Symphonic Snapshot: Mahler’s Second

In 2011, Music Director Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic marked the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with a free “Concert for New York” at Avery Fisher Hall. The program featured Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection,” a piece which opens with an anguished funeral march and culminates in a moment of ultimate transfiguration. In the final bars of the fifth movement, the traditional orchestra is suddenly augmented by …

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Terry Riley In C

American composer Terry Riley turned 80 on Wednesday. He was one of the earliest pioneers of minimalism and experimental music. Riley’s music blends a variety of elements, including jazz and Indian music. A Rainbow in Curved Air, recorded in the late 1960s, influenced ambient and rock musicians, including Pete Townshend and The Who. One of Terry Riley’s earliest and most influential works is the gradually unfolding In C, written in 1964. In C is built on a continuous …

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Remembering Film Composer James Horner

Edit the music out of your favorite scene on the big screen and you’ll quickly understand how much a film’s emotional impact is tied to its score. For nearly fifty years, the soaring, lushly romantic music of James Horner has added emotional punch to countless Hollywood blockbusters including Field of Dreams (1989), Apollo 13 (1995), Titanic (1997), The Perfect Storm (2000), A Beautiful Mind (2001), and Avatar (2009). Horner passed away suddenly on Monday following the crash of his turboprop plane in Southern …

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Remembering Gunther Schuller

American composer, conductor, horn player, writer, educator, and jazz musician Gunther Schuller passed away yesterday at the age of 89. Schuller’s compositions fused elements of jazz and classical music into a style he called “Third Stream.” His remarkably diverse career included principal horn positions with the Cincinnati Symphony and Metropolitan Opera orchestras in the 1940s and 50s, as well as collaborations with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and others. In the 1960s and …

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Kenji Bunch: New American Sounds

If you’re near Chicago this evening, head down to the Loop and swing by the Pritzker Pavilion at Grant Park. Conductor Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra will give the world premiere performance of Kenji Bunch’s Symphony No. 3: Dream Songs. The work is based on Native American folksongs and texts collected in 1879 by the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of American Ethnology. The Bureau’s preservation of the last vestiges of tribal music seems …

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Remembering Walter Weller

  Austrian conductor and violinist Walter Weller passed away last Sunday at the age of 75. Weller was one of the last links to a Viennese musical tradition rooted in the nineteenth century. Following in his father’s footsteps, Walter Weller joined the Vienna Philharmonic at the age of 17, eventually becoming one of its concertmasters. In addition, he performed as first violinist of the Weller Quartet. In 1966 he was asked to …

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The Joy of Wrong Notes

The element of surprise is an important ingredient in every great melody. Each note of a melody sets up expectations which are either fulfilled or delightfully challenged. Often subconsciously, we enjoy the unexpected “wrong” notes that take a melody in a bold new direction. We listen closely to hear how the disruption will work itself out. For an example, listen to the jarring appoggiaturas in the second movement of Mozart’s otherwise serene Piano Concerto …

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