Clara Andrada de la Calle Plays Ibert

The twentieth century French composer, Jacques Ibert (1890-1962), did not adhere to a single stylistic “school.” Instead, famously he declared that “all systems are valid so long as one derives music from them.” Ibert’s Flute Concerto, written in 1932 for Marcel Moyse, is filled with sparkling, effervescent humor and a jazzy, midcentury Parisian elegance. Set in three movements (fast-slow-fast), it is a work of cheerful, frolicking Neoclassicism. The first movement (Allegro) begins with …

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Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto: A Youthful Romp

An infectious lightness of spirit pervades Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Op. 102. It’s music which takes us on a brief, jubilant romp filled with youthful vitality, cheerful and quirky voices, and unabashed humor. It sparkles with a witty Haydnesque classicism. The lushly beautiful second movement moves into a space of dreamy intimacy and warmth. Shostakovich composed this music in 1957 in celebration of the 19th birthday of …

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Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto: An Intimate Colossus

I don’t mind telling you that I have written a tiny, tiny pianoforte concerto with a tiny, tiny wisp of a scherzo. This is how Johannes Brahms jokingly described the newly completed Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major in a letter to his friend and former student, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg, dated July 7, 1881. In another letter, written around the same time, he referred flippantly to “some little piano pieces.” In fact, …

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Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto: Oistrakh, Milstein, Heifetz

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major has long held a cherished position in the musical canon. Yet, the value of this popular work was not always appreciated. Following the premiere on December 4, 1881, performed by the Russian violinist Adolph Brodsky with Hans Richter leading the Vienna Philharmonic, the influential critic Eduard Hanslick wrote savagely, “Tchaikovsky is surely no ordinary talent, but rather, an inflated one…lacking discrimination and taste.” He continued, “The same …

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Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto: Parody and Sardonic Humor

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor is the musical equivalent of a smirking jokester. It is a rule-breaking, Neo-baroque romp filled with sardonic humor, parody, and fleeting musical quotes. Completed by the young Shostakovich in 1933, it is actually a double concerto in which the solo trumpet and piano converse against the backdrop of a string orchestra. (The alternate title is “Concerto for Piano, Trumpet, and String Orchestra”). By …

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Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto: Youthful Charm

Of Beethoven’s five piano concertos, No. 2 in B-flat major is the least well known. Written primarily between 1787 and 1789, it is some of the composer’s most youthful and vibrant music. In terms of scoring and structure, it follows the model of Mozart. As with Mozart’s concertos, the solo piano and orchestral lines blend together into a sublime musical conversation. The premiere took place in March of 1795 at a charity …

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Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” for Guitar and Orchestra: Spanish Breezes

Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez emerges from a mythic Spanish landscape. Written in 1939 in the wake of the Spanish Civil War, the Concerto conjures up ghosts from the past. At moments we can hear vague echoes of the vihuela, the 15th century predecessor of the guitar. The title pays homage to the Baroque gardens of the Palacio Real de Aranjuez south of Madrid, which served as the historic spring residence of the Spanish royal family. In …

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