Debussy’s Estampes: Three Exotic Soundscapes

The music I desire must be supple enough to adapt itself to the lyrical effusions of the soul and the fantasy of dreams. -Claude Debussy I’ve always loved Claude Debussy’s descriptive titles. They often seem as if they could be interchangeable with the simple, poetic titles of the great French Impressionist paintings- hazy, intangible dreamscapes […]

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Can You Hear Coldplay in Steve Reich?

Recently, as I was listening to the thrilling final four minutes of Steve Reich’s Double Sextet, I began to hear subtle echoes of Viva la Vida by the British alternative rock band, Coldplay. Take a moment and compare the pulsating rhythm and harmonic progressions in both examples and see if you agree. Interestingly, both pieces appear to have been […]

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Three Classic Recordings of Gossec’s Gavotte

Let’s finish the week with three classic recordings of the charming, bubbly gavotte which concludes Book 1 of the Suzuki Violin repertoire. It’s a piece you may recognize, even if you’re unfamiliar with its composer- the now largely forgotten François-Joseph Gossec (1734-1829). Originally written for the 1786 opera, Rosine, Gossec’s Gavotte found its way into this 1938 Looney […]

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Murray Perahia, Piano

New Release: Murray Perahia Plays Bach’s French Suites

Pianist Murray Perahia’s newest album features J.S. Bach’s six French Suites, written between 1722 and 1725. This is Perahia’s first release on the Deutsche Grammophon label, following a 43-year relationship with Sony Classics and its predecessor, Columbia Masterworks. In the recording’s trailer, he describes the French Suites as “Bach on the highest level”- “delicate” and infused with French mannerisms such […]

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Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony: Defiantly Czech

Consider, for a moment, all of the possible ways a symphony can begin. Then, listen carefully to the opening of Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 in D minor. This opening statement, emerging out of the dark depths of D minor, is filled with mystery, tension, quiet anxiety, and restless, heroic energy. It’s a world away from the sunny […]

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Alisa Weilerstein’s Newest Album: Shostakovich Cello Concertos

It’s always fascinating to consider musical lineage. Great musicians pass along ideas about a given piece to their students based on what they were taught. Eventually, the line runs back to the performer who premiered the music and worked directly with the composer. We get a sense of this lineage with Alisa Weilerstein’s new recording […]

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Brahms’ “Tiny” Second Piano Concerto

I have written a tiny little piano concerto with a tiny little wisp of a scherzo. This is what Johannes Brahms wrote, jokingly, following the completion of his Second Piano Concerto in B-flat Major. In reality, he had composed one of the most monumental piano concertos ever imagined- a concerto set in four movements rather […]

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componist Joep Franssens

Back to the Future: The New Spirituality of Joep Franssens

“Our new century is the most exciting time to be making and listening to music.” That’s the bold statement Frank J. Oteri makes in an article that appeared last week at NewMusicBox. He characterizes our hyper-connected twenty-first century world as a place where boundaries disappear. Here is an excerpt: For listeners, there’s more music to hear than ever before–and […]

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Art Under the Soviets: Shostakovich and the Music of the October Revolution

Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas. – Joseph Stalin Art and totalitarianism don’t mix. Dmitri Shostakovich’s uneasy coexistence with the Soviet authorities is one of music history’s most prominent examples of this axiom. Shostakovich’s relationship with the Soviets was full of […]

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Steve Reich at 80

Monday marked the 80th birthday of American composer Steve Reich, who remains one of contemporary music’s most influential and iconic voices. Along with Terry Riley and Philip Glass, Reich was at the forefront of Minimalism, a style of music which emerged in the 1960s and is based on a strong rhythmic pulse, repeating patterns, and […]

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