Jack Benny Shows Off His Strad

Following up on my post, Jack Benny and the Violin, here are two more funny violin-centered comedy clips. First, Jack Benny demonstrates the subtle differences between a Stradivarius and an average violin: Comedy aside, Strads really don’t play themselves. It takes time to learn exactly how to make these violins sing. Many violinists comment on the endless colors and expression they discover as they play these great instruments. I’m reminded of a story about …

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Sounds of Sarasate

Pablo de Sarasate’s violin showpieces evoke the sunny, exotic warmth of Spain. A violinist and composer, Sarasate (1844-1908) contributed greatly to the development of the violin. Here are a few legendary performances of his short, technically dazzling pieces. [typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Zapateado[/typography] We’ll start with a performance of Zapateado from Midori’s 1990 Carnegie Hall debut recital. I featured another piece from this recital in a past post. Zapato is the Spanish word for “shoe.” Zapateado is …

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The Concert Hall as a Civic Icon

[quote]“Music is liquid architecture; Architecture is frozen music.” -Wolfgang von Goethe[/quote] [typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]A Living Room for the City[/typography] This month marks the tenth anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall, the gleaming, iconic home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, designed by Frank Gehry. The hall is more than a monument to a world class orchestra in the middle of a world class city. It’s a reminder that, like …

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We’ll Paint You a Rainbow

Last March, cellist Lynn Harrell and a host of fellow all star musicians, including John Williams and Jessye Norman, released a special recording called We’ll Paint You a Rainbow. The recording raises money for the HEARTbeats Foundation, a project Harrell and his wife founded in 2010. The Foundation’s noble goal is to bring the transformative power of music to disadvantaged children throughout the world. The joyful reaction of these children in Nepal is …

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Verdi’s 200th Birthday

Today marks the 200th birthday of the great Italian opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi wrote dramatically powerful operas such as Aida, Otello, Un Ballo in Maschera and Rigoletto.  Here is the Overture to La forza del destino performed by Riccardo Muti and the Vienna Philharmonic. What moods and dramatic situations are suggested by the music? How does Verdi convey these emotions? [quote]The greatness of Verdi is a simple thing. Solitary by nature, he found a way of speaking to …

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Mozart and Salieri

What is it about the greatest music that keeps us coming back? Mozart’s music, written in an era of powdered wigs and aristocracy, speaks to us as powerfully today as when it was written over 250 years ago. It embodies a universal reality which transcends fashion and style. Meanwhile, Antonio Salieri (1750-1825), a respected contemporary of Mozart, is now little more than a historical curiosity. You may remember this scene from the 1984 movie, Amadeus …

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Remembering Douglas Lowry

As an alumnus of the Eastman School of Music, I was saddened to hear that Eastman’s Dean Emeritus, Douglas Lowry passed away yesterday. I never met Lowry, but I knew that he was a respected composer. He served as Dean from 2007 up until last week and presided over several significant building projects at Eastman. These included a renovated Eastman Theatre and a brand new wing containing a state of the art recital hall. …

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