Archive | December, 2015

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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 […]

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Kurt Masur

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 […]

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The facade of Wells Cathedral, Somerset, England.

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.

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London's Church of St. Magnus the Martyr

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 […]

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Christmas tree

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 […]

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Henry Purcell (1659-1695)

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 […]

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Winterdreams-1

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, […]

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American composer Samuel Barber (1910-1981)

Samuel Barber’s Twelfth Night

The promise of spring amid the darkest, gloomiest depths of winter…that’s the Christmas metaphor of cyclic rejuvenation found in Laurence “Laurie” Lee’s poem, Twelfth Night. American composer Samuel Barber had fallen into his own personal depths of depression when he created this chilling setting in December 1968. His second opera, Antony and Cleopatra, commissioned for the opening of […]

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Sibelius' Sixth: "The Scent of the First Snow"

Beethoven’s great symphonic arc is a study in moderation. Beginning with the Third Symphony (the Eroica), Beethoven’s odd numbered symphonies can be described as heroic, monumental and groundbreaking. By contrast, the even numbered symphonies take a step back into a more intimate world of classical charm. Listen to Jean Sibelius’ Fifth and Sixth Symphonies back to back, […]

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sibelius-monument-2

Sibelius 5’s Evaporating Tonal Center

In Monday’s post, commemorating the 150th anniversary of Jean Sibelius’ birth, we listened to Leonard Bernstein’s live concert performance of Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic. Returning to this music, I was reminded of that chilling moment in the first movement when the tonal center completely evaporates. Virtually all music from J.S. Bach through […]

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