The Pastoral Sounds of Brahms’ Second

When it came to the symphony, Johannes Brahms was haunted by a ghost. Approaching the age of 40, Brahms declared, “I shall never write a symphony! You can’t have any idea what it’s like always to hear such a giant marching behind you!” That giant was Beethoven, who elevated the symphony to new, and previously unimaginable, dramatic heights. As a result, it took Brahms fifteen years to complete his First Symphony. Set in the …

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Remembering Kurt Masur: Five Great Recordings

Conductor Kurt Masur passed away on December 19, following a battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 88. Masur will be remembered for his 26-year association (beginning in 1970) with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, a storied ensemble once led by Felix Mendelssohn. Kurt Masur brought powerful political, as well as musical, leadership to Leipzig. In 1981, following the destruction of the previous Gewandhaus in the fire-bombings of the Second World War forty years earlier, he …

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Exploring the Lullaby

The lullaby is universal and timeless. It’s one of the clearest expressions of the deep bond between mother and young child. Its gentle, repetitive, rocking rhythm lulls infants to sleep. The simple expression of its melody evokes warmth and security. At the same time, many lullabies contain an inexplicable hint of sadness. From Franz Schubert to George Gershwin to U2, music history is full of lullabies. Here are five of my favorites: …

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