Remembering Stanislaw Skrowaczewski

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the Polish-American conductor and composer, passed away last week. He was 93. Following his defection from Poland, Skrowaczewski served as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1960 to 1979. He is credited with raising the level of the prestigious ensemble, as well as advocating for the construction of Orchestra Hall. Eugene Ormandy described him as “the last great music director,” adding that “They just don’t make us anymore.” Skrowaczewski talks about his life …

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The 2017 Oscars: Nominees for Best Original Score

The 89th Academy Awards are coming up this Sunday. Here are some excerpts from this year’s nominees for “Best Original Score: “Moonlight” (Nicholas Britell) Nicholas Britell’s score for Moonlight alters and manipulates sound in a way that is similar to expressive techniques used in cinematography. In this interview with The Frame, the Juilliard-trained pianist and composer said, Barry [Jenkins, the director] told me right from the beginning about his love of “chopped and screwed” music, which …

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Finding “Joie de vivre” in Poulenc

Music has the ability to unleash mysterious powers which transcend the literal. I was reminded of this recently, as I listened to George Gershwin’s ebullient song, Of Thee I Sing, featured in Monday’s post. It’s the title song of one of the Broadway musical theater’s most zany political satires. Within the show, the premise of the song is delightfully ridiculous: It’s the campaign song of a goofy presidential candidate who’s running on a …

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“Of Thee I Sing”: Gershwin’s Wacky, Tuneful, Political Satire

Today is President’s Day in the U.S. Over the past few years, here at The Listeners’ Club, we’ve marked the occasion with musical portraits of Washington, Lincoln and even Richard Nixon. Today, let’s consider the fictitious presidential candidate John P. Wintergreen who runs on a “love” platform. He’s the goofy protagonist of the 1931 Pulizer-Prize-winning Broadway musical satire Of Thee I Sing, with music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and a book by George S. …

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The 2017 Classical Grammys

Here is an overview of last weekend’s 2017 Grammy Awards in the classical categories. From opera to chamber music, the list features a heavy dose of American contemporary music: Best Orchestral Performance This is the second installment in a series of live-concert Shostakovich recordings by Music Director Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony on the Deutsche Grammophon label. The first recording of the five-part series was honored in the same category at …

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John Adams at 70

Today marks the 70th birthday of American composer John Adams. Adams may be the most publicly recognizable face of contemporary American music. More than any other living American composer, he seems to have inherited the mantle once held by Aaron Copland. John Adams’ earliest music, like Phrygian Gates (1977) and Common Tones in Simple Time (1979), grew out of the pulse-based, pattern-oriented minimalism of Steve Reich and Philip Glass. But even these early works seem restless to …

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Liebesfreud: Five Classic Recordings

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here are five classic recordings of Liebesfreud (“Love’s Joy”) by the Austrian-born violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962). This short piece comes from a world long past. It evokes the waltzing elegance and frothy charm of pre-war Vienna. Kreisler wrote it sometime before 1905 and deliberately mis-attributed it to Joseph Lanner (1801-1843), the composer of popular Austrian dance music. In a previous post, we listened to Liebesfreud re-imagined, spectacularly, by Sergei Rachmaninov, who accompanied …

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