Alan Curtis Plays Wildly Dissonant Couperin

Alan Curtis, American harpsichordist, musicologist, and conductor of baroque opera, passed away suddenly on Wednesday in Florence, Italy. He was 80. Curtis leaves behind many groundbreaking recordings, including harpsichord music by J.S. Bach, Domenico Scarlatti, and French keyboard masters like Rameau and Louis Couperin. Curtis founded the European period orchestra Il Complesso Barocco. With that ensemble he recorded numerous works, including an extensive catalogue of Handel operas. Let’s listen to Alan Curtis perform Prelude, …

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Three Pieces for the Beginning of Summer

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,  And often is his gold complexion dimm’d; And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d; But thy eternal summer shall not fade  Nor lose possession …

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Fabio Biondi Plays Veracini

  Italian Baroque composers such as Corelli, Tartini, and Vivaldi have long been associated with the early development of the violin as a virtuoso instrument. Less well known, now, is Francesco Maria Veracini. Born in Florence in 1690, Veracini traveled throughout Europe, dazzling audiences with his violin sonatas and concertos. The English composer and music historian Charles Burney (1726-1814) described Veracini’s playing in 1745: He led the band…in such a bold and …

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Cellist Zuill Bailey in Williamsburg

It’s always a thrill to perform with top-level guest soloists. They feed the collective soul of the orchestra and often elevate concerts into highly memorable events. American cellist Zuill Bailey brought that kind of electricity to the final concerts of the Williamsburg (Virginia) Symphonia season Monday and Tuesday evening. Bailey performed Robert Schumann’s restless and sometimes thorny Cello Concerto with soulfulness and ease. During rehearsals and performances, I was impressed with the singing tone …

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Celebrating Tax Day with Burlesque Bach

If you’ve been griping about taxes recently, you may sympathize with the characters in J.S. Bach’s secular Peasant Cantata, BWV 212, first performed in 1742. Bach referred to this popular, comic work as “Cantate burlesque.” Listen to the entire work here. In this excerpt, Ach, Herr Schösser, geht gar nicht zu schlimm, the farmer decries the unfair burden of land taxes. Here is a translation, beginning with the preceding recitative: The master is good: but the …

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Nature in the Key of F

The key of F major has long associations with nature and calm pastoral scenes. As flowers bloom and the pollen count soars, let’s finish out the week with four pieces in F major which evoke images of a springtime pasture: Bach’s Pastorale in F Major Historians believe that bagpipes may have predated ancient Rome. On hillsides in southern Italy and beyond, shepherds played Zampogna (Italian bagpipes). You can hear echoes of the Zampogna …

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The Rise of Simone Dinnerstein

Rising to the top of the classical music world requires a combination of talent, hard work, determination, and luck. In 2007, American pianist Simone Dinnerstein’s career was “launched into the stratosphere” with the release of her self-financed recording of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations and an appearance at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. The recording quickly soared to the top of the Amazon classical chart and more disks followed. This CBS Sunday Morning story profiles Dinnerstein’s miraculously …

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