The Cohen Variations

The last refuge of the insomniac is a sense of superiority to the sleeping world. -Leonard Cohen Pianist Simone Dinnerstein describes The Cohen Variations, written in 2009 by New York composer Daniel Felsenfeld, as a nocturne- music which evokes the atmosphere of the night and suggests the wildly adventurous harmonies of Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturnes. (For a particularly magical example, listen to the Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 27). The Cohen Variations are based on Leonard Cohen’s song, Suzanne. The …

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Angela Hewitt Plays Ravel

Many of Maurice Ravel’s shimmeringly colorful orchestral compositions were written originally for solo piano. One example is Le Tombeau de Couperin, which we explored in an earlier post. This six-movement suite, written between 1914 and 1917, pays homage to the elegant, dance-like keyboard music of François Couperin (1668–1733) and other baroque composers. Ravel dedicated each movement to the memory of a friend or relative who died fighting the First World War. But the music doesn’t …

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Roméo et Juliette: Berlioz’ Dramatic Symphony

…Here a new world is opened up to view, one is raised into a higher ideal region, one senses that the sublime life dreamed of by poets is becoming a reality.  This is how Hector Berlioz described the dramatic potential of a bold new kind of symphonic music- a free-spirited Romanticism born out of the earth-shattering monumentality of Beethoven’s Ninth, which left behind classical balance and order to enter dark, new psychological …

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Rachmaninov the Melodist

I feel like a ghost wandering in a world grown alien. I cannot cast out the old way of writing and I cannot acquire the new. I have made an intense effort to feel the musical manner of today, but it will not come to me. -Sergei Rachmaninov Sergei Rachmaninov was a composer who was out of step with the times. As twentieth-century music became increasingly atonal, complex, and in some cases …

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New Release: Mitsuko Uchida Plays Mozart Piano Concertos 17, 25

Pianist Mitsuko Uchida and the Cleveland Orchestra have released a new album featuring two Mozart Piano Concertos (No. 17 and 25). The performances were recorded live at Severance Hall last February. Over the past five years, Uchida and the Cleveland Orchestra have recorded select Mozart Piano Concertos on the Decca label. This is the fourth and final album in the series. (The first won a Grammy in 2011). Mitsuko Uchida recently offered this …

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Max Richter: November

November is the ninth track on Max Richter’s 2002 debut album, Memoryhouse. Words like “neoclassical” and “post-minimalist” have been used to describe the German-born British composer’s music. It blends elements of contemporary classical music (Richter studied with the Italian experimentalist Luciano Berio) with electronic and pop influences. The result is a slowly-developing ambient sound world which draws on the diverse sounds of the twenty-first century. Richter has produced numerous film and television scores. Here is a contemplative excerpt …

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