New Release: Rachel Barton Pine’s Bel Canto Paganini

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine tackles Paganini’s 24 Caprices with virtuosic flair and sonorous ease on her newest album, Bel Canto Paganini. The album’s title highlights the link between Paganini’s music and the “beautiful singing” melodic style of Italian opera composers like Rossini, Bellini, and Verdi. In addition to the Caprices, the two CD set includes a number of bonus tracks: Paganini’s Introduction and Variations on “Nel cor più non mi sento” from Paisiello’s La molinara, Duo merveille, Op. 6 “Duet …

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Aaron Copland’s “Letter from Home”

Aaron Copland’s Letter from Home seems strangely appropriate for the solemn, reflective spirit of Memorial Day. It’s music filled with distant voices, from the lonely nostalgia of the opening clarinet statement to the plaintive nobility of the solo trumpet, with all of its distant battlefield connotations. This is a piece concerned with memory. Letter from Home was written in 1944 in support of the war effort. Commissioned by the bandleader Paul Whiteman for live …

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“Three Manhattan Bridges:” Michael Torke’s Valentine to New York

The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up …

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Exploring the Sarabande Over 400 Years

No one seems to be sure, exactly, about the roots of the sarabande as a dance form. It may have originated in Mexico or some other part of Latin America. It was popular in the Spanish colonies during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The zarabanda was first mentioned in a 1593 poem, Vida y tiempo de Maricastaña, written in Panama by Fernando de Guzmán Mejía. As a dance, it was so spicy that it was considered …

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New Release: Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante Play Leclair

Elegance, charm, and musical integrity have long characterized the French approach to violin playing. These qualities can be traced back to the violinist and composer Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764), who is often considered to be the founder of the French school of violin playing. As a virtuoso composer and teacher, Leclair helped to elevate French violin playing to a level comparable to his famous Italian contemporaries, Vivaldi and Corelli. He employed the same innovative …

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New Release: Arcadi Volodos Plays Brahms

Johannes Brahms’ three Op. 117 Intermezzos are a mix of serene, autumnal beauty, solitary introspection, and underlying sadness. Brahms wrote these solo piano works in the summer of 1892 with his longtime friend, Clara Schumann in mind. He described them as “lullabies of my sorrow.” The score is inscribed by a quotation from a Scottish poem from Johann Gottfried Herder’s Volkslieder: Sleep softly my child, sleep softly and well ! It hurts my heart to see …

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Tchaikovsky’s Fateful Fourth Symphony

It begins with one of the most powerful, bold, and memorable statements in all of symphonic music. Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor opens with a blazing fanfare, first heard as a piercingly metallic proclamation in the horns and then augmented by trombones and soaring trumpets. Regarding this opening, Tchaikovsky wrote, The introduction is the seed of the whole Symphony: This is fate: that fateful force which prevents the impulse to happiness from attaining its goal, which …

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