Violins and the Power of Suggestion

The results of a long anticipated study published on April 7 seem to shatter long-held assumptions about the superiority of 300-year-old Stradivari and Guarneri violins to fine modern instruments. The study, led by French scientist Claudia Fritz with the help of American luthier Joseph Curtin, follows up on a controversial blind test conducted in an Indianapolis hotel room in 2010. Ten prominent violinists, including Ilya Kaler and Elmar Oliveira, were unable to distinguish old instruments from new in a …

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Brahms Recordings, Old and New

Last year, Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos recorded the Brahms Violin Concerto. On March 31, Kavakos and pianist Yuja Wang followed up with a new recording of the three Violin Sonatas by Johannes Brahms. Here is an excerpt of Kavakos playing the stormy Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108. This CD is another exciting addition to an already vast collection of classic and recent recordings of this music, including performances by Stefan Jackiw, Anne-Sophie …

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Blurring Boundaries with Gabriel Kahane

Songwriter Gabriel Kahane (b. 1981) is set to release a new album called The Ambassador on June 3. For a sample, listen to the opening track, Black Garden. An eclectic blend of classical, folk, and rock elements, Kahane’s music defies category, bringing to mind Duke Ellington’s famous quote: There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind. In the twentieth century, a vast gulf grew between “serious” and “popular” music. Hopefully, these …

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Music Inspired by Shakespeare

Historians believe that today marks the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare. Throughout history, Shakespeare’s plays have been a rich source of inspiration for composers. A few months ago we heard Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet tone poem. Now let’s celebrate with some more music inspired by the Bard of Avon: Play, music! And you, brides and bridegrooms all,With measure heap’d in joy, to the measures fall. -As You Like It The man that …

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Send in the Clowns

Recently, I ran across Rob Kapilow’s fascinating What Makes it Great analysis of Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns. Kapilow shows how elements of the song’s melody and harmony evoke a complex mix of emotions.  Written for the second act of A Little Night Music , which opened on Broadway in 1973, Send in the Clowns may be the ultimate anti-romantic ballad. It’s a song about the bitterness, disappointment and the regret of missed opportunity. In an interview, Sondheim offered this …

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Benjamin Zander in RVA

Charismatic conductor, educator, writer and music enthusiast Benjamin Zander is coming to Richmond. At 7:00 on April 28 he will join the Symphony Musicians of Richmond (the musicians’ association of the Richmond Symphony) for a concert/talk which will benefit the United Way. Learn more details here and listen to this radio interview with Zander. Zander conducts the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and Youth Orchestra. He is also the author of The Art of Possibility. As …

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The Sonic Landscapes of John Luther Adams

Become Ocean by John Luther Adams (b. 1953) has won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for music. The large-scale work for orchestra was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony. Music critic Alex Ross attended the premier last June in Seattle. In Listen to This, Ross visits the composer’s home in Alaska. The remote Alaskan wilderness seems to be a strong influence in Adams’s music. Music Director Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony will perform Become Ocean in New York at Carnegie Hall on May 6 as part of the Spring …

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