Archive | Symphony

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Franz Berwald: The First Great Scandinavian Symphonist?

In Wednesday’s post, I made the assertion that Scandinavian composers, from Grieg and Nielsen to Sibelius, inhabited their own distinct sound world. They seem to have heard things in a different way, and their music often unfolds with a unique sense of flow and a distinct approach towards time. Perhaps it was a result of their […]

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Schubert’s “Tragic” Fourth Symphony

Some incredibly sublime music was written in the shadow of Beethoven. For a case in point, look no further than Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 4 in C minor. The 19-year-old Schubert completed this work in April, 1816. It didn’t receive a public premiere until 1849, more than two decades after the composer’s death. For those who rediscovered […]

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Mahler

Mahler Turns 157

Today marks the 157th anniversary of the birth of Gustav Mahler. Mahler was born on July 7, 1860 in the sleepy village of Kaliště (population 330) in what is now the Czech Republic. He was only a few months old when his parents moved the family to the larger regional center of Jihlava. (The city’s German […]

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Alan Gilbert

Dvořák’s “New World Symphony”: Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic

On Friday, it was announced that conductor Alan Gilbert will take the reins of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra as its next chief conductor. Between 2004 and 2015, Gilbert served as the ensemble’s principal guest conductor. (Back in January, I wrote about the opening of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra’s spectacular new landmark concert hall, which floats above Hamburg’s harbor […]

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UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1907:  The Austrian composer Gustav Mahler. Photograph by Moriz Nähr. 1907.  (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)

Mahler’s Evolution From Song to Symphony

Gustav Mahler’s music is full of sardonic humor- passages which seem, at once, frivolous and chillingly grotesque. You can hear this in the song cycle, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (“The Youth’s Magic Horn”). The twelve songs, published in 1905, are drawn from a collection of 723 anonymous German folk poems, compiled between 1805 and 1808 by Ludwig Achim […]

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Jeffrey Tate

Remembering Conductor Jeffrey Tate

The English conductor Sir Jeffrey Tate passed away on Friday. He was 74. In the early 1970s, Tate worked as a repetiteur and coach at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden under Sir Georg Solti. His international conducting debut came in 1979 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. He went on to lead the English Chamber Orchestra, […]

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Tchaikovsky’s Fateful Fourth Symphony

It begins with one of the most powerful, bold, and memorable statements in all of symphonic music. Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor opens with a blazing fanfare, first heard as a piercingly metallic proclamation in the horns and then augmented by trombones and soaring trumpets. Regarding this opening, Tchaikovsky wrote, The introduction is the seed of the whole […]

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Brahms’ First Symphony: Walking in the Footsteps of a Giant

I shall never write a symphony! You can’t have any idea what it’s like always to hear such a giant marching behind you! Johannes Brahms was nearing 40 when, in 1872, he wrote these words in a letter to the conductor Herman Levi. The “giant” was Beethoven, whose nine game-changing symphonies loomed like a dauntingly impassible […]

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The Power of Six Notes: Exploring the “Dresden Amen”

On Friday, we listened to a few excerpts from Wagner’s epic final opera, Parsifal. Today, let’s return to one of Parsifal‘s most powerful and persistently recurring leitmotifs: the majestic, ascending six-note motive known as the “Dresden Amen.” This liturgical chord sequence was written by Johann Gottlieb Naumann (1741-1801) for use in Dresden’s court chapel some time in the late […]

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