Vivaldi’s Oboe Concerto in A Minor, RV 461: Alfredo Bernardini and Bremer Barockorchester

In addition to being a prolific composer, Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was a virtuoso violinist, teacher, opera impresario, and musical innovator. Based primarily in Venice, Vivaldi was renowned throughout Europe. His music influenced J.S. Bach. In his final years, Vivaldi moved to Vienna with the intention of gaining employment at the court of Emperor Charles VI. Soon after, the Emperor died. Vivaldi was left without a source of income; he died in poverty. …

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Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto: Brilliance, Structure and Symmetry

Regarding his first two piano concertos, Béla Bartók wrote, I consider my First Piano Concerto a good composition, although its structure is a bit – indeed one might say very — difficult for both audience and orchestra. That is why a few years later…I composed the Piano Concerto No. 2 with fewer difficulties for the orchestra and more pleasing in its thematic material…Most of the themes in the piece are more popular and …

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Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major: Steven Isserlis in Frankfurt

The British cellist, Steven Isserlis, has called Franz Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major, “the greatest Classical cello concerto. It’s full of joy, of joyous virtuosity. It’s perfect.” Haydn wrote this music in the early 1760s, around the time that he began employment as music director at the court of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy. During the same time period, Haydn produced his first symphonies, while he expanded and refined the Esterházy Orchestra. The …

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Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 19: Mitsuko Uchida and the Cleveland Orchestra

Mozart’s mature piano concertos are sublime dramas without words. They are filled with a magical sense of instrumental conversation. Each phrase seems to have drifted out of some imaginary opera scene in which literal meaning has been replaced with a deeper and more fundamental expressive reality. The instrumental voices form a rich and colorful cast of characters. Blurring the boundaries between solo and accompaniment, the solo piano and orchestral voices engage as equals. We …

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Remembering Radu Lupu

The great Romanian pianist, Radu Lupu, passed away earlier this week. According to his manager, Lupu “died peacefully in his home in Switzerland from numerous long-term illnesses.” He was 76 years old. In 1966, Radu Lupu was awarded the first prize at the second Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He went on to win first prizes at the George Enescu International Piano Competition and the Leeds International Piano Competition. Lupu’s playing was filled …

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Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto: Enter the Enfant Terrible

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major, Op. 10 is music of the audacious, young Sergei Prokofiev. Completed in 1911 when the 22-year-old composer was still a student at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, the Concerto’s brash, spirited energy elicited strong public reactions. The August 7, 1912 premiere in Moscow marked Prokofiev’s first appearance with an orchestra and showcased his dazzling keyboard virtuosity. In a letter, Prokofiev recalled that “the outward success was …

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Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Cellos in G Minor: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

The Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor, RV 531 is one of Antonio Vivaldi’s most intensely dramatic and convention-defying works. Out of the composer’s nearly 500 surviving concerti (30 of which feature the cello), it is the only “double” concerto for the instrument. The first movement begins not with the standard tutti ritornello but with the two solo instruments taking center stage with a vigorous conversation in thirds. Immediately, we are …

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