Alisa Weilerstein’s New Recording: Rachmaninov and Chopin

I’ve been listening to a spectacular new recording released last October by cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan. The disc features two monumental works: Rachmaninov’s heroic Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19 and Chopin’s stormy and unrelentingly virtuosic Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65. A few shorter works round out the CD: Vocalise, Rachmaninov’s famous song without words, and Chopin’s  Étude, Op. 25, No. 7 and Polonaise Brillante, Op. 3. Although Weilerstein and Barnatan have been performing …

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Beethoven’s Seventh: The Apotheosis of Dance

Next week, on Monday evening, I’ll be joining my Richmond Symphony colleagues to perform a free benefit concert for the United Way, organized by the Symphony Musicians of Richmond, our players’ association (details here). The program includes Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, a piece we explored briefly in this past Listeners’ Club post. It’s hard to imagine any music more appropriate for the occasion. In fact, the first performance of the Seventh Symphony, which took place on …

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Who Wrote “Lully’s” Gavotte?

Towards the end of Volume 2 of the Suzuki Violin Repertoire, there’s a charming little gavotte attributed to the French baroque composer Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687). It’s based on a 1904 arrangement by the German violinist Willy Burmester, which you can hear in this old recording played by Carl von Garaguly. It’s likely that Shinichi Suzuki heard this arrangement in his twenties when he was studying in Berlin with another German violinist Karl Klinger. Cellist Mischa Maisky included Burmester’s …

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Happy Birthday, Plácido Domingo

A belated happy birthday to Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo who turned 75 yesterday. In recent years, Domingo has remained active. As his voice has aged, he has successfully transitioned into baritone roles. Additionally, he has branched out into conducting. He currently serves as general director of the Los Angeles Opera, a position he held previously with the Washington National Opera. He has released numerous popular albums. In this clip from the late 1980s, you can see …

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Copland’s Interlude: A Brief, Hypnotic Dreamscape

In Aaron Copland’s Music for the Theatre, the ghosts of early American popular music come out to play. Opening with a sharp drumroll and a brash, fanfare-like trumpet announcement, the work’s five movements are filled with jazzy melodies, off-balance rhythms, and Burlesque comedy in the form of “wrong” notes and musical “cat and mouse” games. Written in 1925, Music for the Theatre is scored for chamber orchestra, reveling in the witty, lean sound of a theater pit …

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A Rare Gem: Arno Babajanian’s Piano Trio

We started the week with the Armenian folk-inspired sounds of the Khachaturian Violin Concerto. Now, let’s hear music of another, less well known twentieth century Armenian composer, Arno Babajanyan (1921-1983). Babajanyan was one of the Soviet Union’s premier pianists. His compositions range from a Cello Concerto written for Mstislav Rostropovich to popular songs and film scores. His music contains echoes of Armenian folk songs, as well as the sounds of his contemporaries: Khachaturian, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, …

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David Bowie Meets Philip Glass

The groundbreaking work of David Bowie, who passed away earlier this week, left a profound mark on the world of rock music. But Bowie also influenced some of the twentieth century’s most important minimalist and experimental composers, and in some cases he was influenced by their work. In 1976, Bowie attended the European premiere of Steve Reich’s monumental Music for 18 Musicians. You can hear the circular, pulsating, mallet-driven patterns and rhythmic groove of Music …

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