Archive | May, 2016


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 […]

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Samuel Barber

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 […]

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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 […]

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Camille Saint-Saëns

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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New York

Bill Evans: Some Other Time

To finish the week, let’s step into the jazzy, dreamlike serenity of Bill Evans’ Some Other Time. The melody is by Leonard Bernstein. It comes from the end of the second act of On the Town. The 1944 musical, which offers its own touch of dreamy surrealism, follows three American sailors on a 24-hour shore leave in wartime New […]

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Frank Almond

Frank Almond’s “A Violin’s Life,” Volume 2

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond released the second volume of A Violin’s Life last week. An exciting companion to his 2013 disk, the recording celebrates the 300 year history of the 1715 “Lipinski” Stradivarius, a violin once owned by Giuseppe Tartini. The two volumes are the first modern recordings to feature the instrument, which resurfaced in 2008 […]

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Samuel Barber

American Neo-Romanticism: Barber’s Symphony in One Movement

The opening of Samuel Barber’s First Symphony tells us everything we need to know about the piece that lies ahead. It hits us immediately with an almost overwhelming sense of bigness, as if a force of titanic strength has suddenly been released. Majestic, intensely passionate, yet made up of raw, primal energy, it roars to […]

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The Listeners' Club

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