The Joy of Wrong Notes

The element of surprise is an important ingredient in every great melody. Each note of a melody sets up expectations which are either fulfilled or delightfully challenged. Often subconsciously, we enjoy the unexpected “wrong” notes that take a melody in a bold new direction. We listen closely to hear how the disruption will work itself out. For an example, listen to the jarring appoggiaturas in the second movement of Mozart’s otherwise serene Piano Concerto …

Read moreThe Joy of Wrong Notes

Beauty in Simplicity: A Schubert Sanctus

Sometimes the most profound musical statements flow out of simplicity. Rooted in song, the music of Franz Schubert often seems to say a lot with a few, seemingly effortless notes. The Sanctus from Schubert’s Deutsche Messe, D. 872 (German Mass) is a good example.  In the traditional Latin liturgical text, Sanctus sounds like a stirring proclamation, “Holy, Holy, Holy, God of power and might.” These lines have inspired composers from Mozart and Verdi to John Rutter to write soaring, …

Read moreBeauty in Simplicity: A Schubert Sanctus

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 …

Read moreCelebrating Tax Day with Burlesque Bach

Lux: VOCES8’s New Recording

  “Lux,” a recently released recording by the British vocal ensemble, VOCES8, revels in the naturally expressive beauty of the human voice. The album title refers to the Latin word for “light.” The group’s exceptional sense of blend and pure intonation produces warm, glowing overtones. “Lux” includes a mix of old and new. O Nata Lux by English composer Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585) and settings of the ancient Gregorian melody Ubi Caritas by Paul Mealor and Ola Gjeilo are …

Read moreLux: VOCES8’s New Recording

The Bells of Strasburg: Liszt’s Forgotten Cantata

In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1851 poem, The Golden Legend, a storm rages as Lucifer and a host of demonic spirits (Powers of the Air) try to tear down the cross from the spire of Strasburg Cathedral. Ultimately, Lucifer is defeated by the ringing of the Gothic cathedral’s bells, which summon saints and guardian angels. This dramatic poem was the inspiration for Franz Liszt’s 1874 cantata, The Bells of Strasburg Cathedral. The work for baritone …

Read moreThe Bells of Strasburg: Liszt’s Forgotten Cantata

Happy New Year 2015

It’s time to grab the party hats, pop the cork, and turn the page on 2014. As part of your celebration, take a moment and listen to Auld Lang Syne, sung by the United States Army Chorus. Here is Scottish poet Robert Burns’ original 1788 poem: Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne? CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my jo, for …

Read moreHappy New Year 2015

Your 2014 Christmas Playlist

With Christmas just a few days away, here is a short collection of music guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit. Take a break from the rush of last minute shopping, light the tree, pour some eggnog and explore the playlist: Pérotin’s Viderunt omnes Let’s start off with music from the late 12th century. Pérotin was part of a group of composers at Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral who were influential in early …

Read moreYour 2014 Christmas Playlist

Send this to a friend