samuel-barber

Barber’s Second Essay: Mid-Century American Romanticism

Samuel Barber (1910-1981) composed his first piece, a 23-measure piano composition in C minor called Sadness, at the age of seven. At the age of nine he wrote this precocious letter: Dear Mother: I have written this to tell you my worrying secret. Now don’t cry when you read it because it is neither yours nor my […]

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Barbara Bonney

Barbara Bonney: Samuel Barber’s Four Songs, Op. 13

Think twentieth-century music and what comes to mind? Probably the atonal serialism of Arnold Schoenberg, Elliott Carter, Milton Babbitt, or Karlheinz Stockhausen, along with the witty, neoclassical utterances of Stravinsky. But we should never forget that twentieth-century music is also the distinctive, Neo-Romantic voice of American composer Samuel Barber (1910-1981). Perhaps no composer in the twentieth century contributed […]

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cypress.quartet

Brahms Sextets: The Cypress Quartet’s Swan Song

The San Francisco-based Cypress String Quartet disbanded last summer after twenty years. Their final recording, featuring Johannes Brahms’ two String Sextets, was released in January. The Cypress was joined by cellist Zuill Bailey and violist Barry Shiffman for the album, recorded in front of a live audience at the Skywalker Sound Studio. Recently, the Cypress Quartet’s […]

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CHOPIN

Happy Birthday, Frédéric Chopin

The Polish virtuoso pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin was born on this day in 1810. Chopin was a composer who wrote, almost exclusively, for the piano. His stylistic and harmonic innovations influenced later Romantic composers. Additionally, his music has been associated with Polish nationalism. In 1939, as Nazi troops advanced on Warsaw, Chopin’s music was played […]

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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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oscar-statues

The 2017 Oscars: Nominees for Best Original Score

The 89th Academy Awards are coming up this Sunday. Here are some excerpts from this year’s nominees for “Best Original Score: “Moonlight” (Nicholas Britell) Nicholas Britell’s score for Moonlight alters and manipulates sound in a way that is similar to expressive techniques used in cinematography. In this interview with The Frame, the Juilliard-trained pianist and composer said, Barry [Jenkins, […]

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Poulenc

Finding “Joie de vivre” in Poulenc

Music has the ability to unleash mysterious powers which transcend the literal. I was reminded of this recently, as I listened to George Gershwin’s ebullient song, Of Thee I Sing, featured in Monday’s post. It’s the title song of one of the Broadway musical theater’s most zany political satires. Within the show, the premise of the […]

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Songwriter George Gershwin (1898 - 1937) at a piano.   (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

“Of Thee I Sing”: Gershwin’s Wacky, Tuneful, Political Satire

Today is President’s Day in the U.S. Over the past few years, here at The Listeners’ Club, we’ve marked the occasion with musical portraits of Washington, Lincoln and even Richard Nixon. Today, let’s consider the fictitious presidential candidate John P. Wintergreen who runs on a “love” platform. He’s the goofy protagonist of the 1931 Pulizer-Prize-winning Broadway musical satire Of Thee […]

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Grammy-Awards-

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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John Adams at 70

Today marks the 70th birthday of American composer John Adams. Adams may be the most publicly recognizable face of contemporary American music. More than any other living American composer, he seems to have inherited the mantle once held by Aaron Copland. John Adams’ earliest music, like Phrygian Gates (1977) and Common Tones in Simple Time (1979), grew out of the […]

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