Dusting Off Martini’s Gavotte

This past Monday marked the birthday of Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1784). The Italian composer and Conventual Franciscan Friar is now a mere footnote in the dusty pages of music history. But within the musical circles of eighteenth century Bologna, Martini was a respected figure. At the age of 19, he was appointed chapel-master of Bologna’s Basilica San Francesco (pictured above). He was a renowned teacher whose students included the young Mozart, J.C Bach, and Christoph Gluck. …

Read moreDusting Off Martini’s Gavotte

New Release: Tim Fain Plays Music of Lou Harrison

Next month marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of American composer Lou Harrison (1917-2003). Harrison, who was born in Portland, Oregon and spent most of his life on the West Coast, was a true maverick, both in terms of music and life. His music explored non-pitched instruments, just tuning (as opposed to equal temperment), and non-Western influences, including Javanese gamelan music. He once said, “Everything in the world should be considered a legitimate …

Read moreNew Release: Tim Fain Plays Music of Lou Harrison

Remembering Allan Holdsworth

Allan Holdsworth, the legendary British-born jazz fusion guitarist, passed away earlier this month. He was 70. Holdsworths’ stunning virtuosity and harmonic innovations influenced rock guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen. He was called “the John Coltrane of the guitar.” In 1983, the New York Times’ Jon Pareles wrote: He pours out notes in a liquid rush without slurring a single one. His sense of harmony reveals itself in daring melodic extrapolations and in chords that …

Read moreRemembering Allan Holdsworth

Shakespeare Turns 453

Sunday marks the 453rd anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. In a previous post, we listened to a small sampling of the many pieces inspired by Shakespeare’s works. This year, let’s hear two excerpts from English tenor Ian Bostridge’s 2016 album, Shakespeare Songs. The recording won a Grammy this year in the category, “Best Solo Vocal Album.” Here is English Renaissance composer Thomas Morley’s setting of It Was a Lover and His Lass from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Morley (1557-1602) …

Read moreShakespeare Turns 453

Trio Rafale Plays Ravel

Some pieces grab you by the throat and demand that you listen, thrusting you into an exhilarating, pulse-quickening ride from the first note. Maurice Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor isn’t one of those pieces, at least in its opening bars. Instead, it’s music which seduces, wafting over you with a dreamy palette of impressionist color. It’s both sensuous and suave. It draws you in and lulls you with luxurious serenity. At the same time, …

Read moreTrio Rafale Plays Ravel

The Power of Six Notes: Exploring the “Dresden Amen”

On Friday, we listened to a few excerpts from Wagner’s epic final opera, Parsifal. Today, let’s return to one of Parsifal‘s most powerful and persistently recurring leitmotifs: the majestic, ascending six-note motive known as the “Dresden Amen.” This liturgical chord sequence was written by Johann Gottlieb Naumann (1741-1801) for use in Dresden’s court chapel some time in the late 18th century. It spread quickly to both Catholic and Lutheran churches throughout the German state of Saxony …

Read moreThe Power of Six Notes: Exploring the “Dresden Amen”

Wagner’s Parsifal: The “Good Friday Spell”

Heroic sacrifice, compassion, healing, and rebirth…these are central themes of Wagner’s last opera, Parsifal. Unfolding over nearly five hours, Parsifal was conceived as a solemn mystical experience- a Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”) blending Christian and Buddhist symbolism and Schopenhauerian philosophy. The story, based on a 13th-century epic verse by German poet Wolfram von Eschenbach, depicts the Arthurian knight Parsifal’s quest for the Holy Grail- the chalice that held the wine of Christ at the Last Supper. One of the opera’s …

Read moreWagner’s Parsifal: The “Good Friday Spell”

Send this to a friend