Happy New Year 2015

It’s time to grab the party hats, pop the cork, and turn the page on 2014. As part of your celebration, take a moment and listen to Auld Lang Syne, sung by the United States Army Chorus. Here is Scottish poet Robert Burns’ original 1788 poem: Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne? CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my jo, for …

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Remembering Conductor Jerzy Semkow

Polish-born conductor Jerzy Semkow passed away last week at the age of 86. A longtime French citizen who resided in Paris, Semkow served as principal conductor of the National Opera in Warsaw (1959-1962), the Royal Danish Opera and Orchestra in Copenhagen (1966 to 1976), and as Music Director of the Orchestra of Radio-Televisione Italiana (RAI) in Rome. Between 1975 and 1979 he was Music Director of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Semkow enjoyed …

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Siegfried Idyll: Wagner’s Musical Love Letter

(above: Richard Wagner’s villa at Tribschen, near Lucerne, Switzerland.) On Christmas morning, 1870 Cosima Wagner, the wife of Richard Wagner and daughter of Franz Liszt, awoke to the sound of music: “As I awoke, my ear caught a sound, which swelled fuller and fuller; no longer could I imagine myself to be dreaming: music was sounding, and such music! When it died away, Richard came into my room with the children and offered …

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The Story of the Bells, In Honor of Karl Haas

Some Listeners’ Club readers may remember Adventures in Good Music, the nationally syndicated radio program hosted by German-American musicologist Karl Haas. The show, which always began with Haas’ trademark greeting, “Hello everyone,” aired between 1970 and 2007 and became radio’s most popular classical music program. Each year on Christmas Eve, Haas dedicated his show to the distinctive sounds of church bells throughout Europe and the Middle East. He provided a fascinating documentation of the unique …

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Your 2014 Christmas Playlist

With Christmas just a few days away, here is a short collection of music guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit. Take a break from the rush of last minute shopping, light the tree, pour some eggnog and explore the playlist: Pérotin’s Viderunt omnes Let’s start off with music from the late 12th century. Pérotin was part of a group of composers at Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral who were influential in early …

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Heifetz Plays "White Christmas"

  If you’ve never heard Jascha Heifetz’s 1944 recording of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, take a moment and listen. White Christmas was first performed by Bing Crosby on Christmas Day, 1941. Crosby’s single sold 50 million copies and stands as the best-selling single of all time. The song resonated with soldiers stationed abroad during the Second World War. Around the time this recording was made, Heifetz assisted the war effort by performing USO-organized concerts for troops …

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Judas Maccabaeus, Handel’s Hanukkah Oratorio

George Frideric Handel’s 1746 oratorio, Judas Maccabaeus tells the story of Hanukkah. The oratorio, set to a libretto by Thomas Morell, is a three act dramatization of the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC), in which a Jewish army rose up against the Seleucid Empire (present day Syria). The revolt, which ultimately led to the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, was sparked by the actions of a lone Jewish priest, Mattathias. In defiance of the …

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