The ATOS Trio Plays Mozart

Last month, the Berlin-based ATOS Trio released The Czech Album, a recording featuring piano trios by Dvorák and Smetana. Rather than perform the famous “Dumky” Trio No. 4, they chose Dvorák’s less well known Piano Trio No. 3 in F minor, Op. 65. It’s a piece filled with spicy Czech folk rhythms, lush melodies, and the rich, passionate Romanticism we often associate with Brahms. The final movement blends playfulness and wistful nostalgia. You can hear the ATOS …

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Good Composers Copy, Great Composers Steal

Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” It’s a philosophy embraced by some of the most creative innovators, including Steve Jobs: the idea of assimilating a good idea and using it as a springboard for something new. Composers have occasionally done this, both consciously and subconsciously, under the guise of “transformative imitation.” Handel, who frequently wrote under time constraints, was famous for borrowing passages from his own previous works, …

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Remembering Prince

Last Thursday, as news broke of the untimely death of Prince, we were all reminded of his enormous contributions, both as a cultural icon and as one of contemporary pop music’s most innovative songwriters. His work drew upon a wide variety of styles, including “funk, rock, rhythm and blues, soul, psychedelia, and pop.” In songs such as When Doves Cry, from the 1984 album Purple Rain, he turned the traditional structure of the pop song on its …

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Schumann’s Musical Descent into Insanity

On Monday, we listened to Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 “Spring,” a sunny piece written in the “springtime” of Schumann’s life, shortly after his marriage to Clara. Now let’s hear a different, darker side of Schumann: two strange, haunting works from the final years of the composer’s life, written as he descended into insanity. It’s now believed that Schumann suffered from tertiary syphilis, a disease which appeared gradually over time and produced a host of …

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A Brief Look Back at James Levine’s Tenure at the Met

Last week, the Metropolitan Opera announced that James Levine will be stepping down as music director after four decades and 2,551 performances. Levine, who is 72, has been battling Parkinson’s Disease along with other ailments. Levine, who became music director of the Met in 1976, has been credited with raising the level of the company. In this interview he reflects on some of his achievements. Recently, Alex Ross summed up Levine’s tenure …

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Schumann’s First Symphony: Spring Blooms Forth

It begins with a majestic trumpet and horn fanfare…a triumphant invocation of spring, inspired by these lines from a poem by Adolf Böttger: O wende, wende deinen Lauf— Im Thale blüht der Frühling auf! O turn, O turn and change your course— In the valley spring blooms forth! It’s hard to imagine a piece more infused with the spirit of spring than Robert Schumann’s First Symphony. Schumann had just married Clara, a renowned …

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Hindemith’s “Flying Dutchman” Parody

If you’re a longtime Listeners’ Club reader, you know that I’m often playing opera this time of year. This month I’ve been staying busy with Virginia Opera’s production of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman.  The Flying Dutchman is the work of a young, 26-year-old Wagner. In many ways, it anticipates the more mature, leitmotif-laden Wagner operas which would follow. Wagner ultimately broke down the traditional “stop and start” recitative-aria structure that had previously been the structural …

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