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Gershwin and Ravel Share the Blues

Maurice Ravel and George Gershwin came face to face in New York on the evening of March 7, 1928. The occasion was a soirée hosted by the mezzo-soprano Éva Gauthier in celebration of Ravel’s fifty-third birthday. This was Ravel’s first and only trip to the United States. During a four month, twenty city tour which included an appearance […]

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Handel Water Music

Handel’s “Water Music” Turns 300

Today marks the three-hundredth anniversary of the premiere of Handel’s Water Music. The collection of festive orchestral dance movements, published in three suites, was written for King George I’s pleasure excursion up the Thames River on the evening of July 17, 1717. The elaborate summer boating party was intended to lift the King’s flagging poll numbers. As […]

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1915

The Dreamy Nostalgia of Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”

It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of birds hung havens, hangars… The opening line of Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 for voice and orchestra paints this dreamy, nostalgic […]

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Chiaroscuro

New Release: Haydn’s “Sun” Quartets, Performed by the Chiaroscuro

Is it possible to hear seeds of Romanticism in the string quartets of Franz Joseph Haydn? Recently, as I was listening to the Chiaroscuro Quartet’s newest album, this thought crossed my mind. The recording features Haydn’s Op. 20 “Sun” Quartets Nos. 4-6. (Last year, the ensemble released the first three quartets of the Op. 20 set). […]

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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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Danny Elfman

“Rabbit and Rogue”: Danny Elfman’s Larger-Than-Life Ballet Score

Danny Elfman’s film and television scores frequently exhibit a kind of quirky, slightly deranged humor. For example, listen to the zany music which accompanies “The Breakfast Machine” scene from the 1985 comedy, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, in which the persistent pulse of Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance meets 1920s Kurt Weill. I love the way the mechanized madness of that scene is launched […]

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Sousa Band

“The Stars and Stripes Forever”: Three Historic Recordings

John Philip Sousa’s most famous march was written on Christmas Day, 1896 during a transatlantic ocean liner voyage. Returning home from a European holiday, the composer had just learned of the death of his band’s manager, David Blakely. Sousa likely waited until he reached land to commit the actual notes to paper. But, according to his […]

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Dvořák in Houston

No, Antonín Dvořák never made it to Houston. When the famous Czech composer ventured onto the Iowa prairie during the summer of 1893, his “New World” Symphony just completed, the sprawling metropolis-to-be was only in its infancy. But Dvořák’s music has taken center stage over the past few years with a series of live-concert recordings by conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada […]

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New Release: Handel’s Rarely-Heard “Ottone”

Ottone, Handel’s 1723 tragic opera, tells the story of a bloody Roman coup and the marriage of the German emperor Otto II with the Byzantine princess Theophanu around the year 1000 AD. It was one of the composer’s most successful hits, coming at a time when Italian opera was wildly popular in London. Handel assembled a superstar […]

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