Brahms’ “Rain Song” and the First Violin Sonata

Regenlied (“Rain Song”) is the third of Brahms’ 8 Lieder, Op. 59, published in 1873. The text by Klaus Groth is a wistful remembrance of the dreams and sense of awe experienced in childhood. The fourth song in the set, Nachklang (“Lingering Sound”) returns to the same thematic material. In this text, raindrops are equated with tears. In both songs, the piano evokes the patter of gently falling rain. Notice the way the three-note dotted rhythm …

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“There is No Music”: Ira Gershwin’s Poignant Remembrance?

George Gershwin passed away on this date (July 11) in 1937 at the age of 38. Doctors diagnosed brain cancer as the the cause of death. The songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin produced over two dozen scores for Broadway and Hollywood. They are credited with elevating the sophistication of Broadway theater as an art form with shows such as Strike Up the Band, Of Thee I Sing, and Let ‘Em Eat Cake. Porgy …

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Charles Gounod at 200

Yesterday marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Gounod (1818-1893). The French composer is best known for his operas such as Faust and Roméo et Juliette, and the famous Ave Maria, which embellishes J.S. Bach’s C Major Prelude from The Well-Tempered Clavier.  Gounod’s tender 1857 song, Sérénade, is a gently-rocking barcarolle. The text by Victor Hugo evokes the warmth of a parent speaking softly to a young child cradled in his or her arms. Here is …

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Ned Rorem’s “Early in the Morning”

Arguably, no artist grows up: If he sheds the perceptions of childhood, he ceases being an artist. -Ned Rorem Early in the Morning, an art song by American composer Ned Rorem (b. 1923), is filled with wistful nostalgia. The text, by the poet Robert Hillyer, offers a distant memory of a far-off summer morning. Both the words and the music are shrouded in a dreamlike haze. We’re presented with the ephemeral- sights and smells of the morning- …

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Strauss’ “Muttertändelei” and the Joys of Motherhood

Just look at my beautiful child, With long, golden locks, Blue eyes and rosy cheeks People, do you also have one like it? People, no you have not! Richard Strauss’ ebullient 1899 song, Muttertändelei (“Mother Chatter”), captures the joy of a new mother who would not give her child away “for all the coins in the world.” The comic text is by the German poet, Gottfried August Bürger (1747-1794). The song is filled with sudden, delirious …

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Mahler and the Cuckoo

Even as a child I was struck by birdsong. -Gustav Mahler The call of the cuckoo, often associated with spring, has long inspired composers. For example, the cuckoo’s harmonious falling major third can be heard in Handel’s Organ Concerto No.13 in F Major, the second movement of Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony, and Frederick Delius’ shimmering 1912 tone poem, On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring. The cuckoo’s call also finds its way into the music of Gustav …

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Mahler’s Final, Haunting “Wunderhorn” Songs: “Revelge” and “Der Tamboursg’sell”

In Monday’s post, we listened to Gustav Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, a work which grew out of the 1892 song, “Das himmlische Leben” (“The Heavenly Life”). The Symphony was written primarily during the summers of 1899 and 1900 shortly after Mahler was appointed director of the Vienna Court Opera. As a follow up, let’s listen to two songs which compositionally bookend the Fourth Symphony- Revelge (“The Dead Drummer), composed in July of 1899, and Der Tambourg’sell (“The …

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