Solitary Liszt

Supreme serenity still remains the Ideal of great Art. The shapes and transitory forms of life are but stages toward this Ideal, which Christ’s religion illuminates with His divine light. -Franz Liszt We often think of Franz Liszt (1811-1886) as a kind of nineteenth century rock star whose piano music is filled with dazzling displays of bravado and virtuosity. But there’s another more contemplative side of Liszt which seems to transport us …

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New Release: Richard Narroway Plays Solo Bach

26-year-old Australian cellist Richard Narroway has just released an exciting new album featuring J.S. Bach’s Six Solo Cello Suites. He talks about the recording in this interview. A sense of motion is fundamental to this music, built on baroque dance forms such as the courante, the bourrée, and the allemande. As a result, Narroway performs solo Bach during his work with Dance for Parkinson’s, an organization which allows sufferers of Parkinson’s disease to become liberated through movement. You …

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Jascha Heifetz in Concert: Five Amazing Clips

There is no top. There are always farther heights to reach. If one thought himself at the pinnacle, he would slide back toward mediocrity by that very belief in his success. -Jascha Heifetz Watch performance clips of Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987), and you may get a vague sense of the supernatural. Is Heifetz playing the violin or is some much larger force at work, playing through him? A searing, highly-controlled energy and a fearless …

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Joyce DiDonato’s “In War and Peace”

In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace? This is the question American lyric-coloratura mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato asks with her newest album, prompted by the November 2015 Paris attacks. In War and Peace is a collection of baroque opera and oratorio arias by composers such as Handel, Purcell, and Monteverdi. The album just won a 2017 Gramophone Award. In a Gramophone Magazine interview, DiDonato said, I don’t need to represent reality in this project. …

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Beethoven’s “Les Adieux” Sonata: Saying Goodbye in Three Chords

Listen carefully to the three opening chords of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 26 in E-flat Major, Op. 81a. For Beethoven, these chords outlined the three broken syllables of the word “Le-be-wohl,” or “Fare-thee-well,” which he inscribed in the manuscript. If the music from Monday’s post is still in your ears, you’ll notice the tantalizing similarity between this opening and the three chords which open Brahms’ choral lamentation, Nänie -another “farewell” piece. Beethoven’s opening chords suggest the wide-open intervals …

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“Nänie”: Brahms’ Choral Lamentation

Death is an inevitable part of life. This is the theme of Johannes Brahms’ 1881 lamentation for chorus and orchestra, Nänie, Op. 82. The work was composed in memory of the painter, Anselm Feuerbach, a close friend of Brahms. It’s a setting of a poem by Friedrich Schiller which opens with the line, “Even the beautiful must perish!” “Nänie” is the German form of the Latin “nenia” which translates as, “a funeral song.” An opening statement in the …

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Keith Jarrett: “Ol’ Man River”

Jazz is there and gone. It happens. You have to be present for it. That simple. -Keith Jarrett Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert were all masters of keyboard improvisation- the ability to use a well known melody as the basis for completely new, spontaneous music. Perhaps no one alive today continues that tradition more eloquently than jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. Jarrett describes the process in mystical terms. He says that his hands take over …

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