Blurring Boundaries with Gabriel Kahane

Songwriter Gabriel Kahane (b. 1981) is set to release a new album called The Ambassador on June 3. For a sample, listen to the opening track, Black Garden. An eclectic blend of classical, folk, and rock elements, Kahane’s music defies category, bringing to mind Duke Ellington’s famous quote: There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind. In the twentieth century, a vast gulf grew between “serious” and “popular” music. Hopefully, these …

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Schubert Songs of Spring

Tomorrow is the first day of spring. With warmer temperatures, blooming foliage and a sense of renewal, spring has long been a rich source of poetic inspiration. Here are three songs by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) which feature spring: Frühlingsglaube (Faith in Spring) The poem is by Johann Ludwig Uhland (1787-1862). Here is baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau accompanied by Gerald Moore:   When I listen to Schubert’s songs, I always have the sense that every note …

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Love Songs Through Time

Romantic love, with its often irrational sea of complex emotions, has long been a rich source of inspiration in music. With Valentines Day just around the corner, let’s listen to a selection of love songs from the Renaissance to the present day. Most of these songs would have been considered popular music when they were first written. Sampling this list, I was struck by how many great love songs are tinged with …

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Summer Nights with Berlioz

French composer Hector Berlioz was an innovator and a revolutionary. He heard strange, shocking new music which had never before been imagined. Berlioz’s song cycle Les nuits d’été (Summer Nights), written in 1841 is deeply psychological and infused with the ideals of Romanticism. This is music of hallucination, at times venturing into the eerie and the supernatural. It plays with our sense of time, sometimes seeming static and unsure, as if wandering through a …

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Death and the Maiden

Following up on last month’s post, let’s return to the music of Franz Schubert. Now we’ll hear how Schubert cleverly turned the melody of one of his songs into the second movement of a string quartet. Let’s start by listening to the song Death and the Maiden, written in 1817.  It’s performed here by the legendary contralto, Marian Anderson.  The text is from a poem by Matthias Claudius.  Follow the English translation below. Death …

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Songs of Franz Schubert

Schubert and Beethoven were contemporaries at the dawn of the Romantic Era, yet each approached composition differently.  Beethoven painstakingly developed small musical motives that roared to life as shockingly innovative music. The music of Franz Schubert on the other hand, is firmly rooted in long, flowing, effortless melodies. Although Schubert lived only to the age of 32, he wrote over 600 songs. Before we get to a few Schubert songs, let’s consider …

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