Thoughts on John Williams’ New Star Wars Score

I haven’t yet had the chance to see the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, or to fully experience its richly symphonic score in the theater. A film score is designed to serve its movie. The music comes to life as part of a greater whole, a Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”), to use Wagner’s term. Still, I haven’t been able to resist listening to excerpts from the score which, recently, have been floating around in an …

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Remembering Kurt Masur: Five Great Recordings

Conductor Kurt Masur passed away on December 19, following a battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 88. Masur will be remembered for his 26-year association (beginning in 1970) with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, a storied ensemble once led by Felix Mendelssohn. Kurt Masur brought powerful political, as well as musical, leadership to Leipzig. In 1981, following the destruction of the previous Gewandhaus in the fire-bombings of the Second World War forty years earlier, he …

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Merry Christmas

  Wishing all Listeners’ Club readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! As you enjoy the day, take a moment and listen to the Wells Cathedral Choir’s performance of Peter Griton’s arrangement of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. This comes from their 2007 recording called Christmas from Wells.

The View from the Belfry: European Bell Ringing Up-Close

Today’s post is in honor of the late musicologist Karl Haas, host of Adventures in Good Music, the nationally syndicated radio program which aired between 1970 and 2007. The Story of the Bells, broadcast on Christmas Eve, was one of Haas’ most popular episodes. It provided listeners with a sample of the varied and distinctive sounds of bell ringing in cities throughout Europe and the Middle East. Here at The Listeners’ Club, we’ve returned to bell …

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Your 2015 Christmas Playlist

It’s that time of year again…time for the annual Listeners’ Club Christmas playlist. As with last year’s post, this is a collection of music guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit. Pour some eggnog, light the tree and listen: Thomas Tallis: Christmas Mass We’ll start with music written for an important political occasion. The Christmas Mass by English composer Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585) may have been written for Christmas Day, 1554 when Phillip II of …

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Winter Chill in Purcell’s "The Fairy-Queen"

This week we’ve explored musical depictions of winter, from Samuel Barber’s Christmas-themed Twelfth Night to Tchaikovsky’s youthfully inventive First Symphony. Perhaps no music captures the desolate gloom of winter more vividly than Now Winter Comes Slowly from the fourth act of English composer Henry Purcell’s 1692 opera, The Fairy-Queen. In this case, the term “opera” should be applied loosely. The Fairy-Queen, an anonymous adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, still has one foot firmly planted in the world …

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Tchaikovsky’s Winter Daydreams

What’s in a name? In the case of Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony, completed in 1866, it’s hard to say for sure. Tchaikovsky gave the work the descriptive title, Winter Daydreams (the first and second movements are subtitled, Dreams of a Winter Journey and Land of Desolation, Land of Mists). Beyond these descriptive phrases, the First Symphony remains pure music, without a program. At moments, the music may suggest the play of sunlight and shadow on a …

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