Archive | Art Song

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Strauss’ “Four Last Songs”: Saying Goodbye to Romanticism

Richard Strauss lived long enough to witness the death of one world and the emergence of another. Consider that when Strauss wrote his first song, Weihnachtslied, in 1870 at the age of 6, Wagner was just hitting his stride with the premiere of Die Walküre, and Tchaikovsky had recently completed his gushingly romantic Overture-Fantasy, Romeo and Juliet. By 1949, the year […]

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Autumnal Ives

Earth rests! Her work is done, her fields lie bare, and ‘ere the night of winter comes to hush her song and close her tired eyes, She turns her face for the sun to smile upon and radiantly, radiantly, thro’ Fall’s bright glow, he smiles and brings the Peace of God! These lines may have […]

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John Henry

According to legend, the African American folk hero John Henry was one of the strongest and fastest steel-driving men to work on the railroads in the post-Civil War era. The steel-driver’s work involved hammering a steel drill into rock. Explosives were placed in the crevice in order to blast away the rock to construct railroad […]

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1915

The Dreamy Nostalgia of Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”

It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of birds hung havens, hangars… The opening line of Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 for voice and orchestra paints this dreamy, nostalgic […]

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UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1907:  The Austrian composer Gustav Mahler. Photograph by Moriz Nähr. 1907.  (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)

Mahler’s Evolution From Song to Symphony

Gustav Mahler’s music is full of sardonic humor- passages which seem, at once, frivolous and chillingly grotesque. You can hear this in the song cycle, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (“The Youth’s Magic Horn”). The twelve songs, published in 1905, are drawn from a collection of 723 anonymous German folk poems, compiled between 1805 and 1808 by Ludwig Achim […]

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Shakespeare Turns 453

Sunday marks the 453rd anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. In a previous post, we listened to a small sampling of the many pieces inspired by Shakespeare’s works. This year, let’s hear two excerpts from English tenor Ian Bostridge’s 2016 album, Shakespeare Songs. The recording won a Grammy this year in the category, “Best Solo Vocal Album.” Here is English […]

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Benjamin Appl

Benjamin Appl: Schubert at Wigmore Hall

As a followup to Wednesday’s post, here are three excerpts from an album of Schubert songs released last year by German baritone Benjamin Appl. The album was recorded live at London’s Wigmore Hall with pianist Graham Johnson accompanying. Am Bach im Fruhling In the 1816 song, Am Bach I’m frühling, D. 361 (“By the Brook in the […]

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Barbara Bonney

Barbara Bonney: Samuel Barber’s Four Songs, Op. 13

Think twentieth-century music and what comes to mind? Probably the atonal serialism of Arnold Schoenberg, Elliott Carter, Milton Babbitt, or Karlheinz Stockhausen, along with the witty, neoclassical utterances of Stravinsky. But we should never forget that twentieth-century music is also the distinctive, Neo-Romantic voice of American composer Samuel Barber (1910-1981). Perhaps no composer in the twentieth century contributed […]

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FILE - In this March 2, 2015 file photo, opera singer Renee Fleming performs at "An Evening of SeriousFun Celebrating the Legacy of Paul Newman", hosted by the SeriousFun Children's Network at Avery Fisher Hall in New York. Fleming's new recording out Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, "Distant Light," features a work by Samuel Barber along with pieces by Swedish composer Anders Hillborg and _ surprisingly _ Bjork. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

New Release: Renee Fleming’s “Distant Light” Blends Barber and Björk

Soprano Renee Fleming’s latest album, Distant Light, was released last Friday on the Decca Classics label. Recorded with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in the acoustically opulent Konserthuset, Distant Light features a hauntingly atmospheric assortment of twentieth century Scandinavian music. The exception is the opening track: Samuel Barber’s dreamy, nostalgic Knoxville: Summer of 1915, written in 1947. (If you find yourself […]

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The Cohen Variations

The last refuge of the insomniac is a sense of superiority to the sleeping world. -Leonard Cohen Pianist Simone Dinnerstein describes The Cohen Variations, written in 2009 by New York composer Daniel Felsenfeld, as a nocturne- music which evokes the atmosphere of the night and suggests the wildly adventurous harmonies of Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturnes. (For a particularly magical example, […]

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