Archive | Historical Recordings

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Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade”: Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert

In Monday’s post, we explored the warm, instantly-recognizable sound of the Philadelphia Orchestra during its golden age under the tenure of music directors Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy. As a follow up, here is a 1978 concert performance of Scheherazade by the Russian Romanticist, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908). The symphonic suite, based on The Arabian Nights, is filled with shimmering colors (Rimsky-Korsakov […]

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The “Philadelphia Sound” in Five Historic Recordings

These days, the professional orchestra world is characterized by unparalleled technical skill, dutiful attention to historically-informed performance practice, and a general homogenization of sound and style. Musicians are expected to transition, instantly and seamlessly, from the lush Romanticism of Tchaikovsky to the lean purity of Mozart, with the mixed meters of Stravinsky and John Adams […]

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Happy Birthday, William Primrose

Today marks the anniversary of the birth of the Scottish violist and teacher, William Primrose (1904-1982). Primrose performed in Arturo Toscanini’s NBC Symphony in the late 1930s and formed the Primrose Quartet. He made numerous recordings with Jascha Heifetz, Gregor Piatigorsky, and Arthur Rubinstein. He commissioned and premiered Béla Bartók’s Viola Concerto, a piece which was finished posthumously after the […]

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Serge Koussevitsky

Happy Birthday, Serge Koussevitzky

Today marks the 143rd anniversary of the birth of the legendary conductor, composer, and double-bassist, Serge Koussevitzky (1874-1951). Born in Russia into a Jewish family of professional musicians, Koussevitzky was music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949. During his unusually long twenty-five year tenure, the Boston Symphony established a reputation as one […]

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Jascha Heifetz set new precision standards for the classical violin.

Vitali’s Chaconne: Five Classic Recordings

The origin of the famous Chaconne in G minor, attributed to Italian baroque composer Tomaso Antonio Vitali (1663-1745), remains something of an enigma. The score was discovered and published by the German violinist Ferdinand David in 1867. David premiered Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and his version of the Chaconne includes a quote of the Concerto in the piano accompaniment. There was speculation […]

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The Hollywood String Quartet: Five Classic Recordings

The Hollywood String Quartet, formed in 1939 and active until 1961, is regarded as the first American-born chamber music group to rise to international prominence. Their fame was due, in large part, to their numerous and exceptional recordings. The members were all studio musicians who created the lush, glowing soundtracks of Hollywood’s “golden age.” First […]

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Puccini’s Turandot: Five Key Moments

In Wednesday’s post, we heard a few examples of Puccini’s flirtations with impressionism. Puccini’s final opera, Turandot is filled with colorful orchestration and adventurous harmony which evokes the exotic atmosphere of the mythic story: Princess Turandot, determined to never marry, takes revenge on her suitors through a series of riddles. Failure to answer correctly results in the suitor’s execution. Here […]

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Liebesfreud: Five Classic Recordings

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here are five classic recordings of Liebesfreud (“Love’s Joy”) by the Austrian-born violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962). This short piece comes from a world long past. It evokes the waltzing elegance and frothy charm of pre-war Vienna. Kreisler wrote it sometime before 1905 and deliberately mis-attributed it to Joseph Lanner (1801-1843), the composer […]

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Three Classic Recordings of Gossec’s Gavotte

Let’s finish the week with three classic recordings of the charming, bubbly gavotte which concludes Book 1 of the Suzuki Violin repertoire. It’s a piece you may recognize, even if you’re unfamiliar with its composer- the now largely forgotten François-Joseph Gossec (1734-1829). Originally written for the 1786 opera, Rosine, Gossec’s Gavotte found its way into this 1938 Looney […]

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Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony: Defiantly Czech

Consider, for a moment, all of the possible ways a symphony can begin. Then, listen carefully to the opening of Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 in D minor. This opening statement, emerging out of the dark depths of D minor, is filled with mystery, tension, quiet anxiety, and restless, heroic energy. It’s a world away from the sunny […]

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