Archive | June, 2016

How Important Are Conductors?

“Is the conductor really doing anything, or is he/she just for show? I mean, couldn’t you guys play without someone standing on a podium and waving their arms?” This is the unexpected question once posed to me by an audience member after a Richmond Symphony concert. It’s pretty much the same question that comes up in this […]

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Gustav Mahler. Photograph by Moriz Nähr. 1907.

Befriending Mahler: Walter’s 1938 Vienna Recording of the Ninth Symphony

“He had the soul of a mystic.” This is how the legendary German conductor Bruno Walter (1876-1962) described Gustav Mahler in a 1950 pre-concert radio interview. The 18-year-old Walter was a rehearsal pianist and vocal coach at the Hamburg Opera when he first met Mahler, who served as the Opera’s chief conductor in the 1890s. Walter […]

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George Enescu

Pugnani’s Largo Espressivo: Three Classic Recordings

Chances are good that you’ve never heard of Gaetano Pugnani (1731-1798). The eighteenth century Italian violinist and composer of numerous chamber works and operas has long been overshadowed by his more esteemed contemporaries, Mozart and Haydn. He may be most famous for a piece he didn’t even write: Fritz Kreisler’s Preludium and Allegro, a showpiece originally […]

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Sinatra in Sin City

This week, I’m attending the 100th convention of the American Federation of Musicians in Las Vegas. Architectural permanence isn’t one of this buzzing entertainment mecca’s attributes. It’s a place which is eternally re-inventing itself- tearing down the old and rebuilding an ever-more-grandiose present, without much regard for the future. Hotels and casinos go up, and then disappear […]

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Renee Fleming

The Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin

Forget about emails and text messages. When it comes to opera, it’s the handwritten letter, with all of its tactile emotional significance, which emerges occasionally as a dramatic device. There’s the famous “Letter Duet” from the third act of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, in which Countess Almaviva dictates to Susanna, who repeats the lines as she writes. […]

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Daniel-Lozakovitj

Meet 15-Year-Old Violinist Daniel Lozakovitj

This week, Deutsche Grammophon announced that it will begin a ‘long-term association’ with 15-year-old Swedish violinist Daniel Lozakovitj. Lozakovitj, the youngest musician currently signed to the label, will record one of the violin repertoire’s most mature works in his first release: the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Lozakovitj was 13 when he gave this performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 […]

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Universe

Musica Celestis: Three Pieces Inspired by the Harmony of the Spheres

It formed the ancient intersection of music, art, architecture, astronomy, mathematics, and mysticism. Originally developed by Pythagoras, the concept of the Harmony of the Spheres linked the movements of celestial bodies with universal vibrations. The sun, moon, and planets were believed to produce their own unique hum as they revolved around the earth. “Tones” of […]

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Johannes Brahms

Oistrakh Plays Brahms

Here is a soulful performance of Johannes Brahms’ final violin sonata, the Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108. This classic live concert performance was taken from a March 18, 1970 recital at New York’s Alice Tully Hall featuring the legendary Soviet violinist David Oistrakh and pianist Sviatoslav Richter. The audio quality is less than perfect […]

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Celibidache

Finding the Bruckner Sound

From the buoyant, carefree musical laughter of Mozart, to the richness and heft of Brahms, to the hazy, dreamlike pointillism of Debussy, the music of each composer comes with its own distinct voice. Great orchestras have the ability to change on a dime and quickly lock into the style and sound appropriate to the music. […]

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Who Needs Trumpets?

Last weekend, I played for a wedding which included a stirring two-trumpet fanfare. This was followed immediately by an outdoor Richmond Symphony concert which featured John Williams’ main title music for Star Wars. Both occasions reminded me of the trumpet’s deeply celebratory and heroic connotations. Listen to another classic John Williams film score, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and […]

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The Listeners' Club

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