Clara Andrada de la Calle Plays Ibert

The twentieth century French composer, Jacques Ibert (1890-1962), did not adhere to a single stylistic “school.” Instead, famously he declared that “all systems are valid so long as one derives music from them.” Ibert’s Flute Concerto, written in 1932 for Marcel Moyse, is filled with sparkling, effervescent humor and a jazzy, midcentury Parisian elegance. Set in three movements (fast-slow-fast), it is a work of cheerful, frolicking Neoclassicism. The first movement (Allegro) begins with …

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Vaughan Williams’ “Sinfonia Antartica”: From Film Score to Symphony

In a 1944 essay titled Film Music, Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote, “I still believe that the film contains potentialities for the combination of all the arts such as Wagner never dreamt of.” Beginning in 1940, Vaughan Williams composed scores for eleven films. Among these was the 1948 Technicolor adventure film, Scott of the Antarctic, which told the story of the ill-fated 1912 British expedition to Antarctica, led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott. The venture went south …

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Stravinsky’s Septet: A Turn to Serialism

The Septet, completed in 1953, marks a stylistic turning point in the musical catalogue of Igor Stravinsky. The first movement is a sparkling and witty celebration of neoclassicism. Its dense, pristine counterpoint seems like a twentieth century retrofit of music from the Baroque and Classical periods. In the second and third movements, the tonal center fades and the music enters the twelve tone world of serialism. For the first time, Stravinsky abandons …

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All Aboard! Five Pieces Inspired by Trains

Music reflects the sounds of the time. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, music was centered around the human voice and the motion of the body through dance. Music of the eighteenth century emerged from the pastoral sounds of nature, hunting horns, and the bugle calls of the battlefield. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, music got louder and more discordant amid the mechanized roar of the Industrial Revolution. Perhaps electricity and computers inform …

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Lutoslawski’s Twenty Polish Christmas Carols: Festive Colors and Cradle Songs

During the 1930s and 40s, war-ravaged Poland suffered first under the occupation of the Nazis and then the Soviets. In 1946, as the ominous clouds of totalitarianism and cultural censorship gathered, the Polish composer Witold Lutosławski (1913–1994) compiled a collection of nineteenth century Christmas carols from his homeland. Originally written for voice and piano, the Twenty Polish Christmas Carols were premiered by the soprano Aniela Szleminska and pianist Jan Hoffman in Kraków in January, 1947. The piece …

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Sibelius’ “Pohjola’s Daughter”: Tone Poem and Mythic Vision

Jean Sibelius’ 1906 tone poem, Pohjola’s Daughter, was inspired by a mythic story outlined in Cantos 8 of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. Väinämöinen, the white-bearded demigod, is speeding through the Finnish landscape on his sleigh when he spots a beautiful maiden sitting on the edge of an enormous rainbow. Captivated, Väinämöinen asks her to join him on his sleigh and to become his wife. The seductive maiden agrees on the condition that …

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Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto: A Youthful Romp

An infectious lightness of spirit pervades Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Op. 102. It’s music which takes us on a brief, jubilant romp filled with youthful vitality, cheerful and quirky voices, and unabashed humor. It sparkles with a witty Haydnesque classicism. The lushly beautiful second movement moves into a space of dreamy intimacy and warmth. Shostakovich composed this music in 1957 in celebration of the 19th birthday of …

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