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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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Schoenberg

Adam Schoenberg’s “Bounce”: Radiohead Meets Copland

This has to be some of the most playfully exuberant and joyful music ever written. American composer Adam Schoenberg (b. 1980) wrote Bounce in 2013, after learning that he was about to become a father. In an interview, Schoenberg explained, The very first word that came to mind, both for the baby and the commission, was ‘bounce.’ […]

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Grande Pièce Symphonique: Franck’s Symphony for Solo Organ

On Monday we listened to César Franck’s Symphony in D Minor, a piece in which the orchestra turns into a living, breathing pipe organ. Now, let’s finish the week with Franck’s Grande Pièce Symphonique, which can be described as a symphony for solo organ. When this piece was completed in 1863, Franck had just been appointed organist at Paris’ Sainte-Clothilde […]

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Angela Hewitt Plays Ravel

Many of Maurice Ravel’s shimmeringly colorful orchestral compositions were written originally for solo piano. One example is Le Tombeau de Couperin, which we explored in an earlier post. This six-movement suite, written between 1914 and 1917, pays homage to the elegant, dance-like keyboard music of François Couperin (1668–1733) and other baroque composers. Ravel dedicated each movement to the […]

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Monet

Debussy’s Estampes: Three Exotic Soundscapes

The music I desire must be supple enough to adapt itself to the lyrical effusions of the soul and the fantasy of dreams. -Claude Debussy I’ve always loved Claude Debussy’s descriptive titles. They often seem as if they could be interchangeable with the simple, poetic titles of the great French Impressionist paintings- hazy, intangible dreamscapes […]

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Murray Perahia, Piano

New Release: Murray Perahia Plays Bach’s French Suites

Pianist Murray Perahia’s newest album features J.S. Bach’s six French Suites, written between 1722 and 1725. This is Perahia’s first release on the Deutsche Grammophon label, following a 43-year relationship with Sony Classics and its predecessor, Columbia Masterworks. In the recording’s trailer, he describes the French Suites as “Bach on the highest level”- “delicate” and infused with French mannerisms such […]

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The Wild Harmonic Adventures of Liszt’s Concert Study No. 3, “Un Sospiro”

On a technical level, Franz Liszt’s Concert Study No. 3 in D-flat Major, “Un Sospiro” is a skillfully delivered magic trick. Its score sprawls onto three musical staves and it sounds as if it requires, at minimum, three large and dexterous hands. But all of these voluptuous tones are played using an amazing slight of hand. The […]

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Daniel-Stepner

Daniel Stepner Plays Solo Bach

On Monday, we ventured into the monumental preludes and fugues of J.S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier. Let’s finish the week with an excerpt from Daniel Stepner’s 2013 Centaur Records release of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin. Stepner offers period performances of these works, tuning to the lowered A of Bach’s time, and using three fine old […]

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Piano keyboard

The Well-Tempered Clavier: Bach’s Sublime Exercises

For more than 250 years, Das wohltemperierte Clavier has trained the fingers of innumerable keyboard players, and has also trained the judgment of composers seeking to understand the complex relationship between creative freedom and formal discipline. – Davitt Moroney There’s an interesting irony in the fact that the ultimate creative freedom often grows out of rules and constraints. […]

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Beethoven’s Wordless Recitatives

Ludwig van Beethoven may not be the first composer who comes to mind when considering recitative- the sung dialogue that links arias and other musical numbers in an opera or oratorio. Beethoven wrote only one opera, Fidelio, which uses more spoken dialogue than recitative. He spent almost ten excruciating years revising the work, writing four different overtures, […]

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