - which, btw, is also a pretty good pit band - play this music is like watching Olivier do Shakespeare, or Nuryev dance Swan Lake. There is simply none better. 

Tune in at 8pm, either on the radio or online. (And, if you're looking for something to do before then, last weekend's Mahler 2nd with the Berlin Philharmonic is also now available online.