Ballet for Martha

Appalachian Spring is a ballet about freedom and endless possibility…the joy and terror of the blank slate at the heart of the mythical American pioneering spirit. The story centers around a young, newly married couple and the building of a farmhouse on an open plot of land in early 1900s rural Pennsylvania. It’s easy to sense a longing for a mythical America of wide open spaces, which had long vanished by 1944 …

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Remembering Julius Rudel

Conductor Julius Rudel passed away yesterday at the age of 93. He will be remembered most for his 22-year leadership of New York City Opera, beginning in 1957. Sadly, the once innovative company, known as the “People’s Opera,” filed for bankruptcy last October. During Julius Rudel’s tenure, the opera gave 19 world premieres and vigorously promoted American works. This 1966 clip of Placido Domingo singing Senor del person from Alberto Ginastera’s Don Rodrigo will give you a sense of …

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Adolf Busch: The Violinist Who Stood Up to Fascism

Tully Potter’s collection of books and CD’s, Adolf Busch- The Life of an Honest Musician, published in 2010, tells the remarkable story of one of the twentieth century’s greatest violinists. In the years leading up to the Second World War, Adolf Busch (1891-1952) toured Europe as an exponent of the classic German style of violin playing, which had been associated with Joseph Joachim. The leader of the Busch Quartet, as well as a chamber …

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Mozart’s "Jupiter" Symphony: An Explosion of Counterpoint

The final movement of Mozart’s final symphony ends with a bang…a joyfully exhilarating explosion of counterpoint. Like a roller coaster ride, this last movement often feels enticingly dangerous, as if it’s on the verge of spinning out of control. Somehow, it always ends up staying on the track. By the end of the coda, Mozart has simultaneously combined five independent musical themes from the movement, creating a stunning musical fireworks display. Mozart’s …

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Pastorale d’été

J’ai embrassé l’aube d’été. (I have embraced the summer dawn). This epigraph by French poet Arthur Rimbaud is inscribed in the score of Arthur Honegger’s atmospheric tone poem, Pastorale d’été (Summer Pastorale). The piece is like a musical painting. It doesn’t evoke literal images, but instead feelings and loose associations. The natural world awakens amid the powerful inevitability of dawn. The soul of nature speaks through the music. Consider the distinct personas of the …

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Night Traffic

There is a significant update to Monday’s post regarding the Hartford Wagner Festival’s plans to use a “virtual orchestra” in performances of the Ring Cycle. On Monday afternoon the Festival announced that performances would be postponed due to the controversy, which resulted in resignations of key members of the company. Although it was not mentioned in the released statement, an apparent lack of financial support may also have played a role. A Kickstarter campaign, initiated on May 30 …

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Virtual Wagner: Worth the Price of Admission?

A firestorm of controversy has erupted surrounding plans by the Hartford Wagner Festival to perform Wagner’s Ring Cycle with a digital “virtual orchestra.” The festival’s founder, Charles M. Goldstein, has entered sampled sounds of orchestral instruments into a musical software program, which will be played using 24 speakers in the pit. The sounds were provided by a company called the Vienna Symphonic Library. The first opera of the cycle, Das Rheingold, is scheduled for August. In 2004 …

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