Philip Glass’ “Études”: Víkingur Ólafsson

Philip has often said to me: ‘I don’t agree with the way you play this piece, but it’s compelling, so I don’t want you to change it…’ – Víkingur Ólafsson, Breaking Glass: The Musical Journey of Víkingur Ólafsson Philip Glass’ twenty Études for solo piano, written between 1992 and 2012, continue in the footsteps of composers such as Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Rachmaninov, and Ligeti. On one level these Études (or “studies”) function as technical and compositional exercises. Glass has …

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Remembering Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove, the elegant, Grammy-winning jazz trumpet player, passed away last week. He was 49. A protege of Wynton Marsalis, Hargrove continued and reinvigorated the bebop tradition while incorporating a variety of other styles, including hip-hop and R&B. You can hear this combination of elements in the music of his progressive band, The Rh Factor. In this 2017 interview, Hargrove stressed the importance of continuous rudimentary practice, listening to music, and becoming versed in …

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Exploring the Music of George Butterworth

Sunday is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, marking the end of the First World War. The horrors of the “Great War” inspired a range of music, from the apocalyptic desolation of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Symphony to the contrasting dreamlike innocence of Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. Among the War’s casualties was the young English composer George Butterworth, a second lieutenant in the 13th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. At the age of 31, Butterworth was killed by …

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A Conversation on “The Next Track”

Recently, I was honored to talk about classical music with Doug Adams and Kirk McElhearn on their podcast, The Next Track.  The Next Track, “a podcast about how people listen to music today,” offers fascinating discussions on topics ranging from the effect of background music, to the works of John Cage, to progressive rock. Updated each Friday, this is a go-to resource for information on trends in the recording industry. Past guests include music critic and …

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Bach’s Unopened Résumé: Brandenburg Concerto No 3

They’re now regarded as some of the most exceptional and groundbreaking works to come out of the Baroque period. But J.S. Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos were initially the result of an unsuccessful job search. In 1721, Bach was employed as music director for Prince Leopold of Anthalt-Cöthen. When it became clear that the Prince’s new wife was not a music lover, Bach began to look for other employment. The Brandenburg Concertos, probably composed …

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Gabriel Kahane’s “November”

November is the haunting opening track of Book of Travelers, a new album released in late August by New York-based composer/singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane. The album was inspired by the conversations Kahane had with strangers during a two-week-long Amtrak journey across the United States in November, 2016. In the final lines of November, the train becomes a means of “escape,” perhaps a metaphor for the restless westward expansion of the American frontier days. As November progresses, its harmonic center begins to …

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Five Examples of Bartók’s “Night Music”

Strange, haunting, nocturnal sounds emerge throughout the music of twentieth century Hungarian composer Béla Bartók. These passages, which are known as “Night music,” evoke the hum of insects and other distant murmurs we might hear in a lonely field on a summer night. Bartók held a spiritual reverence for “Nature, Art, and Science.” But the “Night music” doesn’t offer the kind of poetic tone painting we hear in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Instead, these moments contain something more vague and terrifying. They surround …

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