Barber’s “Prayers of Kierkegaard”: A Meditation on Redemption

Samuel Barber’s Prayers of Kierkegaard is a single movement cantata based on texts by the Danish theologian, philosopher, and poet, Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). Completed in 1954, in response to a commission from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, it is scored for chorus, large orchestra, soprano solo, and incidental tenor and alto solos. The piece unfolds in four sections, beginning with a mystical allusion to medieval Gregorian chant. The words evoke the suffering and redemption of Christ …

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Augustin Hadelich Plays Ysaÿe: Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, “Ballade”

When performing, the great Belgian violinist, Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931), strove for “emotion, poetry, heart.” Called “the king of the violin,” Ysaÿe’s brilliant technique set a new standard. The conductor, Sir Henry Wood, described his tone as “ravishingly beautiful,” and noted that Ysaÿe “seemed to get more colour out of a violin than any of his contemporaries.” Among the over 200 works written for Ysaÿe are Ernest Chausson’s Poème and César Franck’s Violin Sonata in A Major, …

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Hindemith’s “Mathis der Maler” Symphony: An Artist in Society

In 1934, as the Nazis rose to power in his native Germany, Paul Hindemith worked concurrently on an opera and a symphony, both of which emerged from the same musical source. The opera, Mathis der Maler (“Mathias the Painter”), is a fictional account of the life of the German Renaissance painter, Mathias Grunewald (c. 1475-1528). It is set during Central Europe’s Peasants’ War of 1524, a brief, but tumultuous, rebellion which was …

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Telemann’s Oboe Concerto in D Minor: Han de Vries and Alma Musica Amsterdam

For the German composer Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), writing music seems to have been an effortless part of daily life. Celebrated alongside J.S. Bach and Handel as one of the most significant composers of his time, Telemann produced more than 6,000 works. This amazing catalogue includes at least twelve concertos for oboe (or the slightly deeper oboe d’amore) which are set in the Italian concerto da chiesa (church concerto) form. This form features four …

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Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut”: Three Powerful Excerpts

Manon Lescaut, Giacomo Puccini’s 1893 opera in four acts, tells a haunting story of ill-fated love. Des Grieux, a student living in poverty, falls in love at first sight with the beautiful Manon, who is being taken by her brother to live in a convent. Des Grieux convinces Manon to run away with him. Yet, soon she becomes restless and torn between a life of passion with Des Grieux and material wealth with Geronte, a …

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Pavel Karmanov’s “Get In”: A Sunny Post-Minimalist Quintet

Born in Siberia in 1970, the Russian composer, Pavel Karmanov, has been called “a romantic dressed in a minimalist gown.” Perhaps more accurately, Karmanov’s music inhabits the sunny, uninhibited world of post-minimalism. Influenced by the repeating patterns and pulse of the 1970s works of Steve Reich and Philip Glass, this music embraces tonality and the language of contemporary popular music. Karmanov is equally at home as a flutist, pianist, and rock musician. …

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Remembering Teresa Berganza

Teresa Berganza, the legendary Spanish mezzo-soprano, passed away in Madrid on May 13. She was 89. Berganza was especially celebrated for roles in the operas of Rossini and Mozart, as well as the title role in Bizet’s Carmen. (The conductor, Herbert von Karajan, declared her to be “the Carmen of the century.”) She joined Plácido Domingo in a highly acclaimed 1977 Edinburgh Festival production of the opera, conducted by Claudio Abbado. Berganza recalled later that “Carmen …

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