Archive | Symphony

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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Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony: Haunting, Mysterious, Groundbreaking

Take a moment, hook in your best pair of headphones, maybe even close your eyes, and listen to the first haunting bars of Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished” Eighth Symphony. It begins with a single, hushed melodic line in the low strings which quickly gives way to shivering violins and darkly pulsating bass pizzicati. Then, a lamenting […]

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Remembering Stanislaw Skrowaczewski

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the Polish-American conductor and composer, passed away last week. He was 93. Following his defection from Poland, Skrowaczewski served as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1960 to 1979. He is credited with raising the level of the prestigious ensemble, as well as advocating for the construction of Orchestra Hall. Eugene Ormandy described him […]

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The 2017 Classical Grammys

Here is an overview of last weekend’s 2017 Grammy Awards in the classical categories. From opera to chamber music, the list features a heavy dose of American contemporary music: Best Orchestral Performance This is the second installment in a series of live-concert Shostakovich recordings by Music Director Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony on the […]

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Barenboim on Bruckner

Conductor Daniel Barenboim had some interesting things to say, recently, about the music of Bruckner. (Why Bruckner Matters: A Listeners’ Guide With Daniel Barenboim). Here are a few excerpts: Bruckner is a very, how shall I say, special, specific world in the world of music. The musical idiom, the musical language, is post-Wagner, late 19th-century. […]

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Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony: An Overlooked Gem

When it came to writing symphonies, Beethoven seems to have ascribed to the wisdom of moderation. Beethoven’s odd numbered symphonies (especially, beginning with the Third) were big, heroic game changers. The first audiences must have been stunned by their bold innovations and their often ferocious, titanic energy. By contrast, the often-neglected even numbered symphonies are […]

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In this photo provided by La Scala theatre press office Thursday, May 5, 2005, Russian conductor Semyon Bychkov is shown in a undated filer. Bychkov will direct Richard Strauss' opera "Elektra",  scheduled to go on stage at the Milan Arcimboldi theater, Saturday, May 7, 2005. (AP Photo/Thomas Kost/La Scala)

Semyon Bychkov on “The Tchaikovsky Project”

This weekend, Russian conductor Semyon Bychkov leads the New York Philharmonic in a festival called Beloved Friend: Tchaikovsky and His World. It’s a small piece of The Tchaikovsky Project, which includes a cycle of recordings, released on the Decca label, featuring Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic. In a recent interview, Bychkov talked about the project with Richmond Public Radio’s Mike Goldberg. […]

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