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Liebesfreud: Five Classic Recordings

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here are five classic recordings of Liebesfreud (“Love’s Joy”) by the Austrian-born violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962). This short piece comes from a world long past. It evokes the waltzing elegance and frothy charm of pre-war Vienna. Kreisler wrote it sometime before 1905 and deliberately mis-attributed it to Joseph Lanner (1801-1843), the composer […]

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The Struggle of Fidelio: Beethoven’s Four Overtures

Rossini would have been a great composer if his teacher had spanked him enough on the backside. -Ludwig van Beethoven The Italian opera composer Gioachino Rossini was, as the story goes, the ultimate procrastinator. He would often dash off the overture for a new opera the night before the opening. In the case of The Thieving Magpie, he waited […]

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Max Richter: November

November is the ninth track on Max Richter’s 2002 debut album, Memoryhouse. Words like “neoclassical” and “post-minimalist” have been used to describe the German-born British composer’s music. It blends elements of contemporary classical music (Richter studied with the Italian experimentalist Luciano Berio) with electronic and pop influences. The result is a slowly-developing ambient sound world which draws on the diverse sounds […]

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Coldplay

Can You Hear Coldplay in Steve Reich?

Recently, as I was listening to the thrilling final four minutes of Steve Reich’s Double Sextet, I began to hear subtle echoes of Viva la Vida by the British alternative rock band, Coldplay. Take a moment and compare the pulsating rhythm and harmonic progressions in both examples and see if you agree. Interestingly, both pieces appear to have been […]

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Osmo Vanska

New Sibelius Release: Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra

Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra released an exiting new album this past Friday. The recording, produced on the Swedish label BIS Records, features Jean Sibelius’ Third, Sixth, and Seventh Symphonies. It concludes Vänskä’s celebrated, Grammy-Award-winning Sibelius cycle with the Minnesota Orchestra- a project launched in 2012 and temporarily halted by a fifteen-month-long management-imposed […]

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Common Tones in Simple Time: John Adams’ Gradually Shifting Sonic Landscape

Something really interesting happens to your perception of time, space, and motion when you listen to John Adams’ Common Tones in Simple Time. It’s music which is cinematic and topographical. One critic likened it to the experience of “flying or gliding over a landscape of gently changing colors and textures.” The composer Nico Muhly called it, “distinctly American music: the […]

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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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Every Concert Artist’s Worst Nightmare?

Years ago, during a lesson, I remember my teacher Oleh Krysa telling a remarkable and amusing story about his teacher, the legendary violinist David Oistrakh. Oistrakh, who had a busy concert schedule, had arrived late and had not had time to rehearse with the orchestra. At the concert, he walked out on stage, bowed, and […]

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Nixon in China

Nixon in China for Presidents’ Day

When you think of Presidents’ Day, what names first come to mind? …Washington? …Lincoln? Probably not Richard Nixon. But in John Adams’ 1987 opera Nixon in China, the 37th president becomes a mythic figure of Shakespearian proportion. The three act opera’s plot centers around Nixon’s historic 1972 diplomatic visit to China. In an interview with Edward Strickland […]

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Eros at picadilly circus

Eros Piano: John Adams’ Journey into Impressionism

John Adams’ Eros Piano (1989) grew out of a nagging obsession. Adams could not stop listening to riverrun, a 15-minute-long piece written five years earlier in 1984 by Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996). He described the experience of being haunted by Takemitsu’s music, saying, “I…had the response I often do of writing a piece of my own in order to exorcise […]

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