Archive | August, 2016


Elgar’s Cello Concerto: Elegy for a Vanishing World

The music of Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) is often characterized as stately and regal- the musical embodiment of everything British. You can hear this in the majestically celebratory final moments of the Enigma Variations or the Imperial March, Op. 32, music written for the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Both pieces propelled Elgar to fame. The […]

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Two Hanson Pastorales

American composer Howard Hanson’s Pastorale for Oboe, Harp, and Strings, Op. 38 begins with a plaintive oboe call. It’s a sound which carries faint nostalgia, evoking ancient connotations of shepherds on hillsides and the serenity of the pasture. But there’s also a hint of anxiety lurking under the surface in this music, which Hanson wrote in 1949 […]

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Jessica Lee

A Snapshot of Janacek with Jessica Lee

This week, the Cleveland Orchestra announced that Korean-American violinist Jessica Lee has been appointed assistant concertmaster (the fourth chair). Lee is a native of my adopted hometown, Richmond, Virginia. Although our paths never crossed (she left before I arrived in 2002), many of my Richmond Symphony colleagues remember her fondly. A graduate of Juilliard and Curtis, […]

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Mark Kaplan

Mark Kaplan’s Solo Bach Recording

If you’re looking for rare treasures in the form of recent classical music releases, try hanging around your local classical radio host. A few days ago, as the announcers at my local public radio station were clearing their archives of duplicate promotional recordings, I ran across Mark Kaplan’s March release of J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and […]

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Common Tones in Simple Time: John Adams’ Gradually Shifting Sonic Landscape

Something really interesting happens to your perception of time, space, and motion when you listen to John Adams’ Common Tones in Simple Time. It’s music which is cinematic and topographical. One critic likened it to the experience of “flying or gliding over a landscape of gently changing colors and textures.” The composer Nico Muhly called it, “distinctly American music: the […]

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Ned Rorem

Ned Rorem’s “Little Elegy”

It’s amazing how much can be said in the small space of sixteen measures. A case in point is Little Elegy, a song by American composer Ned Rorem (b. 1923). Rorem, who was born in Richmond, Indiana and will turn 93 in October, produced a series of operas, three symphonies, countless concertos, and chamber works over […]

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Sehenswürdigkeiten Salzburg, Blick vom Mönchsber auf die Festung Hohensalzburg und auf die Salzburger Altstadt

Mozart’s “Haffner” Symphony: Music of Celebration

A new commission was the last thing the 26-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wanted in the summer of 1782. He had just moved to the musical mecca of Vienna, shaking off the provincialism of his native Salzburg and its “coarse, slovenly, dissolute court musicians.” In addition to a busy teaching and composition schedule, he was getting ready […]

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A Snapshot of Figaro

Last month we listened to an excerpt from Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s great new live concert recording of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Here are a few more highlights from that recording. Almost all of Mozart’s music grows out of opera. Passages from the symphonies and concertos can be heard as wordless arias and duets. […]

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New Release: Maya Beiser’s TranceClassical

The sounds of the twenty-first century are largely electronic and computer processed. In this environment, a recording can become a work of art in its own right, not just a feeble attempt to recreate a live concert experience. I was reminded of this over the past few days as I sampled cellist Maya Beiser’s newly-released […]

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Celebrating the Music of Brazil’s Greatest Composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos

As the eyes of the world turn to Rio this week, let’s explore the music of Brazil’s most celebrated composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959). It’s music in which multiple worlds harmoniously collide. The sounds of native Brazilian folk music and the casual strains of Rio’s street bands blend with European modernism and hints of Debussy and Stravinsky. […]

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The Listeners' Club

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