Mary Beth Crain

The Secret of Brahms' Sextet

There's sexting, and then there's sextetting, which might have been the 19th-century equivalent of today's activity -- at least in the case of Johannes Brahms, who, they say, wrote his Sextet No. 2 in G major, Op. 36, as a secret goodbye love letter to the woman of his infatuations,......

This One Was a Keeper

When it comes to violin concerti, there's none greater than the Brahms. "The" because it's the only violin concerto Brahms ever wrote—and we're lucky that it survived, as the composer was notorious for destroying works that didn't live up to his perfectionist expectations. Fortunately, Brahms dedicated the concerto to his......

Eagle Rock Festival

Chamber Music in Historic Sites, that creative bunch that can always be counted on to come up with an unusual afternoon, has one coming this weekend: The Eagle Rock Festival, a celebration of contemporary American chamber music featuring some of today's most talented young musicians and composers in two of......

The Industrious Revolution

In 2006, a bunch of musicians decided it was time for classical music to go clubbing. So they got together at Revolution Café in San Francisco's Mission District and founded Classical Revolution, an organization dedicated to performing high-quality chamber music in non-traditional settings. The idea was so successful that today,......

Don't Flip This House

The Fall of the House of Usher is one of Edgar Allan Poe's creepiest creations — a journey into nightmare and self-destruction that toys with the reader's perceptions as a cat confuses its prey. Poe artfully challenges the imagination in the story of a man's visit to an old friend......

Here Come the Divas

It's spectacular enough to hear one fab soprano like Susan Graham or Renee Fleming. But when they pool their prodigious forces, make sure your seat belts are fastened for takeoff. Not only are these incredible ladies drop-dead gorgeous butthey're also known for their delightful personalities. Fleming, who won the affectionate......

A Dizi-ing Talent

The Chinese bamboo flute, or dizi (pronounced titsi) is, on the surface, a simple instrument, popular among the Chinese people for a couple thousand years because it's easy to play and sounds great. But in the right hands, it becomes a mesmerizing tapestry of color. And when Du Rusong gets......

The Tears of Nature

Get ready for a treat when the L.A. Phil, under the baton of Christoph Eschenbach, presents the U.S. premiere of extraordinary Chinese composer Tan Dun's new percussion concerto, The Tears of Nature, featuring percussion wizard Martin Grubinger. At 29, and looking about 16, the Austrian-born Grubinger can, to quote the......

Reise and Shine

When Franz Schubert was dying, at the untimely age of 31, you'd think he wouldn't have had the energy to compose what would become one of the world's most famous song cycles. But despite ill health and being perennially penniless, Schubert was a born workaholic, scribbling his compositions anywhere and......

It Paid the Bills

Desperation is the source of inspiration, they say, and nowhere is this better illustrated than in the case of Handel's Messiah. In 1741, the 56-year-old composer was debt-ridden and in the throes of depression when he sat down and banged out what was to become the world's most famous and......