Archive | Classical Period

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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Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony: Haunting, Mysterious, Groundbreaking

Take a moment, hook in your best pair of headphones, maybe even close your eyes, and listen to the first haunting bars of Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished” Eighth Symphony. It begins with a single, hushed melodic line in the low strings which quickly gives way to shivering violins and darkly pulsating bass pizzicati. Then, a lamenting […]

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Isabelle Faust
Photo: Marco Borggreve

Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata: Isabelle Faust

A continuous vibrato is one of the key elements of modern violin playing. So it’s easy to forget that there was a time when vibrato was used much more sparingly as an ornament. Listen to German violinist Joseph Joachim’s 1903 recordings of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1 and No 2 and you’ll hear this older approach to sound. In a […]

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10 Musical Adaptations of “God Save the Queen”

On Monday, Britain celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s Sapphire Jubilee, marking her 65 years on the throne. At 90, Her Majesty is the world’s longest-reigning monarch. The milestone reminded me of the nearly 140 composers who have created musical adaptations of God Save the Queen, an ancient melody that may have originated in plainchant long before it was […]

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Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony: An Overlooked Gem

When it came to writing symphonies, Beethoven seems to have ascribed to the wisdom of moderation. Beethoven’s odd numbered symphonies (especially, beginning with the Third) were big, heroic game changers. The first audiences must have been stunned by their bold innovations and their often ferocious, titanic energy. By contrast, the often-neglected even numbered symphonies are […]

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correct fidelio

The Struggle of Fidelio: Beethoven’s Four Overtures

Rossini would have been a great composer if his teacher had spanked him enough on the backside. -Ludwig van Beethoven The Italian opera composer Gioachino Rossini was, as the story goes, the ultimate procrastinator. He would often dash off the overture for a new opera the night before the opening. In the case of The Thieving Magpie, he waited […]

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Alban Berg Quartett / Heinrich Schiff, Violoncello / 22.06.2008 / Koelner Philharmonie

Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major: The Alban Berg Quartet and Heinrich Schiff

On Monday we listened to a brief sample of recordings by the late cellist Heinrich Schiff. In today’s post, I want to include one more: a soulful 1983 recording of Franz Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major in which Schiff joins the Alban Berg Quartet. The album is listed, deservedly, among EMI’s “Great Recordings of the Century.” […]

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Beethoven's birthplace in Bonn

Celebrating Beethoven’s 246th Birthday

Beethoven was born on this day in 1770. His birthplace in Bonn, the Beethovenhaus, is pictured above. In celebration, here is a fiery performance of the Egmont Overture, Op 84, written to open a set of incidental music for the Vienna premiere of a play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1754-1832). Beethoven received the commission in 1809, around the height […]

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Belcea Quartet

The Belcea Quartet Plays Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn has been called the “Father of the String Quartet.” His sixty-eight quartets, written between 1762 and 1803, pushed the genre beyond frothy court entertainment, setting the stage for composers who followed. Haydn’s quartets demand focused, attentive listening. While earlier string quartets often featured a solo first violin and three accompanying voices, Haydn’s quartets […]

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Beethoven and the Spirit of Gratitude

Intense, heroic struggle culminating in transcendent exultation and joy- these are elements that we often associate with the music of Beethoven. But lately I’ve noticed that in rare, fleeting moments throughout Beethoven’s works another power seems to emerge, mysteriously. It can best be described as gratitude- a sense of surrender and a glimpse of the […]

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The Listeners' Club

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