The Baltimore Symphony Turns 100

Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Following a few seasons of informal performances in the 1890s, the orchestra played its first official concert on February 11, 1916. It began as the country’s first municipal orchestra, funded for 26 years by the City of Baltimore. In 1942, the BSO separated from the City to become an independent entity. The Baltimore Symphony’s season-long celebration includes a concert tomorrow featuring Joshua …

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Oistrakh and Khachaturian: Beyond the Sabre Dance

When you think of twentieth century Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978), what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably, the frenetic Sabre Dance, once called “one of the catchiest, most familiar—perhaps most maddening—tunes to come out of the 20th century.” Khachaturian wrote the Sabre Dance for the final act of the 1942 ballet, Gayane. It quickly, perhaps surprisingly, made the jump into the world of popular music, covered by everyone from Woody Herman and James Galway to Vanessa-Mae. …

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Beethoven’s Seventh: Five Historic New York Phil Recordings

The music of Beethoven is opening orchestra seasons on both coasts this month. Next week, the Los Angeles Philharmonic will offer an all-Beethoven concert gala. It’s the first in a series of concerts called Immortal Beethoven, in which all nine Beethoven symphonies will be performed between September 29 and October 11, along with chamber music and children’s programs. The LA Phil has even launched this virtual reality tour experience, cleverly called “Van Beethoven,” which …

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Live Concert Recording: Gingold Plays Fauré

Over the weekend, I ran across this amazing 1966 live concert recording of Josef Gingold performing Gabriel Fauré’s First Violin Sonata. The recording’s sound quality isn’t the best. But the essence of Gingold’s soulful, sweetly vibrant tone and smooth, golden phrasing cuts through the tape hiss and audience noise. In a recent interview Joshua Bell described the tone that poured out of Gingold’s Strad as, “the most beautiful sound of any violinist, to …

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The Recorded Legacy of Ginette Neveu

Tomorrow marks the 104th anniversary of the birth of French violinist Ginette Neveu. At the time of her tragic death at the age of 30 in an airplane crash, Neveu was widely regarded as one of the finest violinists of her generation. Her playing was characterized by an almost otherworldly fire and searing intensity. Her recordings exhibit a natural perfection of phrasing and a soulfulness of sound that cut through the limitations …

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Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler

  Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler, the American Masters documentary which aired last week on PBS, offers an inside look at the life of one of the twentieth century’s most influential violinists. The program includes rare film and audio clips and features interviews with prominent contemporary violinists and former Heifetz students. It follows Heifetz from child prodigy roots in Russia, where he was a student of Leopold Auer at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, to his immigration …

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1921 Recording: Rachmaninov Plays Kreisler

The legendary violinist Fritz Kreisler and Sergei Rachmaninov performed frequently together, luckily leaving behind a few recordings of their collaboration. On one occasion, as the story goes, Kreisler had a memory slip during a performance. Fumbling around the fingerboard and attempting to improvise his way out of the predicament, he inched his way towards the piano, whispering helplessly, “Where are we?” Rachmaninov answered, “In Carnegie Hall.” As a tribute to their friendship, …

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