Handel’s “Haec est Regina Virginum,” Anne Sofie von Otter

In the years before his arrival in London, the young George Frideric Handel was based in Italy. Settling in Rome, Handel, a native of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, composed cantatas and oratorios for the city’s most wealthy and powerful Cardinals. Additionally, commissions poured in from Florence, Venice, and Naples. It was during this time that Handel composed Haec est Regina virginum, HWV 235 (“Behold the Queen of Virgins”). The antiphon may have been written …

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Berg’s “Seven Early Songs”: On the Doorstep of Atonality

Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs (Sieben frühe Lieder) are poised between two worlds. Standing on the doorstep of twentieth century atonality, they grow out of the great tradition of German Romantic lieder. They contain echoes of Brahms, Mahler, Strauss, and Debussy, while moving into a hazy new harmonic dreamscape. Berg composed these songs between 1905 and 1908 during the time he was a student of Arnold Schoenberg. He orchestrated and published the collection …

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John Dowland’s “Weep You No More, Sad Fountains,” Anne Sofie von Otter

A quiet melancholy shrouds many of the songs of the English Renaissance composer, lutenist, and singer John Dowland (1563-1626). Denied employment in the court of Elizabeth I, perhaps because of his Catholicism, Dowland worked in France and later at the court of Christian IV of Denmark. Returning to England in 1606, Dowland secured a position in the court of James I. Weepe you no more, sad fountaines was published in Dowland’s 1603 Third Book …

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“One Touch of Venus”: Excerpts from Kurt Weill’s Musical Comedy

On this date 77 years ago (October 7, 1943), the original production of Kurt Weill’s One Touch of Venus opened at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre. The musical comedy is a farcical spoof of the Pygmalion myth. The story is set in motion when a New York City barber, Rodney Hatch, places the engagement ring he intends to give to his fiancé on the finger of a statue of the goddess Venus at an art museum. …

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