Author Archive | Timothy Judd

Turandot

Puccini’s Turandot: Five Key Moments

In Wednesday’s post, we heard a few examples of Puccini’s flirtations with impressionism. Puccini’s final opera, Turandot is filled with colorful orchestration and adventurous harmony which evokes the exotic atmosphere of the mythic story: Princess Turandot, determined to never marry, takes revenge on her suitors through a series of riddles. Failure to answer correctly results in the suitor’s execution. Here […]

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Puccini the Impressionist

Longtime readers of The Listeners’ Club may recall that this is the time of year when the Richmond Symphony often travels throughout the state as the pit orchestra for Virginia Opera. This year, we’ve been playing Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot. With lush, soaringly romantic melodies, Puccini’s operas are some of the most rewarding to play, from the perspective of a string […]

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Isabelle Faust
Photo: Marco Borggreve

Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata: Isabelle Faust

A continuous vibrato is one of the key elements of modern violin playing. So it’s easy to forget that there was a time when vibrato was used much more sparingly as an ornament. Listen to German violinist Joseph Joachim’s 1903 recordings of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1 and No 2 and you’ll hear this older approach to sound. In a […]

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New Release: Jennifer Higdon’s Musical Postcard, “All Things Majestic”

An awe-inspiring slice of Wyoming landscape inspired American composer Jennifer Higdon’s All Things Majestic. The four-movement orchestral suite was commissioned in 2011 by the Grand Teton Music Festival in celebration of its 50th anniversary. Music Director Donald Runnicles and the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra gave the premiere in August, 2011. Here is the composer’s description of the piece: […]

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NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17:  Stephen Sondheim attends the New York premiere of 'Merrily We Roll Along' at Regal Union Square Theatre, Stadium 14 on October 17, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Rommel Demano/Getty Images)

Happy Birthday, Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim, the American composer and lyricist, celebrates his 87th birthday today. Last summer, there were rumors that a new Sondheim show, currently in the “workshop” phase, would open this year, off-Broadway. With or without a new work, Sondheim’s contribution to American musical theater is undeniable. With Sondheim, the modern, plot-driven musical (a genre which […]

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Salut Printemps: Debussy’s Music of Spring

I would like to paint the way a bird sings. -Claude Monet Nature’s colorful reawakening in springtime was a significant influence for French impressionist painter Claude Monet. (Monet’s 1886 Springtime is pictured above). Claude Debussy (1862-1918) may be the composer who mirrors most clearly the atmosphere of Monet’s paintings. In fact, the descriptive titles of Debussy’s pieces […]

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Percy Grainger: Irish Tune from County Derry

I have vague, early childhood memories of hearing my dad play trombone in Dr. Harry Begian’s band at the University of Illinois. Begian, who passed away in 2010, was the University’s Director of Bands between 1970 and 1984. He favored the full, majestic “symphonic band” sound over the leaner sound of a wind ensemble. He recounted […]

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New Release: Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, John Eliot Gardiner

Each time we explore Bach’s music we feel as if we have traveled great distances to, and through, a remote but entrancing soundscape. -Sir John Eliot Gardiner An exciting new recording of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion was released last Friday. Sir John Eliot Gardiner leads the Monteverdi Choir (an ensemble he founded in 1964), the Trinity Boys Choir, the English […]

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Anne-Sophie Mutter Plays Takemitsu

At the end of April, German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will be appearing with conductor Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony. The program will pair the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with an exciting lesser-known work: Japanese composer Tōru Takemitsu’s Nostalghia for solo violin and orchestra, written in 1987 in memory of the Russian film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky. Takemitsu was inspired by Tarkovsky’s use of […]

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New Release: Jan Lisiecki’s “Chopin: Works for Piano and Orchestra”

The newest album of 21-year-old Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki comes out today. Lisiecki is joined by the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester and Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbański for Chopin: Works for Piano and Orchestra. (Watch the trailer here). This marks Lisiecki’s fifth Deutsche Grammophon release. The recording moves beyond Chopin’s two concertos (which Lisiecki recorded in 2009) to an assortment of the composer’s smaller works […]

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