Pianist Alicia de Larrocha Dies – The leading Spanish classical pianist of her time, Barcelona-born Alicia de Larrocha, died at age 86 last Friday. She was a specialist not only in the Spanish repertory but also in Mozart and Beethoven. She won multiple Grammys, was the first Spanish artist to win the UNESCO Prize, and is credited with bringing popularity to the works of both Isaac Albeniz and Enrique Granados. Less than five feet tall and with small hands for a pianist, she was nevertheless able to handle all the Beethoven piano concertos, as well as those of Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Prokofiev, Bliss and Khachaturian. After a 75-year career, she had retired from public performance in 2003. The Barcelona Symphony observed one minute’s silence before their performances last weekend
Mercury Living Presence Pioneer Dies – Wilma Cozart Fine passed away September 21 at age 82. The audiophile pioneer was just 23 when she recruited the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for a recording contract in 1950. She led the Mercury label in the 1950s and 60s, producing the Living Presence series that ultimately grew to a catalog of over 400 recordings. Sound engineer C. Robert Fine, who later became her husband, used a single-mike technique to record the first Chicago Symphony session – Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition – and a critic declared “one feels one is listening to the living presence” of the orchestra. Wilma picked that phrase up as the series’ name. In 1964 Mrs. Fine left Mercury to devote time to her growing family, but in the late 1980s she was invited back to carefully remaster for CD a substantial part of the Mercury catalog for a new generation of listeners. Still later, in 2004-05, about 15 of the Living Presence albums were reissued as three-channel hi-res SACDs, allowing listeners to hear for the first time what the Mercury engineers experienced in the control room. Unfortunately, Mercury was now part of Universal Music, and SACD sales weren’t sufficient to continue the project.
Free HDTV Streaming of Restored Wizard of Oz – Leading online movie rental service Netflix has announced that on Saturday October 3 it will treat America to a free commercially-uninterrupted online hi-def screening of the newly-restored classic 1939 The Wizard of Oz. The film celebrates its 70th anniversary this year and can be instantly streamed for 24 hours starting at 9 AM EST on the 3rd at www.netflix.com/wizardofoz. Of course anyone with a computer and broadband connection can watch the film on their computer, but Netflix members will be able to watch it in HD on a large screen via a variety of Netflix-ready devices. These include Netflix-ready Blu-ray players from Samsung, Internet HDTVs from LG Electronics, the Roku digital video player, the Xbox 360 game console, and TiVo digital video recorders. The instant streaming of Wizard over the Net is being powered by a cross-platform web browser plug-in called Silverlight. It works with all major browsers, installs in less than ten seconds, and doesn’t require a system restart. After viewers click “Play,” The Wizard of Oz will start in as little as 30 seconds, and viewers will have the option of fast-forwarding, rewinding and pausing the video stream. Today the Warner Bros. Entertainment Blu-ray and DVD of The Wizard of Oz is being issued in both standard and “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” versions. The latter boasts 16 hours of bonus features. A free live concert and movie screening is also being held today in NYC’s Central Park, with contemporary interpretations of classic songs from the film.