Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor: Tempestuous and Triumphant

In the music of Felix Mendelssohn, two aesthetic worlds meet. The mystery and pathos of Romanticism blend with the pristine formal constructs of Classicism. Robert Schumann summarized this unique synthesis when he called Mendelssohn “the Mozart of the nineteenth century, the most illuminating of musicians, who sees more clearly than others through the contradictions of our era and is the first to reconcile them.” This remarkable synthesis can be heard in Mendelssohn’s …

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Remembering Lars Vogt

Lars Vogt, the renowned German pianist and conductor, passed away on Monday, September 5. He was 51. In March of 2021, Vogt was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in his throat and liver. Born in the town of Düren in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, Vogt rose to prominence after winning second prize at the 1990 Leeds International Piano Competition. He went on to perform as a soloist with the world’s greatest orchestras. He …

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Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet: The Choreography of CARION

The word, bagatelle, translates as “a trifle, or something of little importance.” In music, the bagatelle refers to a piece which is brief, light, and unpretentious. Some of the most famous examples spring from the keyboard works of Couperin and Beethoven. Between 1951 and 1953, the Hungarian-Austrian composer, György Ligeti, composed a set of 11 bagatelles for piano, titled Musica ricercata. Each intricately constructed miniature centers around a specific pitch class (or …

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Brahms’ Cello Sonata No. 2 in F Major: Jacqueline du Pré and Daniel Barenboim

During the summer of 1886, Johannes Brahms traveled from Vienna to the idyllic shores of Lake Thun in the Swiss Alps. The working vacation, sometimes called Brahms’ “chamber music summer,” resulted in an astonishing number of works, which included the Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 99, the Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 100, and the Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor, Op. 101. Brahms claimed that the landscape was “so full of …

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Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata in C Major: Triumph Over Censorship

In the years following the Second World War, Stalin’s “propagandist-in-chief,” Andrei Zhdanov, drafted a series of resolutions that were designed to censor Soviet art, literature, film, and music. All art had to adhere to the ideals of Soviet “socialist realism.” The Zhdanov Doctrine proclaimed that “The only conflict that is possible in Soviet culture is the conflict between good and best.” First, Zhdanov banned the works of Anna Akhmatova, arguably Russia’s greatest living …

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Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” Cycle: String Quartet No. 9 in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3

In 1805, Count Andreas Razumovsky, the Russian ambassador to Vienna, commissioned Beethoven to write three string quartets. At the time, chamber music was often conceived for the entertainment of aristocratic amateurs. In contrast, Razumovsky’s commission would be premiered by the Schuppanzigh Quartet, a group of highly skilled musicians who formed what was likely the first professional string quartet. The result was groundbreaking music which moved the string quartet decisively into the concert hall. …

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Brahms’ Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major: From Youth to Maturity

Johannes Brahms’ Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major, Op. 8 exists in two versions. The first was published in 1854, only months after the 21-year-old Brahms met Robert and Clara Schumann for the first time. Thirty-six years later, Brahms returned to the work during the summer of 1889 with the intention of trimming its “youthful excesses.” That September, he wrote to Clara Schumann, You cannot imagine how I trifled away the lovely …

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