Roy Harris’ Symphonic Memorial to Gettysburg

Awakening, Conflict, Dedication, Affirmation…These are the subtitles of the four movements which make up American composer Roy Harris’ Symphony No. 6 “Gettysburg.” Written in 1944 during the height of the Second World War, the movements of Harris’ Symphony draw inspiration from the outline of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. They celebrate a mythic vision of American progress in which growing pains give way to the possible future realization of the nation’s loftiest ideals. There are programmatic elements in …

Read moreRoy Harris’ Symphonic Memorial to Gettysburg

Barber’s Adagio: Five Great Recordings

Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 is one of those pieces that remind us of the eternal and mysterious communicative power of music. When we listen to Barber’s Adagio, we all know, intuitively, what the music is saying, even if we can’t put its message into words. For many listeners, the Adagio is filled with mournful lament. Collectively, we have turned to this music in times of national tragedy, from September 11 to …

Read moreBarber’s Adagio: Five Great Recordings

Spivakov Plays Tchaikovsky

Here is a rare gem which deserves more recognition. It’s a slightly grainy archival recording of Russian violinist Vladimir Spivakov performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory in 1975. Spivakov is accompanied by the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Israel Gusman. In June of the same year, Spivakov made his Vienna debut performing the rarely-heard Haydn Violin Concerto in C major. You can hear his recording of the Haydn here. …

Read moreSpivakov Plays Tchaikovsky

Disney’s Debt to Camille Saint-Saëns

Over the weekend, I played Camille Saint-Saëns’ The Carnival of the Animals, the zany chamber orchestra work which has found its way into the children’s canon alongside Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. The suite’s thirteenth movement, The Swan, is surely Saint-Saëns’ most recognizable music, a reality which probably wouldn’t have pleased the French Romanticist. For Saint-Saëns, writing The Carnival of the Animals was lighthearted fun, and perhaps self-therapy, after an unsuccessful …

Read moreDisney’s Debt to Camille Saint-Saëns

The Ébène Quartet Plays Fauré

Listen to the opening of Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quintet No. 1 in D minor, Op. 89 and you might get the sensation of floating. It’s the musical equivalent of an out-of-body experience. This is a piece which seems to start somewhere up in the clouds, with sparkling, lighter-than-air piano arpeggios ushering in an expansive but intimate melody. You might be reminded of the childlike innocence of the In Paradisum from Fauré’s Requiem, which was written around the same time …

Read moreThe Ébène Quartet Plays Fauré

Happy 150th Birthday, Erik Satie

Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Erik Satie (1866-1925), the colorfully eccentric French avant-garde composer whose work anticipated later movements such as Surrealism, Dadaism, and late twentieth-century minimalism. Satie described many of his pieces as “Furniture music.” This music purposely stayed in the background, stripping away any hint of overwrought emotion. In the century between Haydn’s twenty minute-long classical symphonies and Wagner’s eighteen-hour-long Ring Cycle, concert music generally grew bigger, louder, …

Read moreHappy 150th Birthday, Erik Satie

Newly Released: Robert Shaw’s Live Recording of Beethoven’s Ninth

This performance is one of those in which all of the participants were playing for the sake of the music and were caught up in a vortex of musical union and humanity, the likes of which you just don’t encounter very often, if ever, in a lifetime. This is how Robert Woods, founding producer of the Telarc record label, described a rare archival recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, performed by Robert Shaw and the …

Read moreNewly Released: Robert Shaw’s Live Recording of Beethoven’s Ninth

Send this to a friend