Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony: Iván Fischer and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Wagner called Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony “the apotheosis of dance.” This quality is evident in Iván Fischer’s spectacular January, 2014 performance with Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. It isn’t that we hear “dance music” in this sunny, spirited, A major romp of a Symphony. Instead, it’s the instrumental voices of the orchestra which seem to enter into a sublime “dance.” One by one, they come to life and weave together in between the celebratory chords of the opening …

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“Happy Birthday” Arranged by…Stravinsky and Copland?!

Occasionally during an orchestra rehearsal, the oboe’s tuning note transforms into a surprise, impromptu rendition of Happy Birthday in celebration of a musician’s birthday. You can find clips of more organized examples for conductors David Robertson and Gustavo Dudamel. (In that last example, notice the distinctly Latin American flavor of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra’s rendition). Interestingly, a few great twentieth century composers put their stamp on Happy Birthday. Undoubtedly, these composers dashed off these lighthearted miniatures quickly and with …

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“El Salón México”: Aaron Copland Conducts the New York Philharmonic

Today marks the 118th anniversary of the birth of American composer Aaron Copland (1900-1990). In celebration, let’s listen to a clip of Copland conducting his exuberant orchestral tone poem, El Salón México, as part of a New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concert, recorded on November 12, 1960. In the episode, entitled Happy Birthday Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein stresses the youthful, distinctly American vitality of Copland’s music, from An Outdoor Overture, to the Hoe Down from Rodeo, to excerpts from Early American Songs, …

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Philip Glass’ “Études”: Víkingur Ólafsson

Philip has often said to me: ‘I don’t agree with the way you play this piece, but it’s compelling, so I don’t want you to change it…’ – Víkingur Ólafsson, Breaking Glass: The Musical Journey of Víkingur Ólafsson Philip Glass’ twenty Études for solo piano, written between 1992 and 2012, continue in the footsteps of composers such as Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Rachmaninov, and Ligeti. On one level these Études (or “studies”) function as technical and compositional exercises. Glass has …

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Remembering Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove, the elegant, Grammy-winning jazz trumpet player, passed away last week. He was 49. A protege of Wynton Marsalis, Hargrove continued and reinvigorated the bebop tradition while incorporating a variety of other styles, including hip-hop and R&B. You can hear this combination of elements in the music of his progressive band, The Rh Factor. In this 2017 interview, Hargrove stressed the importance of continuous rudimentary practice, listening to music, and becoming versed in …

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Exploring the Music of George Butterworth

Sunday is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, marking the end of the First World War. The horrors of the “Great War” inspired a range of music, from the apocalyptic desolation of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Symphony to the contrasting dreamlike innocence of Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. Among the War’s casualties was the young English composer George Butterworth, a second lieutenant in the 13th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. At the age of 31, Butterworth was killed by …

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A Conversation on “The Next Track”

Recently, I was honored to talk about classical music with Doug Adams and Kirk McElhearn on their podcast, The Next Track.  The Next Track, “a podcast about how people listen to music today,” offers fascinating discussions on topics ranging from the effect of background music, to the works of John Cage, to progressive rock. Updated each Friday, this is a go-to resource for information on trends in the recording industry. Past guests include music critic and …

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