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Near the denouement of the Cold War, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev announced a cultural thaw, allowing some degree of freedom of expression among artists and writers. Yevgeny Yevtushenko responded with his poem, Babi Yar, lambasting the regime's distortion of the story of the  World War II massacre in Ukraine, as well as a continuing and pervasive Russian anti-Semitism thereafter. Dmitri Shostakovich then set Babi Yar to music, along with four other scathing Yevtushenko poems, and premiered the work as his Symphony No. 13 in 1962.

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A prodigy, a polymath, and a man of prickly disposition: that was Camille Saint-Saens. He was born near the beginning of the Romantic era, in 1835, and lived into the days of serialism, ragtime, and the home phonograph -- not that he necessarily approved of all these things, mind you. 

Along the way he produced a large and varied body of work that includes some of the most familiar pieces in the classical repertoire, as well as others that are not so well known. We'll spend an evening with Saint-Saens' music -- sacred and profane -- this Thursday night.

Jacques Offenbach
BBC

Although we'll be running a few decades ahead of Charles Dickens, we have A Tale of Two Cities of our own this week as we look at musical entertainment in Paris and London in the mid- to late-19th century with a program featuring music of Gilbert & Sullivan and Jacques Offenbach. The best of times? The worst of times? You decide as we check out the light opera scene in the French and English music halls.

Founded in 1964, Nonesuch Records was a budget label specializing in a then-unusual repertoire of chamber music, particularly that of the Baroque period. This turned  out to be excellent positioning for the Baroque and Renaissance Music Revival of a half century ago. Nonesuch released albums by the score, introducing the record-buying public to sounds -- and composers -- that many had never heard, or heard of, before. This week, we'll listen to tracks from a dozen or so of these old Nonesuch albums.

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